In my last posting I wrote about the advantages of using the Adaptive Project Framework (APF) to deliver Gov 2.0 projects. I argued that Gov 2.0 needs new management methods to take advantage of the new technologies and deliver on the promise of open, transparent, and accountable government. But Gov 2.0 doesn’t stop at the launch of a successful project. The project must become an enduring process that is constantly monitored and refined to ensure that it is delivering the promised value.
This is where Process Intelligence (PI) comes in. PI is simply defined as “the ability to understand business processes and knowing how to use them effectively” (Blickle, et al., 2010). It is a combination of several disciplines such as Business Intelligence, Business Activity Monitoring, Process Discovery, Business Process Management, and Analytics. The goal of PI is to use real-time data to anticipate and shape business processes so that organizations can continually improve processes. PI achieves this goal through the establishment and measurement of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that are the vital signs of the process like blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are indicators of our health.
To understand how to use PI in Gov 2.0 let me talk about Eggers and O’Leary’s (2009) book about big government projects. If We Can Put Man on the Moon discusses why government projects succeed or fail by explaining seven different traps along the way from the idea of a government project to its results. The authors describe a five-step process government projects travel through which is very similar to the PI process.
The Eggers and O’Leary Process:
Idea -> Design -> Stargate -> Implementation -> Results
The PI Process
Strategize -> Design -> Implement -> Compose -> Execute -> Monitor and Control -> (Cycle around to Strategize)
As you can see Idea is to Strategize and Design is Design. There is no Stargate in PI but Implementation pairs with Implement and Compose and Execute while Results pairs with Monitor and Control. Viewing these processes side-by-side led me to the realization that KPIs and PI monitoring needs to be built into the Gov 2.0 project/process from the Idea stage. Doing so can help avoid or mitigate the seven traps that Eggers and O’Leary’s (2009) research found. Taking each trap in turn:
1) Tolstoy Syndrome (confirmation bias) – Decision makers only consider evidence that confirms their preconceptions. Asking how we will measure the success and failure of a project objectively will force decision makers to consider all evidence and to build in KPIs that are true vital signs of the health of the Gov 2.0 project/process.
2) Design-Free Design Trap – Often, the enabling legislation is written to ensure passage of the bill and very little consideration is given to how the project/process will actually work once it is handed off to the government agency or agencies. Again, incorporating KPIs will bring in questions of implementing the proposed project/process once it passes to the agencies.
3) StargateTrap – The project/process passes from the political arena to the operational arena. As Patashnik (2008) points out in Reforms at Risk, reforms are easier to initiate than to maintain because the opponents to the reform will continue to chip away or suffocate the reform. There are many tactics for eroding reform but PI can help by providing objective measures that can counter the usual argument that the reform is not producing the promised benefits.
4) Overconfidence Trap – Agency managers are under great pressure to make the project/process succeed and often have unrealistic expectations about their chances. The idea of even considering failure is unthinkable to most agency managers but ignoring the warning signs can doom the project/process. Clearly this argues for the need of objective measures provided by PI.
5) Sisyphus Trap – Government work can be confusing and ambiguous especially on large government projects/processes. KPIs can be the GPS that tells workers how we are progressing on the journey and can also be the basis for incentives for good work.
6) Complacency Trap – Things are going well so our guard is relaxed. But, unnoticed events can be occurring under the surface that will suddenly cause a major crisis. PI can alert us to these emerging events long before they become a serious problem.
7) Silo Trap – PI is not just about mapping and measuring the processes but is also about understanding how people and organizations interact with the process. PI encourages us to consider our goals for developing a project/process and to bring in all parties to discuss their part in the project/process. By its very nature, this dialogue breaks down the silos that separate agencies and departments.
Gov 2.0 came about because the old ways of government just don’t work anymore in today’s world. We live in an exciting time where the new technologies and the new ways of thinking can create a government that is more engaged and serves our country better in innovative ways. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm for Gov 2.0 reform and that is desperately needed to keep the momentum going. But the true test is if we can maintain the advances of Gov 2.0 for the long run. Patashnik’s (2008) research demonstrates that reforms can easily lose steam and are difficult to keep alive for more than a few years. Despite our technology and commitment, using the current management methods is likely to doom Gov 2.0 to another short-lived, good intention movement that just didn’t endure.
Blickle, T., Hess, H., Klueckmann, J., Lees, M., & Williams, B. (2010). Process intelligence for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Eggers, W.D., & O’Leary, J. (2009). If we can put man on the moon-: Getting big things done in government. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
Patashnik, E.M. (2008). Reforms at risk: What happens after major policy changes are enacted? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.