5 Big Questions Government Leaders Should Be Asking

In a recent article Warren Berger writes about the importance of leaders asking the right questions. Berger interviewed several innovation experts and as a result developed 5 key questions that leaders of a business should ask. Local government leaders can also benefit from asking Berger’s questions. I have modified the business focused questions so that they fit and apply to the operation of local governments.

1) What Is Our Local Government’s Purpose? – Government leaders need to move beyond small minded mundane concerns and focus on challenges that are deeply needed and compelling. Successful organizations have a powerful sense of purpose.

2) What Should We Stop Doing? – Developing a successful strategy that devotes resources to top priorities requires making the tough decisions to stop things that are not working. Eliminating a program or service that no longer works or makes sense is hard to do in government.

3) If We Didn’t Have An Existing Program, How Could We Best Build A New One? – Such questions can be used to temporarily break free of existing constraints and biases. This question enables leaders to stop focusing on pre-existing beliefs and structures–“the stuff they’ve already invested in”–and come at the organization with a fresh approach, according to Clayton Christensen a well known innovation expert cited in Berger’s article.

4) Where In Our Organization Is It Safe To Ask Radical Questions? – Where, within your local government, can you explore heretical questions that could threaten the organizations culture as it is–without contaminating what you’re doing now?” It’s up to local government leadership to “provide permission and protocols for experimentation,”. That means supplying the time and resources for people to explore new questions, as well as establishing methods: “how might we” questioning sessions, and experimentation.

5) How Can We Make A Better Experiment? – How can local government leaders unlock the creativity that’s already there in your organization? As stated in Berger’s article: “Most companies are full of ideas, but they don’t know how to go about finding out if those ideas work,”. “If you want to harvest all those ideas, allow employees to experiment more–so they can find out the answers to their questions themselves.”

With the fiscal problems facing local governments creative and innovative approaches are needed. Local governments need a culture change that will allow creativity and innovation to flourish. Elected officials and department heads can begin the process of changing the culture of their government by asking the 5 big questions discussed above.

What do you think about the 5 big questions? Are they the right questions to ask, what other questions do you believe are critical to ask?


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