Tag Archives: innovation

Accelerators, intrapreneurs and changing organisations for the better

Lucy Watt shares an excellent, honest post on the FutureGov blog about their learning from the PSLaunchpad project.

Having regularly spoken to one of the teams on the launchpad, Martin Howitt and Lucy Knight from Devon, I’m aware of the transformative impact the experience had on them, and their attitude to work.

As Martin himself reflects in one of his own blog posts about the Launchpad, there are some pretty big takeaways for local government as a whole from a process like this.

There is undoubtedly a tension between existing Council culture and the sort of thinking and process that accelerators typify. I don’t personally believe that there will be another PS Launchpad that involves local government in the same way. I think we are more likely to see a specifically local government version of it instead and this is something I would strongly advocate and be keen to be involved with in some capacity.

Lots of the conversations I am having with people across government – but particularly in councils – is about how traditionally bureaucratic, process heavy organisations can move quickly: make speedy decisions, get new products and services out faster, learn from feedback and respond in a timely fashion.

Being in a process like an accelerator such as PSLaunchpad provides many of the skills and experiences needed to answer these questions. Being told you have to ship something in two weeks, being advised from feedback that you’ve built the wrong thing and need to pivot quickly, having the authority to make decisions and plot a course accordingly yourself, without lengthy governance processes.

But not everyone can spend weeks out of the office on a programme like this – in fact, it’s probably impractical for many more than a handful in any one organisation.

Perhaps the answer is to run this type of programme internally, to embed it into people’s work. Got a change project on the go? Run it within an internal accelerator. Set some boundaries and some rules, put those working on it in a different room and let them get on with it. Put them in touch with potential mentors who have completed similar projects before, in the same sector and in different sectors.

It doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to cost any money. It’s just a case of trying something different and not doing things the same way they always have been.

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A red tape challenge for public servants? Or an internal GDS?

At the DH digital champions summit on Tuesday, during the afternoon open space session, an interesting discussion broke out. One among many, I’m sure!

Anyway, what was being discussed was the sheer unusability of government systems and processes. Only, not the ones that the public uses, but the ones that civil servants use.

I’ve worked in enough local councils, quangos and central government departments to know that the vast majority of IT systems in use are pretty dreadful. Clunky, and rarely fit for purpose, they seem to exist just to make life more difficult for those using them.

Likewise those processes yet to be digitised. How hard is it to bring in a temporary member of staff to get a job done? Sometimes the paperwork is so over the top, it’s quicker to do whatever it is yourself rather than get the extra body in.

It’s absurd and clearly must be a factor in the difficulty in getting stuff done within government.

The Red Tape Challenge is a crowdsourced effort within government to get rid of the burden of bureaucracy on businesses and citizens. It appears to have had some success in identifying areas where things could move a little quicker, smoother, and maybe with fewer dockets.

There’s also been a lot of focus – rightly – on the user experience for citizen and customer facing interactions. The work that GDS is doing in this area shows that it can be done.

I do wonder though whether a similar approach ought to be being taken to internal systems, across government. Maybe a red tape challenge style thing, where public servants can identify the particularly crappy systems and processes that make their lives a misery – and get them fixed.

Or maybe we need a black ops style skunkworks, wielding the knife on some of the more monstrous forms of obstructive paperwork and dreadful databases. Taking a similar user-focused approach to that which GDS – and many other public facing services – are using to such great effect.

There must be at least much opportunity here, to improve efficiency and save money, as there is in making things easier for the citizen?

Update: This here looks interesting – via @pubstrat

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