Strategic Approach to Government 2.0

One of the challenges that continually surfaces in Government 2.0 initiatives is what I call the tool syndrome. People get stuck on the tools. Should we use Facebook or Twitter? Do we need a blog or a wiki? Come on, admit it. We’ve all been there. I know I have.

The tools question is one that needs to be addressed at some point in the process, but it is not the first thing that should be considered. The first thing that should be considered is the business need. What do you want to do? Why?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a strategic framework that helps organizations articulate and communicate what they want to accomplish and how to go about it. The framework is based on Benefits Realization, articulated by John Thorpe in his book The Information Paradox. Benefits Realization provides the fundamental governance, necessary conditions, and tools and techniques to enable organizations to effectively and efficiently manage business value from IT investments.

The frameworks helps organizations:

  1. To understand and align their programs and investments with their strategy;
  2. To help them quantify and manage the achievement of their business outcomes;
  3. To translate those strategies into meaningful action; and
  4. To achieve results.

My example of the Gov 2.0 Strategic Framework is a draft based on the Province of BC’s Citizens @ the Centre:BC Government 2.0: A Transformation and Technology Strategy for the BC Public Service. It illustrates how the Province’s initiatives/programs lead to the business outcomes articulated in their strategy.

The business outcomes are the circles on the right-hand side of the diagram. The initiatives are the boxes on the left of the outcomes. Usually, a Results Chain will include contributions, assumptions (risks) and accountabilities. I have omitted these components in the interest of simplicity to clarify the pictorial narrative. A document supporting the Results Chain is the Benefits Register which tracks the measure of each business outcome, including baseline and target value. The circles on the bottom are business outcomes that I have not mapped yet. Like I say, this is a work in progress.

The framework (Results Chain) tells a story in a single image and is an excellent communication tool for government executive, public service employees and the general public in understanding government’s strategic approach to Government 2.0.

The Results Chain is used by executive to articulate organization goals and understand the traceability between initiatives and business outcomes. Drafting a Results Chain on a whiteboard will precipitate a discussion that includes investment management decisions, a prioritization of programs, and a high level understanding of each program’s contribution to organization objectives.

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Unshakable Faith in the Human Spirit

After my speaking engagement at the Making Connections: Social Media Conference & Internal Communications in the BC Government this week, I had someone in the audience challenge my assumption about why Gov 2.0 works. My assumption is that most people (I estimate 95%) want to contribute, be part of something larger than themselves, and to make the world a better place

He asked whether I had any empirical evidence for my assumption, because his understanding from what he read was it was more like 15% who want to make the world a better place, 80% who are apathetic and don’t care, and 5% who are out to scam people.

The question was a good one, because it allowed me to make a distinction. My questioner was right: There are a lot of apathetic people. However, my point is that if apathetic people are given the trust, the guidance and the wherewithal (in this case social media), the vast majority will do the right thing. Call it optimism or rose-coloured glasses; I call it my unshakable faith in the human spirit.

Nurse log, Amanda Park, United States
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: The Quinault Rain Forest is better than the Hoh

Aside from my life experience, my observation is somewhat empirical. I’ve seen the success of crowdsourced initiatives such as Wikipedia and Linux. Wikipedia is a straightforward example. Anyone in the world can update Wikipedia, and it works. Wikipedia contains the three elements of trust, guidance, and the technology that allows people to contribute to a service for all.

Recently in San Francisco, a group of 100 hackers came together for 24 hours to create apps for social good. In a concentrated effort, the developers created an apps to allow subscribers to get an SMS message when a neighbour needs a hand, report missing persons using location data, and exchange fresh produce (for local gardeners), to describe a few.

I’ve also seen social media for social good work on our government corporate microblogging and intranet sites. Public servants routinely contribute to constructive, unmoderated conversations that immediately allow for improved collaboration and communication across silos and ultimately improve service outcomes for citizens.

That is not to say that we have 95% of the world’s population wanting to make a difference. We still have a large majority of people not contributing to the social web to create change and those who are apathetic and don’t care. We all get apathetic at times. But this is the challenge and opportunity. It is a battle for the hearts and mind of the apathetic that will determine the outcome of the human race and our planet.

In what percentage are you? Are you contributing in your area of interest, part of something larger than yourself, somehow making a difference? As Marshall McLuhan said, “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

We need your help and we need your leadership.

All the pieces are in place. It’s your move.

Social Media Improves Communication and Collaboration in Government

Continuing on the theme of my last posts, namely the value proposition of social media for government, today I will discuss the how social media improves communication and collaboration.

Social media is a powerful communication channel that enables government to communicate and collaborate more effectively externally and internally. Social media greatly reduces the transaction costs of communication and cuts through traditional organizational and communication barriers.

Social media reduces the government’s transaction costs of producing results by:

  1. Reducing the requirement for email
  2. Reducing the requirement for meetings
  3. Finding expertise/passion from within and outside of government to crowdsource initiatives

Social media also reduces the requirement for top-down management because social media channels are often moderated and directed by the community.

Public service renewal and transformation will only happen when we can harness the expertise and passion of public servants. Social media allows for the focusing and the collaboration of public servants and citizens without the high traditional costs of directing them in that effort.

Government must learn to be lighter and more effective. We must harness the passion of public servants to serve citizens. We must learn to break down walls and cut through traditional communication boundaries and bureaucracy.

The private sector is often held up as a model in government when considering how to better serve customers (citizens) and reduce costs. While the private sector certainly has efficiencies that government could benefit from, government has something the private sector does not have. We have public servants whose mission is to serve citizens. We are driven by making the world a better place. Given the opportunity and the means to make a difference, we do.

Social media allows for the voices of public servants and citizens to be heard. It enables passion and expertise of the many to be directed into results.

The Benefits of Social Media – Employee Engagement (Coda)

In a recent post, I talked about what motivates people. People want to contribute and they want to be part of something larger than themselves. In an area of their interest and expertise, people want to make the world a better place.

Smart employers understand this. Smart companies are clear about their mission and hire people who fit into their culture and whose principles align their mission. Smart companies hire good people and help them grow and achieve.

Google’s mission, for example, “is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” StumbleUpon’s mission statement is short and sweet: “To help you discover and share great websites.”

The Public Service is great place to work for people who want to make a difference. The mission of the public service is … well … to serve the public. Depending on where you work in the public service, your mission may be to have best-educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent or to excel and innovate in the delivery of government services for the citizens.

Addressing important societal issues such as poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and climate change are all within the purview of the public sector, as is transforming government services such as health care, social services and education. In the age of social media where voices can be heard and employees can make a difference, a transformation and public service renewal is taking place. A groundswell of leadership is rising from within government. Indeed, today is an exciting time to work for public service!

The Benefits of Social Media – Employee Engagement

Working for the BC Public Service over the last two and a half years, I’ve seen firsthand how a cultural shift towards the use of social media has improved employee engagement.  Social media is a communication channel that allows an employee’s voice be heard across traditional organizational and hierarchical boundaries. When an employee’s voice and effort is freed from the confines of an org chart (i.e., their structured working unit) they widen their circle of influence and increase their effectiveness.

One of the great examples I have on how social media increases employee engagement comes from a discussion forum on our main intranet site. An analyst posted a story about how people in organization can become resistant to change and often do things only because that is the way they’ve always done it. The post was great, but what I appreciated even more was that the head of the public sector was the first person to comment on it. He supported her story and suggested what we could learn from it. When employees see that kind of support from senior leadership, they know they are listened to and they can make a difference.

Social media enables collaboration that reaches across traditional boundaries within the public service. From asking simple questions to starting a movement, technologies such as blogging and microblogging enable communities of people to come together to resolve problems and  share knowledge. Employees announce they are starting a new project and ask others for help or contribute their energy or area of expertise. Sometimes we find those projects have already been completed in other areas of government. Why re-invent the wheel! Social media enables lightning-fast problem solving and reduces duplication of effort by connecting 30,000 problem solvers into one pool. Social media increases transparency, knowledge sharing and effective communication across working groups, branches, divisions and ministries.

An engaged workforce is force to be reckoned with. When people are contributing to what they think is important with people who support them, transformation takes place, seas are crossed, and mountains are moved.

The Why of Social Media (part 2)

When thinking about citizen and employee engagement and how we can all work together to address complex issues such as climate change, homelessness and healthcare, to name a few, consider what motivates people and how we can enable them to do what they do best: contribute.

Understanding human motivation is the foundation of improving citizen and employee engagement. Why do people like to use social media? (Recapping from last post.) People want …

  1. To contribute
  2. To be part of something larger than themselves
  3. To make the world a better place

This is not so say I’m a pollyanna. I understand that some people (maybe 5%?) do not have other people’s interest at heart. I understand that social media is used to develop and spread maleware, viruses and spam, for example. Social media can be used to waste corporate time and to organize organized crime. But the majority of people (say 95%) want to help make the world a better place. In fact, when given the opportunity, most people are passionate about making a difference.

Hundreds of examples are out there, from Wikipedia to Linux, InnoCentive to Threadless, blogs to flash mobs, Ushahidi to a multitude of open source/open data applications that benefit citizens. People contribute to these projects because they are passionate about what they are contributing and understand the value of sharing their effort and expertise to a worthwhile cause they believe in.

When you wake up in the morning and you know that you are contributing to something worthwhile that makes a difference, you wake up with enthusiasm and a smile.

I worked for years in the private sector before coming to the public sector. What impressed me about working for in the BC Public Service was that I could make a difference. I took to heart the Oath of Service, especially the part: “Act with integrity, putting the interests of the public and the public service above my own personal interest.”

I was struck by the fact that we are all working for a common cause: to provide value to the citizens of BC. The vision of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has evolved over time, but when I started we were all pulling in the same direction to:

  1. Enable better business outcomes for the citizens of BC
  2. Reduce carbon emissions
  3. Support an anticipated smaller workforce due to demographics (retirements)

In October, 2010, the BC Government released Citizens @ the Centre: Government 2.0 which provided an updated strategy for transformation and technology for the BC Public Service and is centred on three shifts:

  1. Citizen Participation
  2. Service Innovation (citizen-centric)
  3. Business Innovation

Citizens @ the Centre is exciting because this is strategy not just for the OCIO, but for all of the BC Public Service put out by the Deputy Minister’s Council for Transformation and Technology.

The Why of Social Media (part 1)

Yesterday in at the Advanced Learning Institutes Social Media in Government Conference in Vancouver, I talked about the why of social media. I’ve based my thoughts on Simon Sinek’s golden circle (see TED Talk) of 3 concentric rings of why, how and what. Simon talks about the importance of why in marketing products. (The why motivates people to buy). Most companies start with the what and then move to the how. For example, a car manufacturer’s what: We sell great cars. Their how: We have leather seats, mp3 players, sportscar suspension, and great gas mileage. Most companies don’t even have a why. Profit is not a why; it is a result.

Sinek uses Apple as an example of a company that starts with why. Apple’s why (‘why’ is always a belief): We believe in doing things differently. We believe in challenging the status quo. Their how: We challenge the status quo by making products that are easy to use, beautifully designed, and user friendly. Their what: We make great computers. Want to buy one? Compelling.

Social media is the same way. Whether you are thinking about engaging customers, citizens or employees, start with the why. The why for social media is that people want:

  1. To contribute
  2. To be part of something bigger than themselves
  3. To make the world a better place

The how is Social media. Sharing authentically and passionately about what matters (to the person sharing).

The what is blogging, microblogging, tweets, status updates, uploading video and photos.

The golden circle for social media looks like this:

Golden Circle for Social Media