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Implementing And Operating An Open Government Organization

The President’s December 8, 2009 Memorandum on Open Government requires a new approach for many federal government organizations. It will impact the people, processes and technology of government offices. It will impact the work habits and behaviors of government employees.

For Open Government plans to be successfully implemented, cultural issues will also need to be addressed. The culture required to operate effectively with an Open Government approach may differ from the culture in a given agency or its various departments.

Based on my experience in working with organizations that have needed to implement new approaches and modify their cultures, I have identified seven questions that will help government organizations to implement Open Government plans.

1. New requirements. What does the Open Government Memorandum ask of us? What are its requirements for our future operations?

For example, the Open Government Plan requires that a government organization “should promote opportunities for the public to participate throughout the decision-making process.” (s.3.b.) It requires that an agency plan “should include proposals to use technology platforms to improve collaboration among people within and outside your agency.” (s.3.b.i)

2. New processes, activities. What new processes and/or activities will this require? What new or modified roles will be required? Which activities will be assigned to which role?

For example, what new processes and/or activities will need to be created to facilitate public participation? What new processes will be needed to embody new technology such as the use of social networking to obtain citizen input?

3. New ways of working. For each requirement under the Open Government Plan, what new ways of working will be required? Which are critical ones to adding value? Possible new ways of working can include:

  • Working in teams.

  • Large group meetings.

  • Enhanced sharing of data and knowledge.

  • Internal or external networking.

For example, in order to engage the public in decision-making, will the given agency create networks, interest groups or conduct large group meetings? Will the agency utilize an internal team of people with different perspectives so as to better understand different citizen perspectives?

4. Necessary cultural changes. What attitudes, behaviors and group norms are required by these new ways of working? What existing assumptions will have to be questioned? Will the existing culture make these new ways of working easy or difficult to do? How might we vary the existing culture to support the new ways of working?

5. Changes in leadership styles. What changes will be required in management and leadership styles?

The traditional management style that utilizes control and hierarchy will have to move towards a more facilitative style that supports organizational agility. A facilitative style is necessary for working across different citizen groups. Within an organization, a leadership style that is more facilitative supports the easy flow of knowledge across the organization and helps the organization be more agile. The result is that knowledge moves more quickly to the citizens and citizen input is more effectively processed.

6. Changes in individual skills and behaviors. What new individual skills and behaviors will be required?

These may include listening and learning behaviors, relationship building, networking, facilitation and working across differences.

7. Change in HR elements. What changes will this require in HR elements?

These may include coaching and training to be provided, staffing levels and resourcing options.

This post can be found at www.barrycamson.com

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