Government Transformation – A Career spent chasing a Vision
I have come to this observation over a long career in support of public service. In 1979, as a junior auditor in the North Carolina State Auditors Office, I was fortunate to be assigned to a new Operational Audit Division – focused on identifying strategies to drive more effective and efficient government programs and services. During my 35+-year career working for and with governments, Government Transformation has been a primary focus for me, and some may say my calling! While the terminology over the years may have changed – Operational Auditing, Performance Auditing, Government Reinvention, Transformation Programs, Innovation Labs, etc. - the goals are always the same: serving citizens more effectively; improving government programs and services; and, identifying efficiencies and reducing government expenditures.
A critical lesson that so many leaders of transformation programs have learned is that the road to government transformation is seldom smooth or straight, and is always full of roadblocks. While this is not surprising, it is important to remember when engaged as a change agent, this is “a journey, not a destination.” To be effective in shaping transformation agendas and driving government innovation, a key attribute is the will to act. As has been proven over and over, organizations can wait out reform efforts and political changes at every level can be fickle. While neither organizational inertia nor leadership change is a reason to avoid bold transformation programs, being aware of the operational climate can help mitigate these challenges and drive greater success.
Yes, even though Government Transformation programs can be daunting, the good news is government reformers are never alone. Across all levels of government there are always programs and initiative to drive change. Connecting to thought leadership organizations and engaging peers can provide excellent models for transformation programs, best practices in driving innovation in government and identifying specific opportunities for innovation. And, the satisfaction of seeing programs successfully run and recommendations implemented are always worth the journey!
At IBM, our Center for the Business of Government, which will celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2018, has been a leader in conducting comprehensive research and presenting best practices across governments. In 2017 the Center published “Seven Drivers Transforming Government,” developed from their research and a research roundtable where they convened government, academic and nonprofit leadership to identify trends that would be key drivers for transforming government in the future. These drivers – Insight, Agility, Effectiveness, Risk, People, Engagement and Digital - create an excellent framework for government leaders to explore and target transformational programs.
As I said, when going on the transformation journey, government is never alone!