Tag Archives: government 2.0

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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Six Villains of Gov 2.0

July 11, 2010

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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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Open Government Directive – Key Benefits and Challenges

December 14, 2009

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Brooklyn Bridge - Courtesy of Flickr user Tattooed JJ

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tattooed JJ

I used to be a journalist, and it was an incredible experience. However, I eventually got tired of being on the outside. I could call attention to government issues as an “objective” observer, but I wanted to affect positive change. My ultimate goal was to help bridge the gaps between government organizations and the people they serve.

The Open Government Directive instructs our nation’s leaders to start building those bridges. The Directive takes the principles of openness, transparency, and collaboration and empowers agencies to start using them in their ongoing operations. Several Government 2.0 leaders have outlined the details of the Directive, so I want to spend some time talking about the key benefits and challenges.

Benefits

  • Investment in Our Democratic Infrastructure – Wikipedia defines infrastructure as “the basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” With an estimated 308 million Americans covering 3.79 million square miles, interactive technologies are the only way to ensure that “We the People” can continue to participate in the formation of a “more perfect Union.”
  • Emphasis on Collaboration – The megacommunity concept is the idea that the challenges we face – “such as global competitiveness, health and environmental risks, and inadequate infrastructure” – can no longer be solved by individual organizations or agencies alone. It describes the intersection of businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations and how they can converge to address universal problems. The same tools that allow us to communicate within our organizations and with one another online can be used to bring together these organizations around common goals. Channeling the collective knowledge and power of a megacommunity can have a substantial and lasting impact on our nation’s most complex problems.
  • No More Excuses – How many of you have worked with a leader or client that has emphasized the unique challenges of your organization—promoting “social media” to some degree, but reluctant to share meaningful information or invite audience participation? I’m guessing this applies to at least four out of five people reading this blog, and my advice to you is that every organization is unique. Whether or not this Directive applies to your organization, use it as motivation to address those challenges and find ways to truly embrace the principles of open government.

Challenges

  • Lack of Public Understanding – The rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship are changing, and we need to be educated—at every level—on how and why to engage through open government channels. The loudest voices are usually the outliers (a group I fondly refer to as “the crazies”), and I would anticipate that the outliers will be the early adopters in open government. However, we cannot let a few loud voices thwart our progress, or even worse, deter individuals with more common opinions from participating online. From the beginning, we need to consider how to promote awareness of open government activities and provide a compelling call to action that’s broad enough to reach a representative public.
  • Inadequate Mission Alignment – Inevitably, some agencies will go through the motions of developing Open Government Plans and building Web sites without identifying how the basic principles can advance their missions. Failure to align open government activities to an organization’s mission, goals, and objectives could prevent the agency from realizing the true value open government. The ensuing lack of responsiveness could also result in decreased public trust. The Directive instructs each agency to incorporate the principles of President Obama’s Transparency and Open Government Memorandum into its core mission objectives, but I would argue that the principles should be integrated into strategies and processes rather than the ultimate objective.
  • Poor Construction – The first bridges were made of fallen trees and other materials that could be easily dragged across streams to create a path. They served their purpose for hunters and gatherers, but they could not support a significant traffic increase. I think many of our current open government efforts are similar to these bridges. If we want to integrate transparency, participation, and collaboration into ongoing government activities, we will need to evolve our strategy and technology to support increases in conversation. Proper construction will take expertise, time, and resources.

What are your predictions for the Open Government Directive? Do you think agencies will meet the deadlines, and if so, do you think they will embody the principles of open government? I look forward to your thoughts.

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Gov 2.0: Taking a Look Back at 2009

November 25, 2009

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I didn’t write a “year in review” post last year at this time, primarily because by the time I got around to it, everyone else had written theirs and I didn’t have much else to add. This year, however, I thought I’d get a head start by writing my post a little earlier. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the Gov 2.0 milestones of this past year (click the pic) that I found to be most significant and put some context around them too.

Click for the 2009 Timeline of Gov 2.0

Click for the 2009 Timeline of Gov 2.0

If Obama’s election in November 2008 signaled the birth of Government 2.0, 2009 was the year that it learned to walk. From the Transparency and Open Government Memo to the planning of next year’s Mapping Success: Can Government 2.0 Work for You? conference, I, along with many members of the Gov 2.0 Community, have had an alternately successful and frustrating (but never boring) year. 2009 went from unbridled optimism to eager anticipation to a little dose of realism, but through it all, the community of people and the relationships that have been forged across agency lines continued to grow  stronger.

That sense of community, that sense of, “we’re all in this together,” is one of the the five Gov 2.0 trends that have really emerged in 2009.

Gov 2.0 is driven by the community – I count among my friends many of the people I’ve met at various Gov 2.0 conferences, seminars, workshops, Twitter, and the blogosphere.  These friends include people from across all agencies, across the globe, other consulting firms, and members of the media. By and large, this community really came together in 2009, working together to share their stories and  help one another out.

Gov 2.0 isn’t just for the geeks and the Gen Y’ers – Traditional stereotypes were proven wrong time and time again in 2009. Whether it’s the “old” Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff tweeting, the “conservative” Department of Justice blogging, or the “bureaucratic” General Services Administration developing a website that asks the public to solve their problems, Gov 2.0 doesn’t fall into a neat little demographic of those who do and those who don’t.

Gov 2.0 is about more than just social media – As Tim O’Reilly told me in this tweet, Gov 2.0 is about so much more than just Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.  It’s about transparency, about employee engagement, about creating new technology, about collaboration, about, well, any of the hundreds of federal, state, and local government initiatives that have been using technology this year to transform and improve the way government works.

Gov 2.0 isn’t all sunshine and butterflies – Near the end of 2009, a group of Gov 2.0 enthusiasts got together and started talking about challenges, obstacles, and risk-taking that go on every day in the government. These issues are just now starting to be talked about and shared.

Gov 2.0 is still all about the mission – Under all the tweets, blogs, mashups, and wikis, the common thread through 2009 was a focus on accomplishing the mission. The most common questions my government clients asked me this year were, “What’s the business case?  What will [insert new techie suggestion here] actually do for me?” Despite all the pitches and publicity, all of these initiatives have all been put in place to help the organization accomplish their mission, whether that’s increasing awareness, educating the public, improving intel analysis, improving efficiency, etc.

For me, 2009 brought about a LOT of opportunities, but maybe even more questions for 2010.  What will be the new DoD social media policy?  What does the future of GovLoop look like?  How will the government procure contracts in the new year?  Can state/local governments leverage the experiences of the federal government to bring change to their organizations?  I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are, but I’m looking forward to being a part of the community that discovers them in 2010.

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