I have long subscribed to the belief that our initiatives in the online communication world will eventually change the way the government functions. From our internal capacity to support a robust online environment to providing public servants with the general understanding and toolkit of web tools that can make them more effective, more than any time over the last decade I see the Gov2.0 movement starting to shape the new bureaucracy.
How does an organization this size manage this shift? As someone who manages an online communications team, I’ve seen numerous attempts to address this over the last years – major restructuring, semblances of web governance, decentralized management and ad hoc committees among them.
For my part, it means this; recognizing the landscape is shifting and that new skillsets have to be ushered in order to effectively, and professionally manage this facet of communications. This recognition and transformation takes time at an enterprise level. As those of us working in the 2.0 world well know, time is a precious commodity and months wasted can lead to missed opportunities.
And so, I recommend taking advantage of the lack of formal governance and work to shape it. If you’re in a position to influence a “2.0′ing” of the bureaucracy – do it! Those of us responsible for the advancement of the government’s online efforts are the ones best positioned to steer the course.
Create the positions you need, fill them with those ready and able to take on the challenges of an exciting and evolving environment and demonstrate your results, successes and opportunities for growth.
Over the last two years, my focus has been on building a team based not on traditional communication functions or by reshuffling personnel files. It has been a process of auditing positions, researching and rewriting job descriptions and having them reclassified to not only reflect the current tasks, but to also anticipate and support an unknown future in new media.
Structure/functions of an ideal web team
While I don’t have the number of positions available to me to build that ideal web team (at left) I remain hopeful that as the 2.o movement spreads, all communication positions will come under a microscope and go through similar exercises.
The web, in just over a decade of real existence in the government, is already at the 2.0 stage with 3.0 already seeping in. As a result, gone are the communication ‘generalists’ on my team. I’m extremely proud to now have a “community manager” on my team. While I won’t pretend to be the first to create such a position, it’s more than likely it’s still a rarity in an organization that should be ripe with them.
Web 2.0 government folk have long championed the need for senior leadership in order to create the foundations and make the advances necessary. While I don’t disagree with that, I think it will require leaders from all levels stepping up and affecting the change they are able to at their level. In this case, if senior managers want something new and dynamic, which they will, make sure your team is ready to stand and deliver.
Good post. I’ve read in a number of places the rise of the community manager. I think it is a fantastic role and very important but will see how government adopts. In some sense, it seems too wishy-washy but I think is essential in the 2.0 world
Thanks Steve. I agree – like most things 2.0 in government it can be a wait and see exercise. The best approach I’ve been able to find is to go ahead and do what seems to be needed/right and let others watch and see the results. The key for me is to measure and communicate those results in order to “defend” decisions and encourage similar approaches.
I’ll keep the govloop community posted!
Excellent post Martha.
I’ve also in the process of shifting from convincing organisations of the importance of the internet as a channel and paradigm shift into extending Gov 2.0 expertise. I’m linking to your post in my blog later next week.
Thanks for the comment, and the link. It is indeed a shift and I’m, thankfully, finding more momentum building so let’s hope the shift is taking root.
Look forward to reading your post!
Hi Martha, I didn’t see the community manager position amongst your ideal web team. Where does that role go?
Which site/s is your community manager working on – would be interested to go have a look at them in action.
The Community Manager position is vital to the network we manage and I think would be an excellent addition to any web team as chances are there are numerous partners/stakeholders.
For my part, our team manages the network of Canadian Embassy/High Commission websites (save the US/Mexico.) This is a work in progress with much time spent over the last two years to bring all sites onto a common CMS platform, CLF 2.0 compliancy and a new IA/design. With over 100 sites in 30+ languages, you can see where the Community role fits as it will serve the 200+ partners at our offices.
The focus for us now is content refinement and localization as well as piloting various, targeted social media pilots. It’s a tremendous workload so you can see the need to put a strong team in place.
Happy to discuss more if you have any questions.
Martha, are you talking about a shift in the whole government organization or only in the communications team? Because if others teams are going to use 2.0 tools to communicate with citizens and groups or use crowdsourcing in the projects, they should be supported and educated to understand the new tools and the new 2.0 culture. I think that should also be a task for the communications team. This is quite a different role for them, though.
Thanks for your comment.
As I work in the communications world my focus tends to be there. I think the potential that exists for the 2.0 tools throughout government is unimaginable and it will take time for other areas (grants, scholarships etc.) to catch on.
Like you, I think communications teams are best suited to kick the tires on these tools as they’re a natural extension of the work we do. Our leadership and establishment of “better” practices should be at the cornerstone of any implementation strategy.
The challenge comes down to identifying who should lead. When email and the Internet became tools of the trade in Government, surprisingly not that long ago, we there weren’t government-wide strategies for adoption, education etc. The ‘how to use it’ is one thing, but it’s the how combined with the why that truly need to be addressed.
Over the next decade, the government will still grapple with 21st century version of the typewriter/computer conundrum. In this case it will be the public service digital divide that sees new employees armed with the knowledge and using tools to perform that are foreign to managers and colleagues.
For my part, the team I’ve built is helping to spread the word and tools through our network which has led to requests for informal training sessions. Does the government want the adoption and use of these tools to be a grassroots movement? Effective, but risky.
A colleague of mine recently wrote an interesting post on this subject:
A challenge to be sure- we have the tools to meet it which should make this easier.
In my own organisation (a ministry in the Netherlands) I notice that the communications department is slow to react (just using 2.0 tools to continue sending), but there’s a lot of interest from the information management division and from HRM. Personally I think HRM should be leading because it’s about empowering employees and about how the organisation collaborates using 2.0 tools. In the end, this shift is going to effect the whole organisation and all staff divisions should reconsider there role in this change.
I’ve written a book about all this by the way, you can read it at book.ambtenaar20.nl (through Google Translate). Or you can read more about Civil Servant 2.0. Good luck with your team!
There are so many facets to the tools and their uses – it will certainly be interesting to see where the dust settles!
Thanks very much for sharing your resources with me. I’ve had the pleasure of working with several ministries in northern Europe/Scandinavia and am always impressed with the innovative thought being demonstrated. I look forward to reading your book.