For big Gov 2.0 changes, start small

Thursday - 9/9/2010, 7:38pm EDT

Walton Smith, principal, Booz Allen Hamilton

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What does it take to make a change in government? That's the question in a new report from Harvard's Kennedy School and Booz Allen Hamilton. The report polled more than 300 federal employees, and the results were mixed.

Walton Smith is a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. He says there is a lot of change going on in government right now, especially in the field of gov 2.0.

Smith said at the Web 2.0 conference three years ago, he remembers that no one was talking about enterprise 2.0, or the government. Smith felt there was more of a discussion that was necessary on how to help the government use the same technology.

"The number one asset within the government is our people, but we're not giving them intuitive tools that they can use to be able to address the growing needs the government faces," Smith said. "Our government employees are working way too hard right now, we can't give them new things to do, we've got to build stuff that goes into their work stream."

Booz Allen Hamilton then reached out to Harvard and the federal government, who Smith said were very receptive to sharing best practices

The study looked at 11 agencies from the Clinton and Bush era, and conducted over 300 interviews. At the end, they picked eight agencies that were successful and three that failed.

Smith said they looked to find the commonalities, what worked, what didn't so that they could then share that information, and bring it to other agencies.

"In gov 2.0, we're transforming how agencies use information or share information, and that's hard," Smith said. It's much its easier to revert to chain of command, but now it's to the point where the workforce has more ability and equipment on their iPhone than on their desktop.

"How do we make a change to empower those folks who are very jazzed up about doing the change, but they walk into an agency that's working with computers that were made in the 90s or the 80s?" Smith said.

Some recommendations from the report:

  • Get a running start: use time before and during confirmation process to understand the agency. Don't start figuring out the situation with the rank and file, with unions, with the technology once you're in; figure out what's going on beforehand, and what you want to do so that you can start as soon as you're confirmed.

  • Provide a safe environment: a new leader's attitude should be "I'm with you, and I'm going to take the hits, you guys do what's got to be done," Smith said.

  • Don't loose momentum: "You can't spend two years on a one year action plan," it's frustrating for CIOs to have to constantly have to figure out what platforms work with their various software and technology.

"It's hard, you've got to have a plan," Smith said. "It's scary but awesome at the same time."

You can see his presentation here, and the Executive Summary for the report here.

Email the author of this post at vjairam@federalnewsradio.com