According to Ms. Martha Johnson, the Administrator of the General Services Administration, they try to fail fast, fail forward, and fail fruitfully.
Ms. Johnson was the keynote speaker for the second day of the Coast Guard’s 10th annual “Innovation Expo” in Tampa, Florida earlier this month. I couldn’t attend, but I watched the streaming video of her talk on USTREAM. The recording is available here and well worth watching. She is introduced by the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara. Ms. Johnson’s keynote starts at about 8:30.
Ms. Johnson shared many ideas that resonated with me. Here are the top three:
Experiment. GSA can’t afford to do huge things and make mistakes at it. They need to take bites, they things out, and discard what doesn’t work. She’s trying to build a culture that fails forward, fails fast, and fails fruitfully.
Be transparent. In any important endeavor, it’s important to be transparent. If people don’t see it, they make it up. Transparency takes the drama and suspicion away. Trust builds when people know what’s going on.
Answer the “Why bother?” Any change effort must be able to answer the question of “why bother?” The answer must be something better than, “Because OMB told us.”
Any of you with long commutes will appreciate her description of the lifecycle of a great idea hatched at home that nearly dies on its way to the office.
She also talked about GSA making collaborative tools available to try out within government. Some of you may have already heard about those tools at http://citizen.apps.gov/. If you have a .gov or .mil address and a problem to solve that could be supported by a free GSA-hosted blog, wiki, or bulletin board, it’s worth a look.
There’s plenty more in her keynote. If you watch, definitely stay for the Q&A afterward. Well worth every minute you invest. Watch it all here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/10612912.