“At its best, innovation is more than a team sport – it is a networked, collaborative adventure.” (ideo.com)
Are you interested in the practical application of social networking? What happens when we move the ideas from theory into practice?
Matching Vision with Practice
May 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm #72869
Matching vision with practice has always been hard to do in the public sector and maybe less so in the private sector. I often ask myself the question: If we were to design the government agencies we have today would we design them the same way. I think probably not. Our current systems were developed a long time ago, under completely different circumstances.
Today, I believe our government agencies are getting bigger, more complicated, continually destined to promote duplication, redundancy and even more complex categorical funding requests and actual funding channels.
I think the organizational systems we need today must be designed to directly correspond to our new century and vision of America. The new vision would include broad scale collaborative systems that leverage money, time and talent. Our organizational design should reflect our changed modern reality, where common issues, whether they be health, educational, social, crime, etc. naturally cross discipline boundaries, as should our response.
I wonder if anyone has suggested this kind of organizational review? I’m guessing it might threaten the current system and stakeholders, regardless of how much money it would save and how much it could increase our effectiveness.
Right along this theme is another equally important challenge. President Obama’s vision of change will work, over time, if it’s matched organizationally on the operational and implementation side of the equation. What do you think will happen if there is no organizational change to match the change in focus and vision? Can old organizational systems think in new ways?
I venture to say the practice needs to be as innovative, provocative, daring, clear, imaginative and exciting, as the vision President Obama is presenting to the country. To do that we will have to challenge current organizational constructs.
Does anyone have experience with this on a much smaller level? Have you had a clear picture of what you wanted to happen and run up against an organizational system that didn’t match-up? How did you solve the problem?
I have several very concrete example of this challenge in my career. I imagine others do too.
I wonder if organizational designers have ever been brought in to evaluate our current systems to see if they are structured to match our goals?
I really wonder what Ideo would do with this question? What ideas do you have for matching vision with practice in your organization or job?
May 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm #72875
Joan R. ResnickParticipant
Interesting questions. I was involved in an ambitious, collaborative change initiative in the Southwest (AZ/NM) regarding how the government relates to and interacts with citizens and each other. For a while this was an exciting, creative enterprise and the ideas that were generated were bold.
A consultant at that time suggested we host a “Real Time Change Event”, which would inevitably lead to the question of redesigning the organizations, which have you suggested were created under a time of stable technology and stable economy, that no longer fit the global environment even in the late 90s, early 2000s. Ultimately, the idea was not endorsed and ideas began to drop off. There were many tools already available that had been underutilized (e.g., social assessment of the organizations in a sort of business or agency anthropology). Somehow I think since the tools were more about “things to do” and less about a new silver-bullet technology, they went unused too. The human side of governing, or as Daniel Pink might put it, the right-brained competencies were largely missing from the equation.
Although there were some definite successes in the initiative, it fell short of the long-ranging implications and preparing the agencies and communities for the future, or better yet for co-designing a future of how they wanted the public lands and resources to be managed.
I did hear of the 7th Generation American Forest Congress doing a real-time change event that met with more successful implementation. I also remember an amazing publication at the time from within the Forest Service about 10 institutional barriers to organizational change. It was fascinating and I haven’t seen it since.
Under the category of lessons learned from this experience, I would say that I have since made it a practice to get out of the way of teams that I create that are creating kind of like the IDEO teams, they may need coaching or direction from time to time. Every now and then you create a team that just has “it” and they connect with each other, build enthusiasm and original thinking. It’s important to create them with integrity and clarity.
All in all, I doubt the future can support the bureaucratic design, which was intended to distribute large amounts of resources and people to a goal. William Bridges, Managing Organizational Change and Transition, and David Nour, Healing the Wounds, have predicted what they think organizations, work, and the new social contracts between employeers and employees will be in the future. It takes a different kind of leadership to, one that is more authentic and less command and control, according to Nour to help people do good, meaningful work and remain employable as opposed to employed.
These are profound ideas and elegant in their simplicity if we can operate with both left-brain analysis and right brain empathy, design, etc.
I recommend: A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink, Healing the Wounds, David Nour, and Bridges’ books. Thanks, Joan
May 29, 2009 at 5:52 pm #72873
This is a very thoughtful response. When you create or discover teams that “get it” have you found they continue to “fit” well in their organization?
I have long experienced being “ahead of the curve” on many concepts and projects. I used to feel like I was speaking a different language. It was such a weird experience. This happens less now than in the past, which is great.
One example I have of “sticking to my guns” occurred at COPS and how I approached the retrospective evaluation of all the Advancing Community Policing grants. I was lucky that COPS was a very new agency, with a great leader and not too many embedded habits or cultural rules.
I felt we had to approach the grant evaluation with the values we were intending to create with the grants, throughout the whole process. I did not want to create a disconnect between our stated purpose and goals with the grant initiative and how we collected the data.
Because the task was difficult, I received a lot of support, even after Bush came into office and the leadership changed. I approached the assignment collaboratively and made the police departments, my partners, in telling their story. This was really the only way it would work.
Collaboration takes time, as we know. Evaluating collaboratively takes even more time. At one point I started to feel pressure “where is the evaluation? when will it be done?” etc. I had to stand my ground (not always easy) and argue that the very thing we want to promote in community policing and community building does take time, more time than anyone in the sector expected. The values and qualities were “right” but the actual system expectations hadn’t changed enough to support the new methodologies over time.
I was able to complete the assignment the “right” way, but I was also a Fellow and not an employee. I think that made a difference.
I always think of the metaphor: Imagine a big down pillow. You take your fist, punch it into the pillow, and hold it there. As long as you are holding your punch, the pillow “looks different and some kind of effect is taking place”. Now when you remove your fist, the pillow puffs right back up.
I am interested in seeing how we can create sustainable change over time. One of my bigger questions, continues to be, we can do really new things, in systems designed for another time?
I wonder what would happen if we had a clean, white board with the assignment to design a whole new organizational system for our government agencies. Would we design the same thing we have now?
I too believe in the elegance in simplicity, so many brilliant designs are a simple line or two…
June 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm #72871
Do you ever feel like you’re ahead of the curve? I do and I feel so frustrated when that happens. I find it can be really stressful to continually be out in front waiting for people to catch up! Anyone else have that experience?
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