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!
From President Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address:
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government…
Following up on my last post about Elon Musk, I’ve got another quote from the same article in Wired I want to share:
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 profiled Elon 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?
Canada, which already uses modern technology in this way, has 93 percent of its eligible citizens registered at a cost of less than 35 cents per voter to process registrations. By comparison, an in-depth study of one state found that Oregon taxpayers spent $4.11 per active voter in 2008 to process registrations and maintain a voter list.
Technology for a 21st Century Democracy. Scary.
Unless government organizations understand that what really sets social media apart is the word “social” rather than “media”, and that they are people tool and not corporate tool, most attempts at developing effective strategies will be futile.
Andrea Di Maio, This Is Why Governments Struggle with the Use of Social Media.
In our last interview, [Former US Senator Evan] Bayh complained of the poor opinion the public had of him and his [Senate] colleagues. “They look at us like we’re worse than used-car salesmen.” Yes. They do. And this is why.
Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, from his post The sad, hypocritical retirement of Evan Bayh.
For every buck we spend we borrow forty cents and if that isn’t stupid. You’ve got a country that is stupid. A government that is stupid.
-Former US Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, on our government.