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NIC’s APEX Initiative: Roadmap for Organizational Excellence and Change Sustainability
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Apex, from the Latin root, means peak or summit. Geographically, the apex is the highest possible point you can reach. Isn’t that what you want for your organization? NIC’s Achieving Performance Excellence (APEX) initiative can help.

APEX is all about initiating, managing, and sustaining change in a correctional organization.  Good or bad, change in corrections is going to occur.  Historically, significant change came from outside through major court interventions, consent agreements, interest groups, and legislation.  Then, in a blossoming of professional growth from within, which included among other things, standards development, accreditation, and more enlightened and determined leadership, corrections professionals began to regain control. Being pro-active was the lesson learned: either manage the change or the change will manage you.  APEX is a powerful model of change management because it introduces a systems approach that is specifically designed for corrections.  It is a pathway not only for enhancing meaningful and sustainable change but also for recognizing and minimizing the unintended consequences of it. That makes it a win-win strategy!

APEX: Corrections-Specific Solution for Managing Change

The NIC APEX initiative offers a series of resources and materials to correctional leaders.  Elizabeth Craig, co-author of Achieving Performance Excellence: The Influence of Leadership on Organizational Performance  and Culture and Change Management: Using APEX to Facilitate Organizational Change, says “APEX facilitates viewing the performance of your agency from a broader systemic perspective. It makes you more aware of how various components interact and impact the agency. APEX really introduces thinking systemically rather than specifically about change.”  She continues “You can apply APEX to a targeted need or, more generally, to agency-wide change initiatives.” Her advice? “Merge it with existing efforts at strategic planning to assure success, and always remember to look at everything as being connected.”

Nancy Cebula, NIC Technical Resource Provider and a major contributor to the APEX effort, states “The power of APEX isn’t that it necessarily presents new information, methods, and processes but it puts successful resources from a variety of disciplines, like change management, leadership, communications, and organizational culture, into an understandable package while consciously making it corrections-relevant. It is easy to understand and put into practice.”

APEX Components

The NIC APEX initiative consists of resources including documents and assessment instruments. These resources are available on the NIC website at no cost. Agency leaders can read the documents, apply the APEX tools, and begin a formal process for change based on the APEX Public Safety Model.  This model is an important resource that allows an agency to organize, initiate, and sustain meaningful organizational change.

“While I have participated in management training with similar structures and components” says James Erwin, Deputy Commissioner of Adult Institutions, Kentucky Department of Corrections, “the NIC APEX Public Safety Model and NIC training are perhaps the best suited for corrections that I have experienced. I believe our staff will also be very enthusiastic about the implementation.”

How to Proceed

Begin the APEX journey by reading “APEX: Building the Model and Beginning the Journey” and follow with “Culture and Change Management: Using APEX to Facilitate Organizational Change”, especially Chapter 4: APEX Change Management Model.  The APEX change management process focuses on sustainability of change from the beginning.  Also it helps you understand what got in the way of meaningful change in the past,  which yeilds powerful information.

Recommended strategy: Start thinking about the scope, the “bigness”, of the change you want to make.  Next, apply the APEX assessment tools to your organization. It is important to understand what each tool targets, and to use it properly.

APEX Screener: (15 minutes) How ready are individuals and the agency for change?  The Screener allows a conversation to begin about staff perceptions of change readiness in the agency. Recommendation: if all staff can’t take the Screener, a representative sample of staff at all levels should participate.

APEX Organizational Profile: Agencies should do this early in the process to get a benchmark of the agency’s current status, and then periodically re-apply it to measure change. This will give you a fairly comprehensive picture of your organization: where you are now, and where you might want to be.


Sherry Carroll, previously at NIC and now in the US Bureau of Prisons Program Review Branch, managed the NIC APEX project for several years and fostered the development of the NIC APEX products.

NIC APEX Resources to Assist You


Assessment Instruments

Three APEX assessment tools plus the instructions are included in the link below.

Other Resources


For More Information

Always check the NIC APEX page on the NIC website for updates, new information, and resources.



Posted Wed, Feb 6 2013 9:08 AM by Anonymous


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This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.