Leadership and Government Digital Transformation

Leaders or leadership?

Fundamental organizational change requires leadership. People who exercise leadership. Senior government leaders can enable leadership. Successful government digital transformation relies on senior leaders enabling experimentation – giving space for public servants to exercise leadership.
Forget traditional government organizational management styles. There’s a digital change afoot.
A FreeBalance blog last week explored the maturation of Government Resource Planning (GRP) software from “systems of record” to “systems of innovation” to support government digital transformation.  The technology foundations for government digital transformation was also examined.
The FreeBalance Strategy and Innovation Group delve into public service management in this post.

Management style modernization

Senior government leaders and managers enable change. Management styles adapt to the government and country contexts. And, the information technology and Government Resource Planning (GRP) contexts, as governments modernize to support innovation.

 Systems of Record focus on compliance and controls

  • Command and Control reflects a traditional top-down approach to management designed to ensure following directives
  • Vertically integrated reflects idea that government can do all things

This management style constrains transformation of any type. Therefore, leaders leverage these systems as technology foundations for modernization across the entire budget cycle.
Systems of Engagement enable governments to engage with public servants and citizens

  • Decentralized supports decision discretion by public servants  without compromising legal compliance
  • Virtually integrated reflects idea that governments need assistance to achieve policy goals from civil society, businesses, contractors, and other partners

This management style supports government performance improvement by extending communications and engagement. Leaders accept that governance expertise extends beyond central government, and technocrats from specialized ministries, departments and agencies.  Line ministries and sub-national governments contribute to performance improvement through decentralization. Partners contribute to performance improvement. Engagement, collaboration and transparency technology enables this management style.
Systems of Intelligence enable governments to discover important insights

  • Data-driven supports evidence-based decision-making rather than dogma-based by leveraging insights generated through government and non-government data
  • Consultative leverages the network of government organizations, civil society, and other partners across the budget cycle from policy planning through to outcomes analysis

This management style extends engagement to consultation. Evidence is used to inform government policy, spending, and execution. Data is shared, typically through transparency portals, to improve the quality of consultation with line ministries, sub-national governments, civil society, businesses, and other partners. Analytical technology including big data, machine learning, and visualization enables this management style.
Systems of Innovation

  • Agile supports ability for leaders and managers to adjust quickly and systematically to economic, social, environmental and political changes
  • Networked extends engagement  across the budget cycle to every aspect of government to improve public sector innovation, and provide conditions to improve business innovation

This management style enables government leaders to address a “social mess” or  “wicked problems“. As described by Robert Horn, a social mess includes the following characteristics:

  1. No unique “correct” view of the problem
  2. Different views of the problem and contradictory solutions
  3. Most problems are connected to other problems
  4. Data are often uncertain or missing
  5. Multiple value conflicts
  6. Ideological and cultural constraints
  7. Political constraints
  8. Economic constraints
  9. Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking
  10. Numerous possible intervention points
  11. Consequences difficult to imagine
  12. Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity
  13. Great resistance to change
  14. Problem solver out of contact with the problems and potential solutions

Systems of innovation rely on process change, from “waterfall” to “agile”. This is enabled by emerging collaboration technology, and leveraging existing government IT systems in new ways.

Government value modernization

Many government leaders recognize that the public sector governance landscape has changed. Citizens have access to far more information. Civil society has become more demanding for improved government performance. Expectations are changing.

Systems of Record support expectations that government services are:

  • Efficient through automation to optimize citizen services processing
  • Standard through controls and workflow to provide identical quality of services regardless of context
  • Input and Output measured where budgets are developed as inputs, and the number of outputs are tracked

Systems of record are ideal to provide these characteristics to government. These are “table stake” expectations for almost every government on the planet. And, these characteristics are not necessarily indicative of service quality or government performance.
Systems of Engagement support the next stage of performance improvement through understanding:

  • Effectiveness based on citizen experience adds context to efficiency because process productivity may not necessarily improve service quality
  • Programs that are shared across government organizations, codified in financial metadata, in support of policy that gives a more comprehensive picture of government activity
  • Outcomes that focuses on real results of policy implementation enabling program evaluation

This level of modernization helps government leaders to question conventional wisdom. For example, a health care system that focuses on efficiency measures, like wait times, standardization measures like wait times by region, and output measures, like number of patients processes, may have no relationship to whether citizen health has improved. A program approach can link preventation to outcomes.
Systems of Intelligence provides analytical insight for:

  • Service Delivery through connecting process efficiency and effectiveness statistics with feedback from multiple sources, like social media feeds,  to identify metrics that matter
  • Performance metrics, including Key Performance Indicators, embedded in financial and budget classifications, to provide near real-time understanding of government performance
  • Predictive Outcomes through use of machine learning applied to unstructured and structured big data to inform government policy

These systems enable governments to escape the tyranny of dogma, and so-called “best practices”. This is particularly important in emerging nation governments who are faced with reform fatigue. Donors often fund projects that are not aligned to government objectives.
Systems of Innovation for government, and to enable business innovation through:

  • Personalization of government services, that are more effective than standardized services
  • Sustainable Growth focus where performance metrics and spending is aligned to government objectives
  • Citizen Wellbeing where government objectives are aligned to the social, cultural, and economic context of citizens

Agility is a hallmark of innovation. Agile systems provide more granular measurement. Bottlenecks are identified fast. Agile processes uncover unexpected “externalities”. The digital leader’s mindset requires leveraging agile techniques such as lean, SCRUM, Kanban, design thinking and PDIA, adapted for the government context.

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