Revolutionizing Government in 5 Minutes or Less

The 2014 Next Generation of Government Summit will be held July 24-25 in Washington, DC. The objective of the conference is to provide “…opportunities for emerging leaders to further enhance their day-to-day career and the betterment of government overall.”

The 2014 Next Generation of Government Summit will be held July 24-25 in Washington, DC. The objective of the conference is to provide “…opportunities for emerging leaders to further enhance their day-to-day career and the betterment of government overall.”

It will be interesting to observe the Next Generation (NextGen) of leaders as they face the same challenges and frustrations that have been faced by the current and past generations of leaders. They too will most likely change (sometimes unknowingly) to conform to the system as opposed to improving the system itself.

Results from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey are used to identify the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. The rankings and trends provide a source of feedback on the performance of the system since 2003. It also provides a baseline for assessing improvement.

The “system” represents the collective behavior of individuals. Major change does not happen unless one or more leaders determine the system is not capable of meeting the requirements and expectations of stakeholders. Fear of the perceived and actual consequences of challenging the power of those who sustain the system (status quo) is typically the motivator that prevents individuals from doing what they know to be the right thing in supporting needed improvements.

Social media and communication technologies are the relatively new variables that the NextGen of leaders can use to help raise awareness on the need for change and for ensuring that the change results in improvement.

Innovative Projects and Great Ideas to Revolutionize Government

In addition to education, training and networking opportunities, the Next Generation of Government Summit includes a speaker contest in which 5 speakers were who were selected from over 150 entries and 1,800+ votes. This contest was inspired by the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conferences, where speakers are given 18 minutes toshare “ideas worth spreading.” In the case of the NextGen conference, speakers are given only 5 minutes to share examples of “innovative projects or to share a great idea to revolutionize government.”

Regarding revolutionizing government, the U.S. founding fathers were the model revolutionaries. They certainly understood the tendency of individuals and groups to consolidate and misuse their relative power. They accepted the fact that power corrupts and designed a system of government with checks and balances on power that would provide individuals with the most freedom possible in improving the system in pursuit of a more perfect Union.

However, the founding fathers did leave a missing piece. They left it up to the NextGen of leaders to provide the knowledge, methods and tools to support continual improvements to the system they built.

To improve the system from within, a transition is needed to a performance management system such as the Baldrige framework for performance excellence. The Baldrige framework provides the systemic approach and transparency needed to sustain the commitment to continual improvement.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, whose contributions in improving systems has been recognized by the editors of FORTUNE magazine as among the “greatest contributions in business history” needed less than “5 minutes” to get his key message across. He remarked that if he was to reduce his message to just a few words, it all had to do with “reducing variation.”

Deming’s guidance for “reducing variation” inspired me to learn more, but it took me a few years to understand and fill in the missing pieces of his strategy. On the Process Excellence Network, I share those missing pieces in a two-part article on how to put Deming’s principles into action.

Over the years, I have found that the TED standard of 18 minutes is sufficient to get 99% agreement from the audience that most everyone can apply and benefit from the application of the new knowledge. Inspired by the 5-minute challenge, I share a “script” of what I would cover in “The 5 Minute Talk” on why the knowledge required to reduce variation is truly revolutionary.

A Way Ahead

Can you really revolutionize government in 5 minutes or less? Applying proven approaches for assessing trends and determining when change results in improvement takes less than 5 minutes. Put another way, how you can you improve if the feedback you are using is flawed and leads to decisions that tend to make things worse?

Applying the knowledge needed to actually reduce variation leads to the exponential improvement and unprecedented economic growth that Deming outlines in his books Out of the Crisis and The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education. These two books should be required reading for the NextGen of leaders.

About the Author

Timothy J. Clark retired from the federal government with 35 years of service. He is a former enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army. He retired at the rank of Colonel, with over 30 years of combined service in the U.S. Army, National Guard and Army Reserve. He is a strategic analyst with the American Center for Quality Leadership and is active in economic and community development in a small rural county in Indiana.