4 Rules to Change Government

I’m at the NASCIO Mid Year Conference and just heard Bryan Sivak, Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Maryland speak.

Part of his job, as his bio explains,  “is to look across the breadth of Maryland bureaucracy to identify programs which can be be accelerated through innovative and creative ideas, and to challenge the entrenched bureaucratic status quo”.

Rule 1: Intelligent Failure
During his speech what came across was his passion to make government exciting and cool to attract the best and brightest. To do this he is striving to create an environment where its ok to take some risks and, if necessary, fail – but so long as something came out of that failure – the term he used – intelligent failure. His perspective is that part of what stops things from being accomplished in government is the fear of failure, so he is looking for ways to reduce the risk and try things out.

Rule 2: Crowdsource
Only in the role since April 2011 he has gotten engaged in a multitude of projects across Maryland and what he is advocating is leveraging the breadth and depth of the some 80,000 state workers – looking to crowdsource innovative changes by asking lots of people to weigh in and offer suggestions and help.  He’s trying out micro grant programs to get things funded to see if they will fly. So the combination of lots of minds and a little funding to make big progress.

Rule 3: Ask Why
Finally, he brought up a real simple concept, one that I use when I work with groups undergoing organizational change:  “ask why” (or the ever popular variant “why not”). He has found that in many instances when the “experts” proclaimed that something was not permitted by policy or statue, that  going back and reading the details revealed that reality was not the same as perception, and alittle fresh interpretation could lead to different outcomes.

In the hour that he spoke to the group the 3 rules appeared over and over and with some interesting results ranging from streamlining DOT paperwork by adoption of electronic dataentry to updating and revising internal state policies.

So I’d watch the State of Maryland – if Bryan succeeds in getting all 80,000 state workers using those 3 rules they will cause change and change for the better.

Rule 4: Have Measurable Goals
To avoid chaos you need to have measurable goals. This is really rule 1, but the story is easier working backwards.

As Bryan admitted that prioritization of work is hard, so he starts with making sure that something aligns with improving one of the 15 goals of the governor for improving the State of Maryland.

Pretty simple stuff…it will be fun to watch and see if it  can spread.

Watson Solution Architect - Emerging Technology, Executive IT Architect, Member IBM Academy of Technology

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