Saturday, February 23, 2013

Government of the Future - 15 Ideas*


1. The leadership function exists, but is widely dispersed to promote accountability by all. There is a Leadership Council with traditional and nontraditional functions. Those would vary by agency but could include such cross-cutting areas as field operations, finance, communication, change management, diversity, information technology, data science and knowledge management, innovation, strategic planning, policy, and training.
2. Management is predominantly a mentorship function as departments are eliminated in favor of integrated project teams that handle short-term priorities meeting long-term goals. Agency recruits for potential IPT members rather than a vast array of hyper-technical specialists. Sample specialist types could be: 
  • Mission specialist - deep subject matter familiarity with the specific mission of the agency.
  • Communication specialist - ensure the flow of relevant, timely information internally, externally, etc.
  • Relationship Specialist - help people to get along with one another.
  • Data Specialist - find information needed at any given point in time from the masses of data out there.
  • Technology Specialist - ensure that the most innovative and useful tools are being applied to do the job.
3. IPTs are formed by posting project opportunities on an electronic bulletin board and letting people sign up. 
4. Performance management is determined by a point rating system - 360s at the end of the year. Your job is to do your job and earn those points not from a single manager but from the spectrum of people who work with you.
5. Goals belong to the government, and the Agency and its functional units serve that. That concept is clearly and consistently communicated rather than having any encouragement of local "tribes."
6. Employees are empowered to share information through internal social networks but responsible for knowing what is and isn't cleared; what can and can't be shared. There is an official repository of information easily accessible and maintained by the Agency.
7. There are no assigned workspaces. You work wherever you can get a seat. If you need private workspace you sign up for a temporary carrel. Telework policies are clear, comprehensive, and there is support for virtual work along with a system for accountability by staff.
8. There are writing tutors who can translate subject matter-speak into plain language. This is a service performed as a matter of course. We do not ask subject matter experts to be writers.
9. There is increased emphasis on retaining a direct-hire workforce throughout the career lifecycle, to preserve institutional knowledge, stability and continuity.
10. At least one day each pay period is set aside for training, performance management, or both. Work/life balance is generally encouraged to help employees avoid burnout. If there is excessive workload, rather than accommodating that, the workload is treated as the symptom of a problem.
11. A central anonymous suggestion system allows employees to submit all kinds of feedback and suggestions without fear of reprisal.
12. There are technology "genius bars" staffed during normal work hours so that you can receive walk-in help anytime.
13. We think in terms of billable hours - e.g. we don't waste a skilled person's time on tasks that can be performed by someone who would charge less. There is a strong emphasis on eliminating unnecessary work, administrivia, duplicated efforts. 
14. Maximum decentralization with strong central controls - most things can and should be decided at the local level, but existing central controls are enforced through a variety of mechanisms - primarily funding.
15. There is a central Customer Service helpdesk (preferably governmentwide but at the very least Agencywide) staffed 24/7/365 with instant chat, email, and telephone options.

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* As always, all opinions are my own. These ideas are not necessarily new. A variety of management thinkers, some well known and others less well-known, have shared similar thinking. See especially the work of Gary Hamel at Management Innovation eXchange, http://www.managementexchange.com/users/ghamel. 

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