December 5, 2021

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How We ReImagined HHS

14 min read

On October 1, 2020, I had the honor of graduating the last of the ten ReImagine HHS Initiatives into permanent homes across HHS. These Initiatives that are now institutionalized within the Department are the forerunners for future projects that will keep HHS ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving health and human services environment.

These Initiatives, whose impact has already reverberated across the Department, were part of a three-year transformation effort known as ReImagine HHS, to make HHS a more modern, effective, and forward-thinking organization. ReImagine was able to set out a path for meaningful mission impact largely due to the involvement and collaboration of staff from across every OpDiv and StaffDiv. The leadership of the transformation began by convening hundreds of employees from across the Department to gather 1,900 bold ideas. Based on those ideas, we laid out six Strategic Shifts—listed below—with ten self-sustaining ReImagine Initiatives.

  1. Restoring Market Forces
  2. Putting People at the Center of HHS Programs
  3. Generating Efficiencies through Streamlined Services
  4. Leveraging the Power of Data
  5. Making HHS More Innovative and Responsive
  6. Moving to a 21st Century Workforce

The ten Initiatives not only continued amidst the Department’s COVID-19 response, but directly contributed to developing solutions. HHS has been able to face the challenges posed by the pandemic in part because ReImagine helped make us more adaptable, responsive, and prepared for new and emerging challenges. Because of improvements we made under the BuySmarter Initiative, to cite only one example, the Department was more prepared to make the changes necessary to handle a large increase in cyberattacks earlier this year. More details on each Initiative’s mission impact are described in the table below:

Initiative Impact
Accelerate Clinical Innovation Established Center for Health Innovation to support innovator’s path projects
Bring Common Sense to Food Regulation Achieved participation of 48 states/territories in cooperative agreements, reducing duplication and federal burden of inspections
Aim for Independence Initiated the creation of the Council on Economic Mobility to empower citizens in achieving economic independence
ReInvent Grants Management Created the Grant Recipient Digital Dossier to, among other things, streamline HHS Grant award risk assessment data collection time from 4 hours to 15 minutes
Buy Smarter Leveraged our buying power for enterprise infrastructure, achieving over $700M in projected savings over 10 years
Get Better Insights from Better Data Created a data-sharing platform for non-public HHS data, projected to save $64M over 10 years
Optimize Coordination Across HHS Created an Administrative Data Hub platform to integrate operations data with improved analytics and migrate to the cloud for future cost savings
Optimize NIH Implemented process and technology improvements to, among other things, increase Freedom of Information Act request processing by 69% since implementation
Optimize Regional Performance Developed Regional Facilities Utilization Model with 62% footprint reduction and $150M in potential savings over 10 years
Maximize Talent Used shared certificates and a new hiring platform to reduce overall time to hire by more than 75 days; increased FEVS participation by 14.7%

The Department’s collective work has received praise, with the Reinvent Grants Management initiative helping HHS to be selected as a best-in-class grants service provider by OMB, and our very own Dr. Priscilla Clark, the former lead of our ReImagine HHS Transformation Management Office, receiving individual recognition, with the Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Directors Award.

The most important component of this transformation is not only the work, which has been accomplished over the past three years, but the mission objectives that will be achieved from the cultural shift catalyzed by this transformation well into the future. Beyond HHS, the lessons learned throughout each phase of ReImagine will serve as a model for large scale transformation efforts throughout the federal government. Many other agencies have engaged us along the way to learn from our efforts, and we are pleased to announce the publishing of a Retrospective Report* to memorialize insights, challenges, and lessons learned and guide future transformations. The report not only charts the progress that we have made over the last three years, but also provides a playbook to inspire and guide professionals working in change management and future government leaders at all levels to undertake similar change programs.

This report highlights some of HHS’s biggest lessons learned from this journey, including:

  • Employee Engagement: Given HHS’s federated environment, ReImagine had to be a bottom-up effort that drew heavily on employees to succeed. Full-time commitment to Initiatives from employees across the Department in the form of temporary details were essential.
  • Data-Driven Approach: With the need to encourage buy-in across Divisions, the platform for change needed to be driven by data and reflective of the lived experiences of its customers and needs of its stakeholders.
  • Enterprise Mindset: Agile governance structures, with central support for day-to-day and cross-Department purposes , were responsible for ReImagine’s ability to mobilize quickly and set the standard for other Department-wide efforts.
  • Creative Solutions to Unfunded Initiatives: Innovative and collaborative approaches to securing resources together with constant and early attention to proper and sufficient funding were essential for the portfolio’s success.
  • External Collaboration: Collaboration was built-in from the start, with component projects intentionally seeking out external partners. ReImagine’s central transformation office collaborated with external partners to address other Department-wide transformative efforts.

Despite the completion of ReImagine’s portfolio of Initiatives, we will keep sustaining the changes started through these Initiatives in partnership with offices and teams throughout the Department. Above all, the spirit of ReImagine was always about empowering every employee to imagine how we could work differently, and better, together.

Every employee of HHS has the power to drive meaningful change, and our hope is that the lessons of ReImagine can be used to improve public service throughout the Department and beyond.

* People using assistive technology may not be able to fully access information in this file. For assistance, please contact ReImagineHHS@hhs.gov.

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