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Six Villains of Gov 2.0

I recently came across this funny (and too true) post by Todd Heim on social media villains that piqued both my long-time interest in super-heroes and super-villains and all things Government 2.0 too.  While we pump up the Gov 2.0 Heroes (and even had an entire Day dedicated to them), and we hold conferences to highlight the work done by these heroes, I haven’t seen the opposite side get its due.  Well, I’d like to dedicate this post to the people who make government innovation so difficult, the people who have stood in our way for years, the people who have been classified as hurdles, obstacles, and barriers – the Villains of Gov 2.0.

Dr. Closed Mind

Image courtesy of Flickr user gregmote

“Yeah, that’s a great idea, but we don’t have time for that – just focus on doing your job!”

Description: Dr. Closed Mind has the ability make even the most new and innovative ideas seem like frivolous wastes of time.  He thrives on doing things his way because that’s “the way they’ve always done.” By relying on the force of inertia and his extreme stubbornness, he’s able to simultaneously frustrate his numerous adversaries as well as advance his own career.  Dr. Closed Mind is focused on checking off his task list and will aggressively squash any attempt to disrupt that routine.

Strengths: Able to avoid changing his routine for years on end; leverages allies in the legal and IT security departments to maintain the status quo; super-human ability to make stagnation appear to seem like laser-like focus.

Weaknesses: Transparency.  By exposing the outdated and often inefficient methods of Dr. Closed Mind to more people, you can help shine a light on the work of Dr. Closed Mind and force his leadership to ask him the often-deadly question of “why aren’t we doing it like this instead?”

The Downer

“Sure, it’d be great to do that, but unfortunately, we’re not allowed. I hate working here :(“

Description: The Downer is a deceptively strong villain, capable of destroying the morale of even the strongest teams.  Through near constant talk of policies, regulations, and costs, The Downer calls attention to every possible reason why an idea can’t and won’t work, yet is unable to see the potential benefits.  Changing policies, getting buy-in, and taking risks

Strengths: Able to destroy morale with a single agenda item; has the uncanny ability to rattle off the most obscure policies and regulations; able to turn “quick wins” into insignificant activities that will never amount to anything;

Weaknesses: Change. By highlighting positive changes that have occurred, The Downer’s seemingly immense pessimism can be slowly chipped away and he starts to see that things can change.

The Money-Monger

“I’ve had Ashton Kutcher retweet me – I can show you how to do that too!”

Description: Seeing business development opportunities wherever he goes, the Money-Monger (also known by the aliases “Social Media Ninja” and “Social Media Guru”) has a Red Bull-fueled energy for telling everyone who will listen how he can help them use social media…for a price.  He will probably talk about how to increase your Twitter followers, guarantee that he can create “viral videos,” and tell you how easy social media is.

Strengths: Master of ulterior motives.  Able to see a business opportunity where no one ever had before.  Immune to common social etiquette, meaningful relationships, and small talk.  Has mastered the ability to create 50 slide presentations without one bit of actual thought on any of the slides.

Weaknesses: Strategy.  Weaken the Money-Monger’s defenses by asking him how he measures the effectiveness of his tactics that does NOT involve the number of friends, fans, or followers.  Force the Money-Monger to show how social media will help accomplish your agency’s mission.

Captain Conservative

Courtesy of Flickr User ewen and donabel

“This sounds like a great idea, but let’s make sure that we circulate it with everyone and get their buy-in first.”

Description: Captain Conservative is often both a villain and an ally of the Gov 2.0 Heroes. While Captain Conservative is often supportive of the Gov 2.0 Heroes, he lives by the mantra of “always ask for permission first or you may get fired.”  He’s been brainwashed by two of his former mentors, Dr. Closed Mind and The Downer, who have unfortunately, scrambled his brain.  While his intentions are good, the mental scars of his former mentors still appear strong.

Strengths: Through his sheer likability, Captain Conservative is often able to embed himself into teams early on, only to systematically dismantle them through long, prolonged review and approval processes.  He often leaves no visible traces of the damage he causes and often emerges from the failed project unscathed.

Weaknesses: Top Cover.  By securing the approval of people located above Captain Conservative on the org chart, you can mitigate his fear of doing something wrong and getting in trouble for it.

The Silo

“We’d love to be more collaborative…as long as no one outside of my team can get in and mess with our stuff.”

Description: One of the more powerful Gov 2.0 villains, The Silo is known for his ability to protect sandboxes with a maniacal sense of urgency.  The Silo always considers he and his team unique, and has an almost paranoid fear that everyone else has the worst intentions in mind.  By keeping a stranglehold on his data and his team, The Silo has the ability to set the precedent that sharing data is optional, poisoning an entire organization’s thinking.  Ironically, The Silo is often an outspoken advocate of collaborative tools…as long as he gets final say over who’s collaborating with whom.

Strengths: Seeming collaborative while actually not being collaborative; able to craft incredibly detailed stories about people getting fired, killed, maimed, reprimanded for sharing data; has the innate ability to create a PDF version of virtually everything he and his team share; very comfortable with managing incredibly detailed access controls.

Weaknesses: Open Platforms.  Without the ability to restrict access, The Silo is unable to hoard information and lock it away so he is forced to either use the new tools and share, or use his old methods.

The Information Sucker

“Can you send me any materials you have – someone was asking me about Gov 2.0 and I want to be able to talk with them.”

Description: The Information Sucker paints himself as a friend of the Gov 2.0 Heroes, but in reality, he’s only focused on advancing his own career.  The Information Sucker is keenly aware of the increased attention being paid to open government initiatives and wants to get in on the action without actually doing any of the work.  Viewing attribution as a weakness,  The Information Sucker makes nice with the Gov 2.0 Heroes and then sucks every last idea and product from them that he can, only to disappear and resurface months later to much fanfare because of the “new and innovative ideas” that he’s brought to his team.

Strengths: Deftly able to conceal his true motives; extreme copy and paste abilities; able to pull together entire presentations and proposals without actually needing to understand what he’s writing; excellent ability to insert latest buzzwords into his speech.

Weaknesses: Probing Questions. Because The Information Sucker’s “expertise” has been gained from a few white papers and PowerPoint presentations, his outer shell can be penetrated with follow-up questions.

Beware of the Gov 2.0 Villains – they’re lurking everywhere, sometimes concealing their identity, sometimes not even aware of their own villainous ways.  Rather than attacking and defeating these villains, we would do well to befriend and educate them.  The best way to neutralize a Gov 2.0 Villain is to turn them into a Gov 2.0 advocate.

** UPDATE: Make sure you check out Gwynne Kostin’s excellent FanGirl addendum to this post too! **

Description: Dr. Closed Mind has the ability make even the most new and innovative ideas seem like frivolous wastes of time.  He thrives on doing things his way because that’s “the way they’ve always done.” By relying on the force of inertia and his extreme stubbornness, he’s able to simultaneously frustrate his numerous adversaries as well as advance his own career.  Dr. Closed Mind is focused on checking off his task list and will aggressively squash any attempt to disrupt that routine.

 

Strengths: Able to avoid changing his routine for years on end; leverages allies in the legal and IT security departments to maintain the status quo; super-human ability to make stagnation appear to seem like laser-like focus.

Weaknesses: Transparency.  By exposing the outdated and often inefficient methods of Dr. Closed Mind to more people, you can help shine a light on the work of Dr. Closed Mind and force his leadership to ask him the often-deadly question of “why aren’t we doing it like this instead?”

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Managing Your Time While Managing Your Social Media

Thanks to Katie Mercado, I had the opportunity to give a presentation on time management and social media at today’s 33rd Annual PRSA Maryland Chesapeake Conference.   I was actually a little surprised when Katie approached as I feel like there’s so much more that I could be doing, more that I could be reading, and more people that I could be meeting.  I often feel like I’m fighting a constant battle against FOMO and HOLI – there’s always another blog I should be reading or another event I should be attending.

However, as I pulled these slides together, I started to notice that I was a doing a little better job than I thought I was.  While I still feel like there’s always more that I could do, I have also learned to better focus my time on what’s important and what will help me accomplish my goals.  Sure, there’s a lot of interesting events, blogs, and tweets that I’m missing, but I’m also very aware of the opportunity cost of trying to do everything – the lost productivity, the increased sick days, the constant tired feeling, the loss of focus.

The slides below reflect some of what I’ve learned over the last few years as well as some of the tips and tricks that I show my colleagues and clients when they’re first getting started in social media.

Time Management Strategies for Social Media

The key takeaways that I wanted the attendees to walk away were:
  1. Not information overload but filter failure – There’s always been too much information for us to ever possibly consume. The only difference now is that the gatekeepers (book publishers, TV producers, etc.) who used to act as our quality filters are gone.  We have to now set up our own filters.
  2. Self-discipline is needed – All the technical tools in the world won’t help you if you don’t have the self-discipline to turn off Twitter every once in a while.
  3. Social media saves time too – Don’t just think of all the ways social media is going to take up too much, think of ways that social media can save you time too.
  4. Have a goal – Is it helping you accomplish what you want to accomplish?  If not, then why are you doing it?
  5. Spend some time up front and set up your filters – Spend a few hours up front to save TONS of hours later on.
  6. It’s not about the technology – Ultimately, your best filters aren’t technical – they’re human.  They’re the ones sharing the links, blogging about the topics, and speaking about the issues – find people you trust and respect and use them as your filter.
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Get Your Head Out of That Gantt Chart and Do Some Thinking Once in a While

 

Do you make time in your day to just sit and think?

I know we’re all busy.  We have deadlines to meet, emails to write/respond to, projects to work on, management issues to take care of, errands to run, families to care for, and many many other things that we do on a daily basis.  To make sense of it all, we create daily routines and schedules – wake up, take the dogs out, go for a run, get the kids off to school, respond to urgent emails, get a first draft of that paper done, attend the status meeting, etc.  Lord knows I wouldn’t get half of my work done with my Outlook calendar to remind me when I have to go to a meeting or make a phone call.  Oftentimes, breaking our day up into more manageable tasks is the only way to maintain some level of sanity in our lives.  But what do we lose when we get into routine like this?  Can you make “innovation” part of a routine?

When was the last time you created an Outlook appointment to catch up on your RSS feeds?  When a project deadline gets moved up, what’s the first thing that gets bumped?  How many times have you said, “ya know, I really should write a blog post or comment on some other people’s material tonight, but I’m exhausted and that can wait?”  How often do get outside your individual project “bubble” and make a concerted effort to just go out and learn something new?

When was the last time you just sat down and thought about your project/organization/contract/initiative and wondered?  About the long-term strategy?  About how to improve your team’s morale? About how to become more efficient?  About how to make things better?  About external issues that could positively or negatively impact your work?  When was the last time you came up with a new idea that wasn’t in your job description or SOW?

I had a great conversation recently with one the senior leaders at my company and he told me that’s the one thing that separates the good from the great.  The good worker will meet all their deadlines, crank out high quality products, not ruffle any feathers, show up on time, and do everything that’s asked of them.  The great worker on the other hand, may miss some deadlines and may make some people mad, but they’ll also be the ones coming up with the next great idea.  What was the last actual idea you had at work that wasn’t tasked to you by someone else? Did you tell anyone about it?  Did you act on it?

So, take my advice and carve out 30 minutes of your day to do some thinking.  This could involve:

  • Catch up on your RSS feeds
  • Read the paper
  • Have a team meeting where the only agenda item is “what can we be doing better?”
  • Go out to lunch with someone from a totally different part of the business and learning about what they do
  • Be like Dr. House, find a ball to toss around and think about how to solve a problem
  • Set up Google alerts for issues related to your organization and commit to staying on top of them
  • Create an “If I were King/Queen for a day” list of ideas for your organization
  • Do a Twitter search for your organization/brand and see what others are saying

Can you find time in your schedule to be great?

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Brian Hillegas

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What Kind of Impact Has Social Media Had on Your Organization?

I’ve been in many meetings with senior executives where the topic has turned to social media, and sooner or later, THE question comes up –

“So, explain to me again why we should be playing around with [insert your social media tool of choice here]?  What’s the ROI of doing this?  I just don’t see how talking about what you ate for dinner on your ‘blog’ is going to help us accomplish the mission.”

Now, at this point, I’m usually fighting an internal battle between jamming a pencil in my eye or resisting the urge to shake the executives and yell, “why don’t you understand the benefits of open collaboration and communication??!!!”

Granted, the discussion doesn’t usually devolve to that level (but imagine how much more fun meetings would be if they did), but I’ve spoken to a number of people in the Gov 2.0 community who have experienced similar frustrations.  While there’s no shortage of resources for how to measure the ROI of social media, but unlike commercial companies, our government doesn’t use social media to make money or to sell products.  One can’t measure the value of using social media in a government agency in sales or revenue.  How do you measure the value of transparency?  How do you measure the value of open collaboration?  And even if you could, how do you make the case that transparency is worth the investment?

As Katie Paine says in Jason Falls’ excellent post on this topic, “Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the conversation?'”

So, are government agencies getting what they want out of the conversations?

That’s why Booz Allen Hamilton has teamed up with GovLoop to conduct an investigation into the usage of social media by our government at the federal, state, and local levels. We want to identify and assess the impact that the use of social media has had on efficiency, morale, budgets, outreach, internal communications, leadership effectiveness and other results.

To that end, we are conducting a survey of GovLoop members (survey is only open to members of GovLoop, so if you haven’t joined yet, this is a good reason to do so!) to get their input on what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why. The results of this survey will be published in a report and (hopefully) shared later this month at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, DC.

For each survey respondent, GovLoop will also make a donation to the Social Media Club – Education Connection to further the development of social media education at our country’s colleges and universities.

If you’re a member of GovLoop, please take the survey and help us identify what types of benefits (if any) you and your organization are seeing from social media.

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