The Future of Government Services, Part 4
By Dr. Jonathan Reichental, CEO, Human Future, and Chetan Choudhury, Government Adviser
This is part 4 of a 4-part series on the future of government experiences. You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.
When comparing two organizations that provide the same services and products, and have access to identical resources and operate in similar environments, how is it that often one succeeds over the other? Clearly there’s something that one does differently than the other. It’s the stuff of business books and MBA classes. Sometimes it’s obvious upon analysis; other times it is a magic formula that an organization keeps closely concealed.
This applies to government agencies too. Two agencies with marginal differences can have completely different outcomes and experiences. What’s going on?
Little Things Add Up. Big Things Really Add Up
Organizations that do better, not just by a little but by a lot when compared to their competitors who have exactly the same opportunities, approach their markets differently. They lead differently. Their values are different. Their success is not luck. It’s deliberate.
We started thinking about what kinds of things successful government agencies do that enable them to create better constituent experiences, while so many others fail. Making a list of these is probably a good exercise for any agency.
Here are five behaviors that, we believe, differentiate agencies with superior government experiences.
Five Behaviors That Enable Better Government Experiences
It would be far too easy to say this was a cliché. So many of us recognize the value of leadership engagement and buy-in, but its absence is so often the reason for failure. In project management, the number one reason for failure is insufficient executive leadership throughout the duration of a project. If an agency is to improve its government experiences, first it must make a leadership decision to do it and then the leaders must remain consistent cheerleaders to the initiatives. If the Mayor, city manager, or other relevant leaders are not 100% on-board, don’t move forward until they are.
A vision statement, something that is all too often superficially conceived and supported, is a formal declaration of what the organization wants to become. It is a road-map for everyone to follow. Does your organization’s vision statement make quality constituent experiences a priority? If it does, is that vision practiced, measured, and assessed? Even if it’s not part of the vision statement, this priority must be agreed and documented somewhere to create the guideposts to success. Also, don’t hide the vision. Make it a reminder at the beginning of all relevant meetings, and constantly revisit and re-prioritize projects for better alignment with the vision.
In our research we have found that agencies that have great constituent experiences, are also open to experimentation of ideas. They prototype and pilot. They try different approaches. They take more risk. They also recognize that failure is an option and if they do fail, they learn and then move forward. Experimentation is a favorable behavior and a contributing factor in almost all successful innovation.
Great organizations build solutions together with their customers. They bring them in early, they experiment and design together, and then they deploy together. All stakeholders, internal and external, take responsibility when there is success and humbly accept when things don’t work out right. In the government, bringing in constituents to co-create solutions adds enormous value to the process. At a minimum, they will likely have great ideas that haven’t been considered from the perspective of the government agency, and they will be able to guide the process of enhancing the customer journey.
Finally, an agency can have all the leadership and vision it needs, but if it doesn’t have a disposition for action, it’s all for nothing. Sure, action has risk and there are always many reasons to defer, stall, and postpone. But action is where, well, where the action is! Agencies with a proclivity for doing things, even when the outcome is more uncertain than they would like, move the ball forward. A vision for high quality government experiences requires a lot of action versus a bureaucratic approach that plagues most government entities.
There are many examples to point to, but we particularly think the e-service work in Estonia reflects the five behaviors we’ve identified. They provide the best outcome of a deliberate effort to change the game in government experiences. Another good example can be cited from the work happening in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where the government is leading from the front in enhancing the customer experience around services using multiple techniques like mystery shopping, co-creation, experimentation, prototyping, service bundling based on life events, and more.
Sure, the situations in Estonia or UAE have their own uniqueness, but our five behaviors are not aligned with any particular culture or circumstance. In fact, we recognize that these five behaviors can be applied in a wide variety of contexts. Use them liberally.
There’s a remarkable opportunity all over the world to change how people engage with government. It’s not only essential for better outcomes, but it’s what constituents would like to experience. The tools, techniques, and talent exist. What remains is a choice.
At the World Government Summit in Dubai in February this year, leaders from around the world discussed these challenges at a government services forum. You can read the report of that discussion here: https://gx.ae/en/resources/government-services-forum-at-the-world-government-summit-2019-detailed-report
This is part 4 of a 4-part series on the future of government experiences.