Doing things better is hard because it presupposes you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. You have to understand and be clear on your goals and your vision, and the outcomes you want your projects, programmes and organisation to meet. And you have to have the trust and explicit support of everyone around you.
Recently on my visits to councils and to conferences, and in the conversations I have with people across the public sector, leadership in digital has been identified as an issue.
I think the problem is that within many organisations, there’s nobody with sufficient clout taking the digital agenda forward: identifying the vision and setting out how people can get there.
Part of this is because digital doesn’t easily fit into any of the slots of the traditional organisation chart. It’s definitely not IT, nor (just) communications, and probably not (just) customer services.
Perhaps the closest fit would be within the organisational development bit of HR.
To kick start an organisation’s journey to become truly digital, having an inspirational leader in place is, I think, vital.
I’ll be talking about this in more detail this coming Monday, in a free webinar. Sign up here.
I find this stuff so you don’t have to:
- Redefining the Digital Divide | @helenmilner
- The system is failing, hack the system – via @annemcx
- The Four Freedoms – wonderful piece on #opensource by @photomatt
- The dangerous appeal of the Silicon Valley narrative
- G+ Hangout: open source CMS for local government
- Interested in social leadership? Then elevate your audience – great stuff from @annemcx
- Supporting Software as a Service | Gallomanor
- Mapping the NHS: Prototype questionnaire | @curiousc’s Blog
- Sitebox – The new and intuitive way to create websites with your Dropbox
- Aesop – A Crowdfunded WordPress Storytelling Engine
I find this stuff so you don’t have to:
- Joho the Blog » [2b2k] Knowledge in its natural state
- PSFK Future of Work Report 2013
- Donald Clark Plan B: More holes in Sugata Mitra’s ‘Hole-in-Wall’ project
- Digital Leadership or just leadership? | Curiouscatherine’s Blog
- David Wilcox » Much discussion about networking local government – now how about the rest of civil society?
- An Introduction to Google+ for Business
- Developer Evangelism – home of the Developer Evangelist Handbook
- edX Code
- Pens picked by the Editors of CodePen
- Amplify: local campaigning in a digital world
I wrote a thing for the Guardian’s Public Leaders’ Network:
The explosion in online innovation throughout public services is seeing more and more activity taking place on the net, whether via interactive websites, or mobile applications. Networks such as Twitter and Facebook provide opportunities for knowledge sharing and problem solving on a scale unimaginable previously – and those in senior positions have to be a part of this conversation.
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- Towards Effective Corporate Communications: Let Your Engineers do the Talking – For engineers, replace with any front line public sector worker!
- John Naughton on The Waste Land app – Great example of cloud culture, or how digital technologies can enhance cultural experiences.
- Councils need a new style of leadership | Local government network | Guardian Professional – "Local authorities face a challenging future and require leaders that can manage change creatively and inspire staff."
- Wait, what does your startup do? – Nicely cynical generator of ludicrous tech startup pitches. Useful for writing tender documents or funding bids.
- Open Data at Lincoln: What have we got? « Expedient Means – Really interesting overview of open data at Lincoln University.
- When Washington DC took a step back from open data & transparency – Interesting story of a backward step for open government in DC.
You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.
** Update – if you want to know how to network well, Mary has a great guide **
One of the most popular books about the social media powered digital revolution is Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. Published in 2008, it took a private sector view of the benefits of listening to customers and engaging with them in online spaces. It’s a worthwhile read.
The two authors have subsequently published new books, though not together. What I find interesting is the fact that the follow ups (Li’s Open Leadership, and Bernoff’s Empowered) both took on the next logical step – how do you fix your organisation’s culture to make the most of the lessons of Groundswell? Again, both are a good read.
Both Li and Bernoff come to similar conclusions: an enlightened form of management is required, one which assumes competence in staff and provides them with access to the tools to do their jobs. More than anything staff need to have confidence that they are trusted by management to do their jobs.
It’s intriguing the way that both authors end up at a similar conclusion via slightly differing routes – Li focuses on leadership while Bernoff really puts staff at the centre of his book. The end result is pretty much the same, but the two books do complement one another quite nicely, and confirms my view that just a top-down or a bottom-up approach isn’t enough to change culture – you need both, in tandem.
This links in nicely with another train of thought I’ve had recently around the changing nature of work and professionalism, particularly in relation to public services. The way people work is definitely changing – both as a result of technology plus wider changes in society.
What effect does this have on the general role of the public servant? Does the traditional skill set still equip people with the abilities they need to both do their jobs well, and enhance their careers?
I won’t bore you with my own backstory, but when I worked within local government it involved changing jobs regularly, not being afraid to move from authority to authority in search of promotion and new challenges, and putting a lot of after work hours into building relationships with people and being helpful through my blog.
I started making some notes on what the networked public servant looks like. It’s by no means definitive (or indeed correct!) but is a start and I would value feedback on this stuff – including what use it is and how it might be developed.
- Be networked – be comfortable meeting new people and cultivating relationships. Be happy to connect with folk online and off. Concentrate on networking with people outside your organisation as well as inside it. Get to know people, what they are good at, and connect them with others.
- Be entrepreneurial – have a strong commercial sense of value and opportunity. Be creative with the budgets you have and find new ways of improving them.
- Be inspirational – through your actions and words, be able to enthuse and motivate people to go outside their comfort zones.
- Be collaborative – understand the value of involving others in what you are doing. Be aware of your own skills and the gaps, and welcome people who can help fill them for you.
- Be creative – don’t just look to what other people have done and replicate it, but come up with your own solutions and ideas – and don’t be afraid to share them with others.
- Be risky – understand risk and how to manage it. Don’t see risk as an excuse for inactivity but as a challenge to be met head-on.
- Be bold – if you are convinced an approach is the right one to take, do so with confidence and encourage others to support you. Don’t be fearful of what others may think.
- Be human – don’t be a corporate drone. What makes you different to everyone else? Emphasise it, and make the most of it. Be someone people outside your organisation don’t mind talking to.
- Be studious – always be learning and looking out for new things to understand. Never stop looking round the corner to see what the next new thing is going to be.
- Be generous – with your knowledge and your time. Having a reputation for helpfulness is a wonderful asset.
- Be open – accept when you’re wrong, or when you aren’t sure about something. If you have half an idea, share it, and let others help out and finish it.
- Be innovative – always be on the lookout for new, better ways of doing things. Be open to new ideas, no matter where they emerge from. Develop systems and workflows for testing and implementing new ideas to ensure the best ones succeed.
Fans of dead-tree web 2.0 reading will be familiar with Groundswell, which Li co-authored and was chock-full of interesting case studies – mostly from the US private sector – around how collaborative relationships with customers, often using the web as a platform, lead to success.
Here’s some of the blurb for Open Leadership:
Open Leadership reveals step-by-step, with illustrative case studies and examples from a wide-range of industries and countries, how to bring the precision of this new openness to both inside and outside the organization. The author includes suggestions that will help an organization determine an open strategy, weigh the benefits against the risk, and have a clear understanding of the implications of being open. The book also contains guidelines, policies, and procedures that successful companies have implemented to manage openness and ensure that business objectives are at the center of their openness strategy.
It’s a great read too. One of my favourite bits is where Li lists early on five new rules for leaders to bear in mind when managing relationships:
- Respect that your customers and employees have power
- Share constantly to build trust
- Nurture curiosity and humility
- Hold openness accountable
- Forgive failure
You can get a flavour of the book with this free snippet:
I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, recently.
Since taking up his post, Mark has written a prolific internal blog about his work at the Council to inform and engage with his colleagues at all levels of the organisation.
This is exactly the sort of thing I have been talking about for the last couple of months – that really effective use of social media behind the firewall should be a priority for local councils. Mark’s experiences should hopefully encourage more of this activity across local government.
Many thanks to Michele Ide-Smith for arranging this interview.
I’m keen to do more videos like this – if you or someone you know would make a good subject, do get in touch!
Light blogging recently, mainly because I’ve been busy talking to people and haven’t had much spare time to write here. Apologies.
My session was somewhat pompously titled: Leadership 2.0: why local authorities need to become learning organisations. It was my usual hotch potch of ideas, snatched magpie-like from thinkers far more original than myself.
Here are my slides, for what they are worth:
Many thanks to Carl Haggerty for providing a screenshot from the internal business networking tool currently being piloted by Devon County Council.
Broadly speaking: the new online social technology changes the way we behave, and makes open, collaborative working methods much more likely to work. It’s also probably true that organisations need to be able to have proper grown up conversations internally before they can converse effectively with external people. New ways of working means new ways of leading, and in the local government context councillors can provide that leadership.
This is still half baked thinking on my part, and the bits that work are the bits I have stolen from others. But I’d welcome any feedback.