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Washington State Department of Early Learning, Organizational Assessment

A team of six Athena Group consultants worked collaboratively with agency leaders and other agency employees to conduct an organizational cultural assessment for DEL. This assessment entailed:

  • an agency-wide organizational and health survey (using Athena’s Social Capital Assessment tool);

  • 50 ethnographic interviews of a cross-section of DEL employees across all levels and regions;

  • group ethnographic observation; and

  • extensive analysis and vetting of assessment results.

Through a highly participative process, we facilitated a series of employee workshops across the state to engage DEL employees in making sense of the organizational and cultural assessment results. Through additional workshops, we guided staff in developing targeted strategies to strengthen DEL’s culture. We worked with leadership to prioritize potential safe-to-fail culture strengthening experiments and assisted leadership and staff in defining and launching an initial set of experiments. The purpose of these experiments is to explore ways to strengthen the agency culture as it is preparing to transition the best of its culture into DCYF in July 2018.

Key elements of the organizational and health survey and individual interviews provided insights into strengths and growth opportunities for DEL leadership. Leveraging those insights, we shaped leadership development activities to support individual and group leadership capacity. We did this through individual coaching of DEL executives, two two-day leadership offsites focused on capacity-building and applied learning activities, and regular meetings with the Leadership Team, engaging them in culture awareness and strengthening activities and gain their guidance and input on various project activities.

DEL leadership determined they had a continued need for leadership coaching and other leadership and organizational capacity building as the agency readies for the DCYF transition. Through the end of June 2018, the Athena Group is continuing our existing coaching relationships, conducting 360-degree assessments of all leaders and a subset of high-level managers, and co-developing individual developments plans (IDPs) informed by the assessments, which identify priority coaching, mentoring and other leadership development needs. The IDPs will also inform where additional leadership and other organizational capacity-building efforts are needed. The Athena team will work with the DEL Leadership Team collectively as well as with individual leaders and their teams to build skillsets and preparedness for the significant change ahead as they continue their day-to-day agency work and prepare for the transition to DCYF. In addition to the ongoing coaching, this work will take the form of interventions, trainings, workshops, mentoring, and modeling activities shaped to meet the agencies most priority emergent needs.