The idea that change can be initiated at every level of an organization is the cornerstone of our corporate and government philosophy. We agree and herald the idea that in our organization, noone’s voice is too small, no title is too low, no person is too insignificant, and that change and transformation can start anywhere and at any level in the organization. Or at-least it should be able to.
But does it? More importantly, can it?
Looking back 2-3 years of #gov20 efforts across all levels of government across the country, even across the world, we see a tremendous amount of of innovation, transformation and modernization. Especially in areas such as outreach, openness, transparency, engagement, and efficiency (I put #cloud, #opensource, SaaS, etc. in the category of efficiency, even though they can belong in different categories). I have no doubt that many of these initiatives start at some middle layer of the bureaucracy – A middle manager trying to cut costs, a customer service rep relying on input on Facebook/Twitter, a developer getting the job done quicker, cheaper and more efficiently using Drupal or Ning. But at some point, the CIO, CTO, COO or some other CxO heard the idea, liked it, supported it, championed it, told others about it, (and probably took credit for it).
Would that idea have blossomed and taken root if the CIO/CTO/CxO had opposed it? Or if the CSO had decided it was too risky? Maybe, Maybe not. Would this idea have caused a transformation in the way that agency or branch of government operates? Most likely not.
What many don’t realize is that although the gov20 initiatives themselves are shaped as grassroots movements, government agencies still operate as hierarchical, top-down bureaucracies. Bridging the gap between the small group of “lawless” hackers breaking all the rules, while keeping the bureaucracy satisfied, even supportive, is the ultimate job of a CxO in the gov20 era. Ultimately, the CxO must recognize the business value of the gov20 initiative within their agency, and understand how it would further the mission of the agency in a way that traditional IT initiatives cannot (cheaper, faster, more effective). Without this business value proposition, gov20 initiatives end up being “That cool thing we tried out when we were not so busy”.
So what do you think? Does transformative change in government IT require a big title to be successful?