I tweeted the title of this Blog recently and left the answer hanging as it does here. Due to the raucous response of my fans begging me for it, I have decided to satiate their inquisitive appetite and finally post this Blog entry. Ok, so if you replace “the raucous response of my fans begging me for it” with “a few of my friends asking if I’m actually going to post the Blog” you’re probably more accurate, but let’s not digress too far.
If you have read any of my posts, you will have recognized an underlying reductionist theme. I often find myself trying to simplify things. My posts about Service Innovation and Transformation carry these reductionist tones as well. My most recent post, “The Fallacy of the Innovator’s Ambition – A Call for Tinkerers“, was very specifically a discussion of how innovators need to simplify their ambitions to protect being overwhelmed by them.
What does this have to do with wines and apples, you ask?
Well, I recently read a brief article in the New York Times about a restaurant in Atlanta called Bone’s that had integrated Apple’s iPad into the dining experience. They had simplified their view of innovation and added a simple element to their service experience. When patrons are greeted at the entrance for a table, they are handed a menu and an iPad. The restaurant purchased 30 iPad’s and built an application that housed their wine inventory along with descriptions of the wine and expert ratings to help diners understand and select bottles.
(Pause: for those who haven’t made the connection, “Apple’s iPad” and “Wine Application” and “Bone’s Restaurant in Atlanta” is the answer)
Device inspired moment of truth
Customers to date (it’s been about two months since they have been offering the iPad experience) seem to be pleased by the twist to their dining experience, and if an 11 percent increase in wine purchases per diner is any indication, so is restaurant management.
What was interesting to me about this story was the simplicity of the addition of the iPad to the restaurant experience, the appropriate “fit” for the device at a table, and the utility of the application for a restaurant context. Setting aside those individuals who know a lot about wine and wine pairings, wine lists at a restaurant for many represent an opportunity to use random selection as an efficient decision making tool (hold menu up – close eyes – point index finger somewhere on page – press against page – choose wine). While the iPad and the wine application don’t turn patrons into wine connoisseurs overnight, it does empower them with knowledge so that a confidence is instilled in the choice that is made. This confidence translates into positive emotions, and thus, a better dining experience.
The restaurant hasn’t disrupted the restaurant industry business model or invented a new food. They have not redefined the dining experience or significantly altered the value proposition. In fact, their location, staff, and menu likely hasn’t changed at all. So, have they shown us a great example of Service Innovation? Absolutely.
Picture the perfect storm: Administrative Review, Strategic Review, fiscal restraint and a sweeping organizational transformation. Throw in the pressure to do more with less and voilà: the latest story of Service Canada, an organization on the cusp of a significant evolution to support the next generation of government service delivery. However, with pressures as much bottom-up as they are top-down, Service Canada needs to be innovative in how they manage change that impacts all ranks of staff – locally and regionally, in the interest of more effective and efficient service delivery to Canadians.
Victor Abele, DG of Citizen Service Strategy, Denis Barbeau, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Strategic Business Consulting and Stephen Karam, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Government Service Excellence, went through the methods and tools used to engage executives and managers alike, defining a path toward measurable results through an effective organization firing on all cylinders.
The truth is out there. So why is it so hard to find? Performance measurement and management is often paid lip service in government, but rarely is it done well. Is it because we are afraid of what we’ll find? Will the truth affect our budget, our bonus, our credibility? Is it safer to mask the truth under a thin veil of rhetoric in saying that objectives have been met, supported by simple indicators and a lot of spin?
As accountability instruments (e.g. Fed AA, MAF, PAA, PMA) continue to grab hold, there’s nowhere to hide. Want to get credit for something – prove it! Need to avoid a crisis – manage it! Want to improve – learn and do it better! Performance management is more than just tracking and reporting. It’s critical in the upcoming climate of fiscal restraint, as well as strategic review and administrative review.
Gina Smith, A/Executive Director of the IT Project Review and Oversight Division, Treasury Board Secretariat, and Stephen Karam, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Government Service Excellence highlighted how performance management within the GC are fundamentally evolving as a result of several influences – from Administrative Review to recent OAG reports through to the need for more effective executive decision support.
One of the hottest tickets at this year’s GTEC! – rapid-fire innovative thinking on transformational topics from Systemscope experts and client partners.
Nine (9) Ignite presenters shared thought-provoking and challenging stories about various aspects of government transformation – giving a quick window into a variety of trends that are fueling government transformation. Using 20 slides that advanced every 15 seconds, this intense and unique format kept everyone glued to the topics.
Goodbye Librarians… As the amount of digital data and information is growing at a dizzying pace, Linda Daniels-Lewis (Senior IM Consultant, Systemscope) notes it’s getting harder to pinpoint the best information sources. The traditional boundaries of collections management, electronic records management, data stewardship, digital preservation, and digital asset management are beginning to blur – what is the role for digital curators?
Five Myths About Performance… Performance Dashboards That Is – Everyone thinks they want a big, beautiful dashboard, but not every organization can handle it. Denise Eisner (Senior Consultant, Systemscope) exposes the dirty myths and offers some salient truths about web performance management in large organizations.
Clocks And Clouds: Process Analysis In the Post-Modern World – Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable. Kellen Greenberg (Director, Integrated Process Management, Systemscope) explains why knowing the difference makes a difference in effective process modeling.
$#*! My Dad Says About Business Architecture is Steven Karam’s (Partner and Government Service Excellence Practice Lead, Systemscope) refreshing and provocative look at the trials and tribulations of Business Architecture in the Government of Canada. It also reveals an easy entry point for GC organizations looking to use Business Architecture as a means to linking strategic IM/IT investments to policy and organizational outcomes .
RACIs – The Rosetta Stone For Your Organization – Denis Barbeau (Partner and Strategic Business Consulting Practice Lead, Systemscope) describes how RACI diagrams are used as a foundation in organizational transformation, all the while fostering high levels of engagement, a common understanding of roles and responsibilities, and a consistent vocabulary that mitigates organizational ambiguity.
Systemscope also welcomed two exciting guests to its Ignite session: public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert David Eaves to talk about Open Data: Release the Power Within! and Ron Surette (DG of Information Technology Branch, Library and Archives Canada) who expanded on his theme GC: We’re Going Paperless! … Write That Down.
Systemscope returned to GTEC October 5, 2010 with three informative workshops from our consultants paired with innovative public servants. New this year was a fast-paced, provocative Ignite-style session as well as two other workshops showcasing how public sector leaders are using new approaches and methods to address the persistent challenges within Government Transformation and Performance.
Presentations Now Available!
Igniting Government Transformation: With Ignite-style presentations from Systemscope experts and client partners David Eaves and Ron Surette, DG of Information Technology Branch, Library and Archives Canada.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website supports the organization’s regulatory activities by providing timely access to public proceedings documents and general interest content particularly suited to consumers of broadcasting and telecommunications services. Its most frequent visitors are representatives of the two industries it regulates, who need the site content for research purposes and to participate in regulatory proceedings.
In the spring of 2009, Systemscope delivered a Performance Measurement Framework and an accompanying research program to support monitoring and reporting on the CRTC site’s performance. The Framework outlined performance indicators with respect to user experience, content and web operations.
Using the Framework as a guide, the Commission worked with a Systemscope analyst to benchmark its existing site performance to understand traffic patterns to the site among new and returning visitors, and then use analytics to improve the user experience.
Wow. Just saying those words conjures up images of wildly successful business models that disrupted industries, technological prowess that stole market shares, visionary products or services that relegated competing and highly capitalized companies into shells of their former self, and even the creation of mega-millionaire pop star phenoms overnight.
How can people tasked with transforming or innovating in their respective organizations perform under this kind of weighted expectation? Indeed, they probably don’t.
I just finished reading a book called “The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home” written by Dan Ariely. In it, Ariely, a professor of behavioural economics at Duke University, recounts a number of experiments he has crafted which lend insight into human behavior at work, and at home. One of these insights is particularly relevant when considering the often daunting task of transformation and innovation.
Ariely ran several social experiments to test an individual’s inclination to donate to a cause. He varied, however, the stimulus presented to individuals to elicit a behavioural response. One group of individuals were given a broad stimulus request such as “help the millions of people below the poverty line in Africa” (in our context this would be the dazzling innovator’s ambition) while others were given a specific, and personable, stimulus such as “help Andy, a young boy living in poverty, this is his story”). No surprise, that those in the latter experimental group donated more than those in the former.
What this tells us is interesting. In the face of a large scale problem, people can’t identify with the problem nor contemplate how their small actions contribute to a solution, so they balk under the expectation and don’t act. But, broken up into more personable, and less sizable problems, people will persevere and perform – they will react with a feeling that they can indeed make a difference. The transformation and innovation buzz – the discourse surrounding innovation’s criticality to organizations and the examples used to define what they mean – has done a disservice to the people who are tasked with doing the transformation and innovation. It has placed sizeable expectations on them, increased the distance between today and the goal, and placed the yardstick so high that taking the first step en route to improvement seems futile. The mumblings of “where do I start?” are audible.
The broad domains of service and product innovation, new product development, service transformation and service improvement – call them what you will – need a new image. In almost all cases, transformation or innovation represents “incrementalimprovements to ” or the introduction of something “different”. Indeed, when you look at the synonyms for transformation or innovation, words like “alteration”, “modification”, and “deviation” are supplied which provide a more palatable ambition to strive for. These ambitions are more practical, and more achievable. What is required to succeed is discipline in terms of business analysis rigour, strong leadership of people, direction underpinned by thoughtful road-maps, and the execution of plans. Individuals viewing their ambition in these small steps will look back on their efforts and realize that, from where they started, they have more than likely made significant transformation progress. The significant barrier of a huge expectation will have been removed.
For the Government context, this is a worthwhile thought exercise. Innovation in the public sector context is difficult, oftentimes due to the consequences of failure and the lower tolerance for risk. But this is likely a function of the ambition of innovation being akin to those dazzling examples which I referenced above. Well of course, when viewed in that light, failures can be big because the goal was commensurately large and virtually unattainable under the best of circumstances. When considered in a more more practical context, innovation and transformation efforts can become the byproducts of a disciplined approach to “tinkering”. Yes, tinkering.
So, this is a call to tinker. Tinker with your processes. Tinker with your assumptions. Tinker with your business model. Tinker away in a planned and disciplined way, and when you’re done tinkering, add the tinkerings up. And then tell me about your transformation success story.
After watching this video, I found that this is often the starting point for RACI sessions we hold with the public service. Or put another way, who’s going to get the call if things go wrong? Often times (after arms become uncrossed) we see one of two reactions – those who see the advantage of coveting additional accountability and those who would prefer to stay under the radar and defer the accountability.
The simplicity and clarity of the RACI helps us cut through these types of challenges and by the end of the session, we often strike the right balance of accountability, remove any overlaps (perceived or real) and fill in any organizational gaps, such as needs for new or enhanced skills and competencies. The RACI model gets our clients to the interim outcome they want – a self-identification of functional roles and responsibilities as a starting point to governance and organizational redesign. Simply put – it starts to fix what’s broken and fine tunes the organizational engine. More importantly, a RACI matrix is more than tool; it’s the fuel that fosters the right dialogue between the right stakeholders.
Luckily Abott and Costello didn’t have a RACI matrix in front of them. If they did, there would have been no confusion and we would all have one less thing to laugh at in this world.
Denis Barbeau is Partner and Practice Lead, Strategic Business Consulting. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.