I was so glad to read this article in Governing magazine from Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene. The premise? Coordinate road construction with utilities to ensure freshly paved roads aren’t reopened for utility work.
This is an issue that has driven me crazy since my days at the University of Georgia. When I lived at Oglethorpe House, the local government repaved the main drag through campus, Lumpkin Street, right out front. Not two weeks after they were finished, someone else (I believe it was the water department) dug through the fresh pavement to work on something. I’ve seen the same thing happen recently where we live in Denver.
B&G identify the costs related to utility repatching fresh roads: $500K in Burlington, VT in a year; $4M in Kansas City, MO, over a three-year period.
So thanks to B&G for proposing a solution: coordination between public works and utility companies. Throw in developers and property owners, and help reduce the costs to provide safe roads!
Great short story in Public Management, the magazine of the International City/County Management Association, by a village manager in Michigan. Read the whole article (if you can, it might be behind a paywall), but the part that strikes me:
The moral of the story is that most of our communities have faced tremendous challenges in recent years due to the economy. These changes have seen many hard choices made, often involving the reduction of staff and services. The needs of our communities, however, have not changed. In fact, they likely have grown.
I remind my staff that we are in the business of serving the public, and that we work for a company where everyone we interact with is an owner of that company. Everyone we deal with has value and is someone important who should command our full attention.
This is such an inspiration (it’s great to see I’m not alone in this mindset) and it is an honor to work in this field!
The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren’t that smart, who aren’t that creative.
This is one of the reasons startups can innovate so much. How do we get government to this point? In some situations, having a process is good. But I’ve seen it get to the point where employees don’t question anything – they just follow the process.
Wired magazine is running a great series on Icons to celebrate their 20 year anniversary.
For November, they profiledElon Musk, an entrepreneur associated with Tesla Motors, PayPal, and SpaceX. This quote really stuck out to me; he was talking specifically about building space rockets here, but I think we all see this:
So, yeah, there’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.
It’s sad, but that’s completely applicable to government. We have to create a culture in government that accepts risk and failure as a consequence of constantly improving.
I’ve got another quote from the same article I’ll post later.
Michael Lopp, writer of Rands in Repose, has a great piece on innovation. He’s writing about innovation at Apple (and the possibility Apple has stopped innovating), but the words are applicable across fields:
You came to expect a certain amount of disruption around [Scott Forstall] because that’s how business was done at Apple – it was well-managed internal warfare. Innovation is not born out out of a committee; innovation is a fight. It’s messy, people die, but when the battle is over, something unimaginably significant has been achieved.
I think people forget this this sentiment, that innovation is difficult. I know I tend to forget it. Hell, I work in government, try innovating there.
You need to grab hold of a project, define everything, and then put it on your shoulders and don’t stop pushing until you get there. And most of the time it feels like it’s only you pushing forward. I feel like innovating should be easier, especially in government. Why is there so much push back? There are a lot of reasons why innovating isn’t easy. A lot of excuses why it doesn’t get done – a lot are valid, and a lot are CYA. How do we work together and actually innovate?
I think folks, and governments and companies, are really seeing that social media is a two-way street that can work in their favor. But in most of these cases, it seems as if one or two dedicated individuals go beyond the call of duty to help people. And I wonder if the responses would have been the same without these vital employees.
As Fairfax County’s county executive for more than a decade, Griffin has quietly managed one of Virginia’s most diverse and dynamic jurisdictions, a suburb of more than 1 million people that covers nearly 400 square miles. Only one person has held the post longer.