Having participated over the past decade in efforts to improve the performance of government sectors, I found that many of these efforts were being made to modify traditional ways of working, which brought little new. If we want to change the results, We should explore new ways of working, not just think about the steps that need to be implemented. When we know that government sectors will continue to operate with a continuous reduction in resources and allocated budgets and a corresponding increase in the needs of the communities they serve, We will make sure that a large gap is about to form. There is no better way to close this gap than to learn how to enhance impact through innovation and transformation. The terms innovation and transformation have become more like slogans for some, But they become effective enablers of governments if we differentiate the meaning of each.
Innovation is defined as how we work towards embracing a culture that supports experimentation and creativity as an integral part of the business as usual. The more you foster and support innovation among your team, Their productivity increases and the impact they achieve increases. The more self-reliant they are in finding ways to improve their work, Expand the scope of the positive impact. In contrast, Those who are convinced that they cannot afford innovation miss huge opportunities to take advantage of its benefits that do not require changing their available budgets.
Transformation is the systematic change or evolution towards a pattern, outcome, or operating model that is radically different from traditional ways of working and replaces methods that are far removed from addressing priority challenges. Government transformation is a process that reimagines the sector to meet the emerging needs of the twenty-first century.
Many of our organizational structures, mechanisms and processes are based on assumptions and best practices made decades or even centuries ago. Current change efforts are focused on implementing better, faster and less costly mechanisms. Meanwhile, There are challenges that limit our ability to evolve and deal quickly with developments, This makes it difficult to predict the needs of the rapidly changing economy and society. So I think we need to transform our government sectors to adapt to developments and respond to them in real time. Let us not forget here the need to increase the levels of community engagement and motivation to interact, a point to which I may devote an article later.
I believe, The acceleration of life developments and the growing challenges of life require the adoption of a comprehensive view of the entire system in order to improve and upgrade it for the benefit of society. But this idea frustrates many people, thinking that it is either far-fetched, too bifurcated, or deeply ingrained. But at the same time, we must not forget that this system is our own making and we can change it. We just have to adjust it if it doesn't work for everyone, as we do every time.
Changing the mechanisms of action (or innovation) is thus embodied in the capabilities and capabilities to enhance its impact through practical methods on a daily basis, such as adopting an experimental, participatory, creative, flexible and evidence-based approach when developing, implementing and continuously improving policies, legislation or services.
Changing the system around us (or transformation) is also transformed into a vision centered on enhancing positive impact. This is done by developing the right policies, developing programs, planning for the future, and bringing about radical change at the level of systems as a whole to drive better social outcomes. The bottom line is that innovation and transformation complement and depend on each other.
How we leverage the impacts of innovation and transformation
The remainder of this article will talk about the issue of scaling up the positive effects of innovation. I emphasize that what is mentioned in my article applies to any comprehensive system, although I focus on the impact of innovation and transformation at the level of government agencies. The best way to maximize the impact of any effort of any kind is to empower individuals.
First thing I believe that openness and transparency are key elements in enhancing the impact of any effort, whatever its field, They are the way to influence the system as a whole, guide individuals and enable them to innovate, take responsibility for achieving better results, and apply innovation even in the simplest of things. They also ensure that our work is evidence-based, accurate and better tested, thanks to community feedback on these innovations. The impact of openness and transparency is not limited to government services, It extends to the economy and society because they will become a foundation on which to build trust and improve cooperation to conduct research and collaborate with academic institutions.
When we adopt a policy of openness and transparency in our business, we will start making research and software resources available to the public, we will advertise projects that require cooperation, and we will provide information about the steps we are taking (because most government services are not confidential). Hence, Openness and transparency are among the tools that enhance the impact of government initiatives and actions and the most appropriate means to ensure that what the government offers and what individuals demand undoubtedly works "well".
In this context, It should be noted that there are claims that transparency is not the answer because most individuals lack the tools to understand the data, information and data needed to hold others accountable. But I stress that this is not a sufficient reason to eliminate the principle of transparency altogether. There are always those who play the role of accountability, whether competitors, customers, the media, community members or even employees. Transparency has two main parts, One is about accountability and the other is about establishing the basic motivation to do the right thing.
Some ideas to boost innovation results
- Leisure time — Senior government officials complain about the lack of funding for innovation, There is a constant need to spend all the resources allocated to the departments in which they serve. However, the backlog of work tasks is increasing, Whether or not you use all resources, your impact will remain reduced relative to the range of challenges you are trying to address. I therefore support a somewhat modern approach based on balancing rapid implementation with long-term implementation in order to give staff time to explore possible solutions. The allocation of this time is of great importance in addressing the growing challenges that cannot be addressed as staff are fully engaged in completing the required tasks. You can also encourage employees to innovate by creating a culture that supports and highlights innovation and developing a balanced action plan that eliminates unnecessary tasks. I feel happy when I listen to the ideas and creations of the teams that are supported and empowered, I stress the need for senior leadership to support efforts to create and maintain such a culture.
- Government entities should create a neutral, safe, and adequately funded and collaborative pilot environment so that they can conduct tests and trials quickly and outside traditional constraints (such as technical, political, functional, organizational structures or procurement constraints). These environments must also share with different sectors and work openly to share insights and tools in a short time. The creation of neutral environments also contributes to the dissemination of a comprehensive vision adopted by all parties in their work. This will maximize the results of transformation and innovation.
- Opening the door for participation through the dissemination of reusable knowledge, systems and research to pave the way towards participatory work and the exchange of experiences and expertise. We have a good number of experts, What is lacking, however, is prioritizing the participation of mechanisms that are applicable and usable in practice. We also need to extend this approach to different sectors so that we can scale them all. There are advantages that will be offered by a space that includes all segments of society in which they share their efforts and benefit from each other, This is what we have seen in open source software such as Wikipedia. In reality, however, we remain determined to create isolated sectors and efforts in areas that may become essential to the common good.
- Include user research in tenders — this requires entities to conduct user research before submitting bidding requests for budgeting; This will generate a drive to develop and deliver what individuals really need. It will also support user-centric software and foster the innovation necessary to transform current practices. This entails the need for ministries of finance to hire experts and user research centers to make comparisons over time.
- Allow staff mobility — Support employee mobility between departments and business units for different experiences and enhance learning and engagement. It is natural that not all employees welcome this idea, It is difficult for someone who has been in the same job for twenty years to accept new ideas. Although staff exchange programmes have positive effects, However, not sharing their outputs widely will limit their impact to individuals only.
- Operational leadership support – Not everyone is looking to take a leading, transformative, innovative, or entrepreneurial role in their field. For this we need a program that supports these individuals within an operational leadership context that does not depend on their managers approving their performance or overseeing their career progression. The mere recognition that leadership is not limited to senior management is a paradigm shift in itself. Of course, managers want to retain outstanding performers. This hinders their progress and leads to the end of the loss of the entity. In contrast, Government employees hold on to their positions when they engage in meaningful work, Their impact is maximized when they share their experiences with community members, which increases trust and improves cooperation among them.
- Establishment of a government innovation center — We can stimulate and support innovation through a public platform where individuals can register projects they wish to participate in within different government sectors (projects that require collaboration will be announced and open for everyone to participate in). In turn, The platform contributes to supporting and encouraging innovation across the government, providing a space to stimulate and support collaboration in various sectors, This is what we lack at the moment.
- Guiding Emerging Technologies and Guiding Great Insights – I propose to form a team of executives from multiple entities and sectors who stay up-to-date with the latest technologies to guide the country towards emerging technologies, trends and ideas for the benefit of all. As for the government, This orientation will help agencies interact constructively with new opportunities rather than wait until they become a necessity that requires an urgent change in plans. This is achieved through the continuous development of tools that are enriched by various entities and sectors.
Some ideas to maximize transformation results
- Exploring the future — what kind of community and quality of life do we want for ourselves? How can we determine the direction of change needed if we don't ask ourselves questions like this? We are used to responding to changes after they have occurred, But the best way to predict the future is to make it (Alan Kay's quote). In contrast, Trying to predict what is "good" or "bad" gives us future expectations that we work to reach or mitigate. Since the role of government agencies is to understand and deal with the changing needs of society, What prevents them from participating in creating and exploring a better future?
- Formulating a common vision – Today, entities (and sectors to a lesser extent) in many countries seek to achieve their goals and efforts in isolation due to the absence of a common vision. We have come up with many strategies, research and guidance, But we have failed to formulate a comprehensive vision. If Australia adopted a comprehensive vision (formulated by all sectors and groups of society) that clarifies the features of the society we seek to build and clarifies the role of entities in achieving it, we will be able to unify efforts and strategies. It is clear that having a coherent comprehensive vision allows strategies to be aligned and this is what we must achieve over time.
- · Measuring success with human criteria — if we change the way we measure success to not just economic outcomes and include human outcomes (such as quality of life), we will see a natural shift in culture, priorities, behaviors, incentives, and government methodologies. This will maximize the positive results of government programs and policies on individuals.
- · Funding "government digital infrastructure" — Today, technologies are funded as projects with set start and delivery dates. Most technology projects in the government sector are usually designed specifically to meet the requirements of certain entities, So we have a huge amount of technologies and very little infrastructure that others can benefit from. By combining models of financing government infrastructure (e.g., roads, health, and education) and turning some digital infrastructure into public property (e.g., digital legislation, service records, and highly credible digital identities), we may come up with digital infrastructures that benefit society and the economy as a whole.
- Flexible budgeting — We need to fund small business experiments to enrich feasibility studies rather than start large projects. Projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars are not required now. That's because tech projects no longer cost us a lot of money. If we adopt together the preparation of flexible budgets, We will see a positive impact on motivation, design, development, implementation, procurement and more. This would hold the entities more responsible towards their work outputs within short periods of time, It allows for adjustment of orientation to reduce budgets. Therefore, budgets are one of the criteria for success, In particular, transformational projects do not fit into the current budgeting model.
- · Government as an enabler of digital platforms — This idea is closely related to the government's digital architecture. Making government content, data, business rules (including legislation) and transaction systems available via the API is critical in the economy. In this way, we maximize the impact of transformation in the government sector, This is because government agencies prefer to use what is faster, better and less expensive, and therefore will be the first to benefit from them. Today, entities are more amenable to API-based systems, paving the way for government to become an empowered for such technologies. Digital legislation (needed to integrate service delivery efforts) will also create a tangible transformation in terms of regulation, government automation, and artificial intelligence.
- · Employee exchange programs for all sectors — sharing knowledge and experience transparently, clearly, and in a way that is not counterproductive or collected for commercial reasons. We must also take into account that major companies can provide vacancies for these programs. Other than small and medium businesses. So we need funds to fund employee exchange programs and experts from different sectors.
- Comprehensive evidence base on service delivery— The things we measure play a role in guiding our behaviors. Specialized agencies accomplish the tasks required of them without paying attention to the system as a whole. But we can find ways of government-level accountability to change behaviors through a government evidence base devoid of personal information for user research, service analytics, and other indicators related to service delivery. New Zealand has established the Statistical Evidence Database (IDI), But we need other evidence such as shared user research, data analytics devoid of personal information, and reports on important project results. But how can we enhance the transparency of this evidence (where possible) and make it available outside the limits of government use for use by other sectors? In general, The establishment of a government evidence base (beyond service delivery) reinforces the same approach to investment, strategic planning, and behaviors.
These are some of the ideas that I hope you will consider and benefit you. In the end, I encourage all government employees to consider adopting a policy of innovation and transformation and make them a daily practice.
This article was written by Pia Andrews, who works on government sector reform and is part of her series known as "Pea's Review of the Government Sector".