Tag Archives: g2s

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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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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The Week of Gov 2.0 – Longing for More

September 14, 2009

52 Comments

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Alex Dunne

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Alex Dunne

We’ve already had the Summer of Gov, but September 7-11 was the Week of Gov.  With the Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase on Tuesday and the Gov 2.0 Summit on Wednesday and Thursday, plus a multitude of happy hours and networking receptions, I was immersed in all things Gov 2.0 last week.  There are already plenty of recaps, summaries, and other articles detailing the events of last week – if you’re interested in finding out what you missed, videos from all of the sessions are (or will soon be) posted here.  Watch those, and then read through all of the news coverage here for that.  Now, what I want to explore in this post is one particular topic that came up time and time again among the attendees I spoke with.

There were some very successful, very cool Gov 2.0 initiatives that were highlighted, but while I came away both impressed and inspired by the results that were discussed, I was left asking myself more and more questions about HOW the speakers got to these results.  This isn’t a criticism of these two events – I realize that I wasn’t the target audience for the Summit (that program was geared more toward C-level execs) and the Showcase was more of a teaser for the Gov 2.0 Expo coming up in May.  That’s exactly why I now have more questions than answers – I want to know about the challenges these people faced; I want to know the risks they took and why; I want to know what they’d do differently if they could go back in time – most of all, I want to know how they went from good idea to being highlighted at the Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase or Gov 2.0 Summit.

As my colleague Brian Drake discussed in this blog post, we both spoke with a number of people who would like to see a  Gov 2.0 Practitioner event that targets the people actually doing the work of Government 2.0.  While it’s great to hear from people like Vivek Kundra and Vint Cerf, it’s difficult for me to relate directly to their experiences or to turn that knowledge into something actionable in my day-to-day job.  A Gov 2.0 Practitioner conference that focuses on the real-life challenges, benefits, and concrete actions would help fill this gap, giving attendees a action plan for moving forward.  So while I left the Gov 2.0 Summit feeling excited about the prospects of OpenID and Government 2.0, I was also left asking myself things like, “that’s great that OpenID is coming to the government, but now what?  How do I help my client’s organization take advantage of this program?  How do I turn this great idea into something actionable for my client?”

I think there’s a very real need for an event that brings together Gov 2.0 practitioners and aspiring practitioners in one place to share war stories, to discuss what really works and what doesn’t, and to learn from each others’ mistakes and successes.  Maybe it’s another Gov 2.0 Barcamp or another event entirely, but I don’t need another event to discover the benefits of opening up my data or by communicating more transparently.  What I need is an event that tells me how I get my manager to sign off on dedicating the resources needed to make that data open and accessible. I need an event that answers these questions  (and more):

  • How do I negotiate with my IT staff to get social media sites unblocked?
  • How do I involve our Legal department when I’m terrified they’re going to shut me down?
  • What’s the best way to get people to contribute to our organizational wiki?
  • What am I missing in my social media policy?
  • How do I best get senior leadership to actively participate in social media?  Should they?
  • We still have Internet Explorer 6 – how am I supposed to get IT to support social media?
  • We have a blog, Twitter account, podcasts, and other social media already, but no one is using them – what’s the best way to build more community?
  • We have a TON of data that I want to open up to the public, but I don’t own any of it – how do I approach the owners of this data and convince them to open it up?

Would you be interested in an event dedicated to sharing these types of war stories and providing actionable next steps that you could use?  If you’ve ever left a Gov 2.0 conference and had any of these questions, then you’re the target audience!

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