Seems like each time I read something coming from the Ash Institute from Harvard, I am left shaking my head in disbelief. It has now advanced to the point where I just accept that they will say things that defy all reality. They can spin a web faster then any spider I know.
In the latest travesty John O’Leary in Driving Change: Go Big or Go Home likens government to driving a bus where everyone has access to a brake. Meaning anyone can kill any change program in government. He uses this as an impetus to basically run over people to achieve change.
With apologies to one of our fine educational institutions this is ridiculous. What got us in the mess we are in today is our inability to seek knowledge before seeking change. Government management can only make assumptions about one thing . . . that they need to get knowledge before introducing change.
The cost of not getting knowledge is to guarantee failure in any organizational change management program. The result is higher costs, worse service and a poor culture. The political spin of this has to be exposed as they administrations point to those costs that go down and not to the ones that increase due to this flawed approach.
Any new administration at any level of government management would be well-served to start by performing "check." This means understanding the what and why of current performance. Not to come in with pre-conceived notions, agendas, mandates, milestones, schedules and project plans.
Further, Mr. Leary promotes the favorite of the Ash Institute which is cost cutting. Even worse he promotes it as a top-down exercise. Both of these again are command and control moves that increase government spending . . . let me explain.
Costs are often seen from activity and productivity numbers that are leading government management to take a shared services strategy or outsourcing. What the fail to see is that cost are in the flow not the scale of activity (economies of flow). To focus on costs increases them and instead we need government to focus on the causes of costs that are in the flow.
With respect to top-down implementation of a political agenda, we would be much better served to design our government systems from the outside-in. This requires understanding demand while getting knowledge in "check." When we don’t understand demand we stand to outsource failure demand (demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for a customer) or share services that shouldn’t be shared.
I have found a better way (as opposed to top-down) is to get knowledge of the work and engaging government workers. Rather than a small group by engaging employees we get far more ideas for innovation. And larger changes are accepted because when we make decisions with the knowledge of the work we don’t alienate those that do the work.
Think about it . . . would you rather have a small group innovating or the assistance of thousands to help facilitate change? When you don’t make decisions with the work we wind up with SNAFU and FUBAR types of results and activities.
Workers engaged and understanding purpose and customer measures should be allowed to experiment with method. This experimentation can lead to new methods and innovation. New administrations would be wise to tap into this valuable resource pool.
Indiana has had a massive failure in the Welfare Modernization project they just cancelled with IBM. Let’s not spin this any other way than a disaster that cost taxpayers money by not doing the things I have outlined above. More approaches like this and we will continue to have to sell the public’s assets to meet the fiscal responsibilities of the state.
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Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public). His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work. Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com "Understanding Your Organization as a System" and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected]. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.