Lately I’ve been thinking about how local authorities and other large organisations work, and the kinds of jobs that need doing if we’re going to have any chance of radically innovating in these environments. I know what you’re thinking and I agree – if we were being truly radical we’d be thinking outside of the local authority box completely. But in the absence of any kind of legislative change and accepting some of the limitations of the current system, I’ve come up with these roles:
We’d all love to work in a place where people make connections across the organisation and are highly networked, where everyone knows what’s going on and who to go to for help. The reality is almost the opposite of this, much to the frustration of those trying to make headway. Instead of pouring money into ‘knowledge management’ systems (*cough* Sharepoint *cough*) maybe this is a human problem that can only be solved by humans. Would it be cheaper and better to employ people whose sole job is to be a connector? Someone who knows everyone and who can grease the wheels by making introductions, finding ways around the system and making connections across seemingly separate parts of the organisation? Yes it’s a sticking plaster, yes everyone should be doing that as part of their job already, but they’re not. So maybe it’s time to accept that and find a hack?
2. Information Governance Gurus
I’ve banged on about this recently on the FutureGov blog because I really care about it. If we’re supposed to break down silos, put service users first and use more web technology to get things done then we have to sort out the information governance problem. It’s not going away, in fact it’s getting more and more pressing. I recently heard someone describe the average public sector information governance team as ‘two men and a whippet’ and that’s not far from the truth (it’s more like two part time men and a ferret). We need a shared team for councils who are red hot on web technology, who understand the difference between law and guidelines, and who work to protect service users’ privacy, not the chief executive’s arse.
Lately I’ve heard a lot of ‘I’d love to do that idea but I’ve already got my work plan set for the year’. Fair point (sort of) – it’s good to have a work plan and Google 20% time clearly feels like a Daily Mail headline too far for most councils at this juncture. So should we just employ people whose sole job is to try things out? They don’t need to sit in a special ‘lab’, they could work in services or wherever and working with the Nodes they would figure out where there’s potential for good stuff to happen and then get on with doing small, cheap prototypes. Testing out ideas, tweaking them until they work or killing them if they really don’t work*.
With thousands planning to demonstrate on Wednesday maybe now isn’t the time to be talking about employing people into what I’m sure would fall into Pickles’s definition of non-jobs, and maybe direct employment isn’t the answer; but these are the functions we need to address if we’re going to radically change how the public sector works – better connections, shared information, and trying new things.
Who wants to apply?
*A side note on this – we talk about needing to ‘learn from failure’ or be OK with things failing, but my understanding of the prototyping process is that you keep adjusting the prototype until it works. If I’ve got that right then there really is no such thing as failure so we can all chill out a bit. Yay!