As technology continues to enhance our daily lives, we can’t help but want more- more out of our technology. Digital government has evolved out of this demand for services. However, these technologies can also be VERY disruptive to an organization. Disruption isn’t necessarily bad, but it does create monumental change and any change, big or small, can be difficult to handle. Technological disruption can change the fundamental culture of a government agency and should be handled with care.
Lou Kerestesy, Founder and CEO of GovInnovators, sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER to discuss the implications technological disruption can have in government and how agencies should approach these changes.
Government faces an inherent disadvantage when addressing new systemic changes. In the private sector managers can often split up daily tasks that employees must deliver to the customer versus those employees who are tasked with thinking about the next iteration of things. Unfortunately, “government doesn’t always have that luxury. The same people in government who have to deliver today’s value when they show up, run the program the way it’s supposed to be run, and are also the same people who are being asked how we’re going to do this better,” Kerestesy said. But there is no way to avoid the demand for disruptive technological changes in government.
It’s important to remember that technological innovation is consumer driven. Citizens expect the same opportunities they receive in the private industry in their interactions with government. “But it isn’t a one-to-one comparison and it shouldn’t be. We don’t want government to always operate the way commercial companies do,” Kerestesy said. Government agencies need to carefully plan and execute these new cultural changes so that there is a sensitivity embedded with the adoption of new technology. “Technology will perform the way it’s supposed to if it is deployed the way it should be,” Kerestesy reminded us. A well-thought out adoption will enable a smooth transition to the new culture.
Kerestesy gave us a few tidbits of advice to help with the transition.
First, govies must engage their customers about how to approach the disruption. Make it clear that this new change is a part of evolving. “Disruption should be a means to an end,” Kerestesy stated, which is why leadership needs to play a big role in adopting a new technological change. “It takes a lot of coordination between various levels of an organization. Everyone from the people who are doing the work every day up to the top of the organization and of the people who would like to see some change and all the levels in between.” However, agencies must be aware of the technology adoption course.
If you lead with a technology change you will then have to figure out how that impacts your business model. “The combination of technology changes and changes in the business model really ends up impacting the culture,” Kerestesy said. You will have to be ready to deal with pushback from those who are uncomfortable with the cultural change. For, “That kind of disruption can backfire and it’s part of the problem with the adoption curse-people don’t always adopt the change.” But, hopefully agencies will have been as clear and transparent as possible (at the forefront) about the upcoming change so as to minimize the adoption curse among their employees.
The last piece of advice Kerestesy provided us is the need for learning. Learning helps govies adopt the cultural change in increments. “Innovation should always explicitly involve learning. There should be some learning objectives to an innovation effort.” Objectives are, in essence, small achievable goals that everyone can swallow. Plus, learning allows for ease of adoption through open-mindedness and can help manage risk.. “Along the way you are open to the idea that we don’t know what we’re going to discover which forces some openness to discovering as you go,” Kerestesy stated.
These disruptions are bound to change the culture within your agency, but it doesn’t need to be feared. Change is a necessary part of evolving and, in the end, it is possible to tackle a disruptive technological change within your agency so long as it is approached with caution and understanding.