Tag Archives: bah

Do You Have What it Takes to Change Government and Create Gov 2.0?

September 8, 2010

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Image courtesy of O'Reilly Conferences on Flickr

As I’ve said many times before, Government 2.0 isn’t about technology, but what that technology enables. When the TSA rolls out an initiative like the IdeaFactory, developing and implementing the technology is the easy part (disclosure: my company has supported the IdeaFactory project).  When the GSA implements the Better Buy Project, getting UserVoice up and running was probably one of the easiest tasks on the whole project.  No, when a government agency decides to use technology to try to become more transparent, participatory, and/or collaborative, the technology isn’t what’s keeping the project leads up at night.  The hardest part of all of these initiatives is figuring how to change the way the government operates.

Managing change in the government is HARD, much harder than in the private sector. Leadership and, consequently, leadership priorities are constantly changing as administrations change. Because of this, employees suffer from change fatigue (if you don’t like how your department was reorganized, wait a year and it’ll change again), middle managers don’t invest in the change themselves, and leaders all too often push forward with their own agendas and goals, current organizational culture be damned. It’s no wonder we’re still talking about how the best way to create Government 2.0 – we’ve been way too focused on the easy part of this, the technology.

But if changing the government is so difficult, then why have some government leaders succeeded in bringing effective changes while so many others have failed?

To try to answer this question, Booz Allen Hamilton teamed with Harvard University Professor of Public Management, Steven Kelman to identify the common methods—the best “leadership practices”—used by successful government executives to transform their agencies and achieve mission goals. By studying 12 federal cabinet and sub-cabinet level agencies from the administrations of former President Bill Clinton and former President George W. Bush, the study determined which organizational strategies worked best for delivering effective, meaningful change in government—and which did not.  More than 250 interviews were conducted with federal agency leaders and their employees, career executives, congressional staff, unions, media, customers, and interest groups.

So, why are some government leaders able to innovate and reinvent themselves and others stagnate?  At this year’s Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC, some of the findings from this study were discussed at the “Do You Have What It Takes to Change Government?” session. If you’re responsible for a Gov 2.0 initiative, here are some of the key findings that you should keep in mind as you attempt to change government.

  • Use a collaborative strategic planning process – This isn’t going to happen via a memo or directive alone.  If you believe that your employees will become more open or collaborative because the boss said so, think again. Involve your employees in the strategic planning process. Sure, it takes a little longer, but you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn and your employees will have some ownership in the change instead of feeling like they’re being told what to do.
  • Develop performance measures – what does success look like?  Can you explain how becoming more open and collaborative will help your agency/team/department/group/division better achieve its mission?  Ten thousand Facebook fans isn’t a goal – your goals should be tied to your organization’s goals and objectives, and your employees should be judged on their ability to achieve those goals.
  • Be proactive in building relationships with external groups – Your agency doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Identify other groups who may be impacted, positively and negatively, and proactively go and meet with them.  Talk with them, listen to them, and involve them wherever and whenever you can.
  • Re-organize if you need to – Assess the current organization and determine if you can achieve your goals within the current structure. Are there impenetrable stovepipes? Are there too many layers of middle management? Are there personality conflicts and “turf-guarding?”  Don’t be afraid to shake things up and move people around.
  • Focus on 2-3 goals – The majority of successful leaders in the study had 2 or 3 goals that were action-oriented and quantifiable. Unsuccessful leaders typically had jargon-filled, tactical, action-based goals that described the effort, rather than the outcome. Gov 2.0 goals should be focused on an outcome – improving customer satisfaction levels or decreasing FOIA requests by making more data available online, etc.  Unsuccessful leaders typically use goals focused on an action – “implement a new knowledge management system” or “use social media more effectively.”

Here’s the full presentation as it was given at the Summit:

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/innovations/IdeaFactory
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Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?

August 27, 2010

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Do the top developers for Google’s Android operating system use Blackberries?  Do the IT guys developing Windows 7 use Macs?  Do the folks at WordPress use Blogger to host their personal blogs?

These are purposely ridiculous questions – wouldn’t the best developers use the actual tools they’re responsible for building?  Wouldn’t they do their job more effectively if they were actually a user of the product they’re developing? Doesn’t the product have more credibility if the people behind it are believers in the product’s features?  Out of everyone, shouldn’t the development team, at least, be the biggest advocates of the very software they’re implementing?  Shouldn’t they be the ones drinking the Kool-Aid?

Unfortunately, IT departments at large companies and government agencies are too often doing the equivalent of developing Android apps at work and using the iPhone at home. Sharepoint developers implement Sharepoint, yet they don’t use it to manage the implementation. The guys installing your organization’s blogging software don’t realize that the “Add a Picture” button doesn’t work because they don’t have blogs.  The team responsible for increasing awareness of your Enterprise 2.0 platform haven’t even created profiles of themselves.

Now, take a look at the official support areas for WordPress, Telligent, MindTouch, Jive or any of the dozens of social software vendor sites.  Notice anything? The developers are often the most active members of their respective communities and they’re using their own software day after day in the course of doing their jobs. If there’s a glitch involved with posting a new comment to a forum, they’re going to be the first ones to see it, diagnose the problem and fix it.

Sadly, I’ve been seeing these situations increase with the emergence of the Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 initiatives. IT departments are increasingly being asked to implement wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, video-sharing, and dozens of other varieties of collaboration software – software they may know how to code, but often have no idea how to actually use.  They’re just told to “give us a wiki” or “develop a blog for me.”  Actually using the blog or wiki isn’t a requirement.  As as I was told by one programmer a year or so ago when I recommended he start a blog to inform the rest of the community about the latest enhancements and maintenance activities,

“Every hour I spend playing around on a blog post is an hour I spend away from coding!”

Well, that was helpful – thanks! Instead of getting frustrated and ending the conversation, I should have instead elaborated on the benefits that a developer enjoys when he becomes a user instead of just a developer.

  • Higher quality product – you can identify bugs and feature improvements before they become problems for other users.
  • Increased credibility – If, as a user,  I ask how to upload my photo, guess whose response I’m going to be believe – the guy with an empty profile or the guy who’s been active on the community for the last year?
  • Increased “forgive-ability” – Look, we know that these sites will go down occasionally, especially when they’re first being developed.  We can deal with that…if we’ve been reading your blog and know that it’s down this Saturday night because you’re installing the new widget we’ve been asking for. If the site goes down and all we get is a 404 error page stating that the site is down for maintenance…again, we’re going to be less than pleased.
  • Content Seeding – Clients are always asking,  “how are we going to get people to actually work on this site and add content?”  Well, before you even launch, if your project team (including developers, community managers, comms people, etc.) actually use the site you’re building, you’ll create a solid base of content before you even start to open it up to more people.  Adding to existing content (even if it’s not related) is always easier than creating something new.
  • Common Ground – you become a member of the community instead of the guy behind the curtain making changes willy-nilly. You gain trust and respect because they know that you’re dealing with the same issues they are.  You’re struggling to access the site on your phone too.  You’re not getting the alerts you signed up for either.  You’re not able to embed videos correctly.  You go through what they go through.
  • Greater ownership in the final product – The community becomes YOUR community, not something you’re just developing for a bunch of “users.”  You become invested in it and want to make it faster, add new features, win awards, etc. because you’re a part of it.

For all you non-developers out there, would you like your IT staff to be more visible?  Would you be interested in learning more about what’s happening under the hood of your Intranet/Enterprise 2.0 platform?  What other benefits do you see to getting them more involved?

For you developers, what’s preventing you from getting this involved in the communities/platforms that you’re responsible for creating?

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When Was the Last Time Your Intranet Empowered Anyone?

June 26, 2010

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This post originally appeared on AIIM’s Enterprise 2.0 Community Blog.

Think about your Intranet for a moment (stop groaning) and answer the following questions.  When was the last time:

Image courtesy of Flickr user Search Engine People Blog

  1. Someone spent their own money to purchase promotional items to help build awareness and get more people to participate?
  2. Someone voluntarily put the name of the Intranet on their softball team jerseys?
  3. Someone voluntarily created an entire instruction manual for new users?
  4. Dozens of people volunteered to be the welcoming committee for new users, greeting them and offering to help?
  5. Dozens of people took shifts to be online and act as an ad hoc help desk for other users?
  6. Someone voluntarily created PowerPoint presentations to help others better understand the Intranet?
  7. People routinely logged on at midnight just to see what they missed during the day?
  8. Regular users are routinely “pitched” by official internal communications staff to post content because they have a greater readership?
  9. People beg, beg! for access outside the firewall, and ask for easy mobile/remote access so they can read/contribute?
  10. People voluntarily create mashups and plug-ins to enhance the interface and then share those with other users?

All of these situations are ones that I’ve witnessed, either internally with Booz Allen’s hello.bah.com, our own implementation of Enterprise 2.0 tools, or with my clients. True, in many cases, Enterprise 2.0 communities have failed to build a critical mass of users, they can quickly become echo chambers, they don’t have full leadership support, and they often fail to make it “into the flow.” but despite (or maybe because of) these challenges, Enterprise 2.0 communities can ignite a passion among its users that hasn’t been seen internally since the introduction of the Internet.

If you stopped using the terms “social media,” and “Enterprise 2.0” and just started telling people that you “have some ideas for improving our Intranet that will make our employees want to log on at night to see what they missed and spend their own time writing code to improve it,” getting buy-in for these tools would be a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want their employees to be this engaged with their Intranet?

So what is it about Enterprise 2.0 that gets users so excited?  It’s because Enterprise 2.0 is about more than just disseminating information – it’s about giving each employee a voice; it’s about flattening the organization; it’s about ending approval chains; it’s about being a part of something new.  But most of all, it’s about empowering people.

When was the last time your Intranet empowered anyone to do anything?

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At the Gov 2.0 Expo – Who’s Making You Successful?

May 26, 2010

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Last week, I participated in Tim O’Reilly’s Gov 2.0 Expo held here in Washington, DC and I was honored to be a member of the Program Committee for this event as well as last year’s Expo Showcase and Summit.  With each and every one of these events, I always looking forward to meeting and learning from the Gov 2.0 rockstars – Linda Cureton, Chris Rasmussen, Steve Ressler, Clay Johnson, Macon Phillips, Mary Davie, and so many others – people who have helped pave the way for conferences like this. Take a look at this speaker list and take a guess at where this movement would be without them. I think I get smarter just through osmosis when I’m talking with these folks! Kudos to Tim, Laurel, Mark, Suzanne, Jessica, Alex, and the rest of the O’Reilly team for pulling together another great event.

I'm pretty sure this image is going to be on everyone's Gov 2.0 Expo posts

As I did last year following the Summit, instead of doing a summary post of all that was Gov 2.0 Expo 2010 (I couldn’t possibly do any better than Alex’s fantastic wrap-up post here anyway), I’ll take a more focused view and discuss one issue that really struck me.

Last year, I said I wanted to hear more about the processes behind the success stories.  To learn more about the failures in Gov 2.0.  I think we started to accomplish that this year – the many panel presentations and workshops seemed more conversational and attendees seemed more willing to ask questions.  I heard a lot more discussion about how the speakers handled difficult situations, how they worked with legal, and how they got senior leadership buy-in. While there’s still a need to hear more about the failures of Gov 2.0, I think those discussions are probably more likely to occur in the hallways than on the stage.

What really got my attention as I sat listening to visionary leaders like Todd Park, Linda Cureton, and Jeffrey Sorenson was this post by Robert Shedd – just who makes these people successful?  That’s the question that I started to get more and more curious about as the Expo continued. Who are the people behind these leaders?  Who are the people back at the office making sure the social networks are growing?  Who are the people responsible for implementing these grand programs?  Who are the people telling these leaders they’re wrong?  Who are the people coming up with all of these ideas?  That’s why I loved when Alex Ross told the story of Katie Dowd, Katie Stanton, and Caitlin Klevorick at the State Department (fast forward to the 2:00 minute mark of this clip) who came up with the idea for the Haiti Red Cross text messaging campaign. While Alec was the one speaking and getting the credit, he realized that it wasn’t about him or his ideas – it was about the people actually making these things happen.

As Shedd mentions in his post,

“In much the same way as you need to train yourself to recognize the market ‘pains’ that product opportunities create, you need to train yourself to note who you work best with, what personalities are most compatible.”

For me, any and all success that I or my firm has had can be traced back to the work of my team.  Sure, I may be the one on the stage, but I’m generally not the one on the ground day after day working with the client.  I’m writing blogs – they’re trying to explain Twitter to a three-star general.  I’m speaking at events – they’re trying to do more work while still staying under budget.  That’s why I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to some of the other Booz Allen folks you may have met at the Expo, but whom you might not know well…yet.

  • Thank you Jacque Brown for never being afraid to tell me when I’m wrong or when I’m being a real dumbass.
  • Thank you Matt Bado for always stepping up to handle things when I’m out of the office
  • Thank you Michael Dumlao for being the right side of my brain – everything you create always looks fantastic
  • Thank you Tim Lisko for being the social media conservative who also understands the benefits
  • Thank you Grant McLaughlin for always believing in me and providing me the top cover that I need to make things happen, even when it sometimes puts you in a tough spot
  • Thank you Walton Smith for always being open and collaborative, regardless of any internal politics that may exist
  • Thank you Tracy Johnson for being able to take some of my crazy abstract ideas and figuring out ways to make them work
  • Thank you to the many many others back at my company who have helped turn an idea into a true program

Please take this opportunity to go back to your blog and write a post on who makes you successful.  Highlight the work of someone who works with you, someone who has helped get you to where you are today.  Give them the attention and recognition that they deserve and leave a comment here with a link to your post.  Who has helped you turn an idea into a successful program?

*Photo courtesy of James Duncan

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