Posted tagged ‘Mayor Bloomberg’

Fostering Innovation In Government

May 4, 2011

Stephen Goldsmith as Mayor of Indianapolis earned a reputation as an elected official who supported innovation in government. Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City has implemented many creative ideas for new approaches in government. Goldsmith currently serves as Deputy Mayor under Bloomberg in New York City and he frequently writes interesting articles about encouraging and implementing new ideas in government.

In a recent article titled Fostering an Innovation Culture, Goldsmith put forth five principles for creating a government culture that embraces change:

1) Create an environment and attitude of continuous innovation – An elected leader needs to create a culture of continuous innovation that encourages public employees to identify a problem or generate solutions. He/she must encourage subordinates to generate ideas, assess feasibility, build business cases, coordinate implementation, track results and help make successful reforms stick. This strategy has been employed with success around the world, including in the United Kingdom where the Prime Ministers Delivery Unit aggressively identifies and advocates for change.

2) Create dedicated innovation teams – A dedicated change unit is trusted to interact with agency heads and other key officials, but neither manage nor are managed by those units they seek to influence. Bloomberg chose to create dedicated teams to deliver on his key reforms. These dedicated teams have been the drivers of success in promoting sustainability (PlaNYC), combating poverty (Center for Economic Opportunity) and maximizing agency efficiency (Mayor’s Office of Operations). Boston Mayor Tom Menino has taken a similar approach with his Office of New Urban Mechanics — a unit focused 24/7 on innovation.

3) Continuously and transparently measure results. Performance measures drive change. Quarter by quarter, year by year, performance data helps identify targets for improvement. For example, in New York City Hall’s “bullpen,” senior officials work in sight of large television monitors that constantly scroll performance data. When an agency’s numbers drift above or below the norm, they get noticed. Each deputy mayor’s computer also has an icon through which they can access performance data for their agencies and give insight on where they need to intervene or innovate.

4) Never cover up failure or mask mediocrity. Given the attitude of the press, the temptation to sweep imperfection under the rug is understandable. Don’t do it. As painful as negative press may be, a cover-up is infinitely worse. Use the discomfort to spur positive change.

5) Relentlessly seek ideas for innovation. Within any bureaucracy, many great ideas remain locked inside front-line employees. Tap into this resource. In New York City, we have launched an internal “idea market” to capture these ideas. But that forum is off to a slow start because employees with good ideas don’t want to risk being seen as offering criticism of their managers. We are trying to nurture a culture of innovation, encouraging employees who share their ideas despite such trepidation.

When I talk about the need for innovation in government a frequent response I receive is the heck with innovation, all I want is for government to perform basic and essential services in a cheap, efficient and effective way. What do you think of the principles proposed by Stephen Goldsmith as a way to foster innovation in government?

Leadership Is Face To Face

March 29, 2011

Google founder Larry Page will reclaim his role as CEO on April 4th. Page wants to cut through the bureaucracy that has developed as Google has grown to 24,000 employees. Some steps taken by Page according to a Wall Street Journal article include:

  • Persuading top executives to sit and work together every day in a public area of the company’s headquarters so employees can directly approach them on matters;
  • Recently mandated a “bullpen” session every afternoon, in which he and the company’s executive officers sit and work on small couches outside a board room at Google’s headquarters.
  • Has met with managers of Google divisions and asked what steps could be taken to move more quickly and improve performance, and to identify the barriers that prevent innovation.

Jack Welch as the head of General Electric (GE) was also fixated on eliminating bureaucracy and engaging the ideas of employees to make GE better. Welch developed a process at GE called Work Out, where department heads were required to meet with and hear ideas from employees.

Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City, also understands the importance of face to face communication. Bloomberg works in an office set up like a “bullpen”, where he and top staff can see and communicate with each other in an open setting free of cubicle and office walls (see picture at the top of this post). Most if not all elected officials isolate their thin skinned paranoid selves away from their staff and the public, except for press conferences and ribbon cuttings. True leaders are open and not afraid to engage staff and the public about their vision for a better future.

Budget cuts are a perfect opportunity to reinvent government. I don’t see public sector leaders with the same passion for eliminating bureaucracy as private sector leaders. Front-line employees who have to suffer with bureaucratic rules and procedures have ideas on how to do things differently, but rarely do they get to speak to decision makers in government. Google, GE and Bloomberg understand the importance of being accessible and having face to face contact for new ideas to surface.

What do you think about the approach utilized by Larry Page, Jack Welch and Michael Bloomberg?

Deputy Swap

January 22, 2010

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is very open to exploring new ideas in government. Bloomberg is requiring the first deputy for several city agencies to switch places with another first deputy for a three week period.

As the Mayor stated in a press release:

“The goal of the exchange is to improve inter-agency knowledge, understanding, and communication; foster new ideas for collaboration; and improve the services delivered to New Yorkers. Each first deputy commissioner will report back after the three-week relocation with observations and recommendations. The program, which was introduced during the Mayor’s inaugural address and began today, is modeled after an exercise the Mayor first employed at his company.”

“Tight budgets can not be an excuse for accepting the status quo,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Doing more with less means finding new ways to make government more productive, effective, and efficient – and a key way to do that is to bring a new set of eyes to each agency. Innovative management is more important now than ever.”

I love this idea! Having a boss that supports people immersing themselves in a new experience with the goal of obtaining new ideas for improving the operation of your organization, is what leadership is all about. There are many private sector CEOs who spend time working for a day in different positions of their company, I don’t read about it happening much in public sector organizations. If you are a Mayor, Legislator or Town Board member you need to spend time working along with your employees, if you are truly interested in understanding and improving the operation of your government.

If you are interested in obtaining new and innovative ideas follow Bloomberg’s lead and take similar steps with your organization.