My colleague Dale Weeks and I have been advocating an integrated improvement approach for government at all levels, and in all places. By integrated approach, we mean the following:
1) leaders from the President on down to town managers, tell the true story of government performance. Government and government workers do just fine most of the time. Sometimes they are great. A few are not meeting objectives and need improvement. But data makes clear that people work hard, and results are as good as can be, given the limitations of resources.
2) simple problems (everyone agrees what to do) and complicated problems (we know what to do with the help of experts) need to be addressed with best practices adapted for context and culture, and sustained continuous process improvement.
3) complex and adaptive problems, where we face uncertainty, or have to change our beliefs and behaviors, need to be addressed with safe-to-fail trials of promising ideas. Keep and amplify what works.
4) everyone affected by decisions, needs to be invited and included, to participate in sense-making and shaping the decisions that affect them. Use collaborative dialogue for people to think and learn together.
5) government needs to gather and learn from meaningful data. Together.
6) government managers need to learn these concepts and practices BEFORE they get into positions of leadership and responsibility. Make this a core part of the curriculum at schools of public administration.
7) government is under great pressure to do “more with less.” Admit that at some point, an organization will get “less with less.” Aim not only at “better, faster, cheaper,” but also HAPPIER and MORE SATISFIED for citizens, employees, and all stakeholders.
We can do this. Government even better tomorrow than it is today. Ask me how.