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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.

* 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, 

Iyanla Vanzant, Fix My Government

Iyanla Vanzant on ABC News

"Data, data everywhere" - and sometimes there is not a drop of insight to drink.

Don't get me wrong. I love data. Data takes us out of superstition, the Dark Ages of trusting opinion over fact.

But data can also be an excuse and an enabler of dysfunction. Data is sometimes our way of saying - "I don't want to see what I know is right in front of me."

Branding, really is intangible data. It's perception. You can't see it, you can't measure it, you can't prove it - and that kind of data is routinely ignored or dismissed as "not real."

Iyanla Vanzant is a motivational speaker, guru and spiritual healer whose top-rated show "Fix My Life" can be seen on the Oprah network.

She has overcome unbelievable obstacles and emerged to help the rest of us. Here are a few short videos that capture her in action. If you have a few minutes I hope that you will discover her contributions and think about the ways we can use them to improve the day-to-day work of government.

Video #1: "Do The Work"

  • When there is a breakdown in a relationship, you must have the hard conversation.

  • If you're willing to listen, if you're willing to tell the truth, it will open up.

  • People are estranged because they don't have the tools to heal the relationship. They've got to do the work.

  • You've got to be willing to be wrong about what you thought, what you judged, what you said, what you did.

  • You've got to be willing to see another perspective.

Video #2: "Call A Thing A Thing"

  • The only thing that goes on in your life is what you allow to go on in your life.

  • You want to control people. Because as long as you're in control, you're safe.

  • This is not about them, this is about you.

  • You say one thing, expect something else, and when you get what you (said you wanted), you beat them up about it. And that's your racket.

  • The truth will set you free.

  • But to get to freedom, you've got to climb the barbed wire.

Video #3: "Maia Campbell Confronts Her Shameful Past"

  • If you can't face it, you can't heal it.

  • If you can't say it, you will never come to grips with it.

  • Go there.

  • That's not a picture, that's your life. Look at it. What do you see?

5 Tools That Make Work Life Easier For Less Than $5 (Total)

1. White noise "music" helps to focus on one task at a time - I like "Clean White Noise"

2. Forward your calls to Google Voice - it transcribes the voicemails.

3. saves time scheduling meetings.

4. The 99 cent iVocal app for iPhone lets you talk-to-text (email or SMS). Set up a contact called "dictation" with your email address and use that for voice notes.

5. The Blogger app is handy for blogging during a boring train commute.

7 Counterintuitive Productivity Tips for Workaholics

1. Try to be productive at all times. Do not force yourself to "do nothing" in the name of relaxing. This will only stress you more.

2. Instead, force yourself to take a break from work by working hard at other productive things.

3. Redefine for yourself what productivity means. If being a good partner or parent is one of your goals, then pure relationship time is productive.

4. Measure and manage your soft skills over time. Listening for example is an extremely challenging thing to do if you are an action-oriented person. Improved listening skills quickly yield tangible results - e.g. you understand people and situations better - and this can encourage you to develop such skills further.

5. "Play" hard. Workaholics are usually intense types. Do exciting non-work things or do boring things in an exciting way. Hiking without a compass is exciting because you can get lost. Grocery shopping where you time yourself to get it done in 29 minutes or less is exciting because it's a race against time.

6. Do freelance work, teach or volunteer. It is true that the busier you are doing different things the more you get done. It's like with eating - if you have many different foods on your plate you will eat more than if there was just one food.

7. Entertainment is a great way to unwind and also immerse yourself in another activity with no demands. Also, when you rest your mind in this way, your creativity gets sparked because you get into the story. This enhances the other things you are working on in reality.

Excuses, Excuses

In every social institution there are three kinds of people: change agents, traditionalists and those in the middle (who can go either way or don't care). 
Inevitably change agents, being who they are, will agitate for improvement of whatever kind. Traditionalists will resist it. And everybody else will watch, wait and see which way the wind blows before acting.
It seems to me that the trick when it comes to effective change-making is for constructive change agents to listen to and work with the constructive traditionalists. Some change agents literally just can't sit still - they live to stir things up. That's not positive energy.
Negative traditionalists - the gripers and the snipers - have the opposite effect. They will do anything to torpedo any change initiative except one that reinforces the way things used to be.
The organization needs constructive people of all kinds - including constructive traditionalists. They are the ones who defend the culture and carry the torch. And because they are so passionate about the mission they will be a change agent's biggest advocates - if, and that's a big IF - they truly believe the change will benefit the organization.
Change agent + constructive traditionalist = meaningful, productive and lasting change.
However - nothing can happen unless you get through the negativity and transform it into positive energy.
And negativity has a way of sounding rational, sometimes. But it's really a pseudo-logic. When you actually write down the "top 10" kinds of excuses negative people make, they seem sort of funny and even pathetic.
Except that in real life the excuses of the "negative Nellies" can and do have really destructive consequences for the very organizations they claim to love.
  1. Difficulty
    • I don’t know how to do that (so I can't evaluate your idea)
    • Sounds nice, but it would be extremely difficult (so we shouldn't try)
    • No matter what we do it won’t matter - we’re just pawns in a larger game - they're out to get us - it's their fault
  1. Dislike
    • I don’t like technology
    • I don’t like your idea
    • I don’t like you
  1. Bias
    • Technology is for the young people
    • Bureaucracy is so old-school (e.g. for older people)
  1. Culture:
    • You haven't been here long enough to understand
    • That would never work around here
    • This is the government not the private sector
  1. False Logic
    • There is a flaw in your thinking (so the whole idea is unworkable)
    • Somebody else has to do it first
    • We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work
    • I would need to see more data on that
    • Everybody knows that's ridiculous
    • I don't see the logic
  1. Blame/Threaten The Messenger
    • You're being a little negative aren't you?
    • You need to be more of a team player (drink the Kool-Aid) (more loyal)
    • Change agents don’t last
    • Why do you care so much?
  1. Invoke “crazy”
    • You’re crazy
    • That’s crazy
    • It’s crazy
  1. I’m Smarter Than You
    • I’ve been around a lot longer so I know...
    • I’m an expert so let me tell you a thing or two
    • Things are more complicated than you realize
  1. False Prophecy
    • That will never happen
    • In a few years it won’t matter because...
  1. It’s A Resource Issue
    • If only we had more money...
    • ...more staff
    • ...more time

* As always, all opinions are my own.