Archive for category Innovation

3 Tips to Encourage Collaboration

Many of the people I know who work in the public sector were drawn to their jobs by a desire to serve, to make a difference in their community or the country. After landing that first desk job though, I have also seen them lose their drive. If you’ve ever done it, you know, sitting in a cubicle day after day, surrounded by endless paperwork and coworkers who checked out years ago is anything but fun.

Getting stuck in a routine is a hazard of many desk jobs. Being around complacency is often contagious. But you don’t have to catch it and you can help build an environment that is invigorating rather than draining.

  1. Spend time innovating – It will not always be successful but actively spending time thinking about how to improve a processes, offer a better experience to customers, or solve a problem is important. It is not only useful but can be invigorating. You won’t always find a solution but working on problems and processes will keep you and your team focused on a positive future.
  2. Make time to move around – Get up, take a walk, talk to neighbors, or go to someone else’s workspace to ask a question instead of calling. A change of scenery, however small is important. You never know what you’ll learn when you get out of your regular space.
  3. Remind your team to engage their customer – Even if the only customer is internal, make a point to check in and ask if there is anything they would like to see change. It’s easy to operate with blinders on; you can’t always see how others are impacted by your habits and processes. If you and your team make a habit of asking for and responding to feedback you will learn a lot about how others work and what they really need.

Being motivated about work is not about the financial reward but the emotional reward when you experience success and satisfaction from making a meaningful and positive impact. Mixing up the routine and interacting will help create a collaborative environment. Team members can draw on the unique experiences they have which makes everyone stronger. One of my favorite sayings around the office is: “None of us is as smart as all of us”. It is the theme of High Five by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles that explains “the magic of working together”.

How do you keep your team excited about their work?  Is there something you do regularly to remind yourself why you love your job?

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3 Steps to Discover and Retain the Intrapreneur at Your Organization

intrapreneur, change, innovationChange is a constant. Like it or not, it is inevitable that at some point throughout your career, you will experience a change that forces you to rethink everything; your goals, your strategy, your outlook, maybe even your job. Nobody is exempt from change. Despite whatever GS level you currently hold or where you reside on the corporate ladder, change will find a way to squeeze onto your to-do list. When most people think of change, they think of current events that unenthusiastically impact an agency from the outside in, much like the shutdown or sequestration. The change that I’m referring to is change that comes from the inside and, if leaders are paying attention, has the opportunity to transform the way an agency, even the government, does business.  The change agents that initiate these transformations are called intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneur is not a new marketing buzzword. Most people have heard of these idea generating, passionate, radical thinkers. Many companies, like Google and Apple, encourage their employees to spend time thinking outside the box to come up with the next innovative idea. The challenge, when you’ve been lucky enough to uncover a forward thinker within your organization, is preventing leadership from the unbearable internal resistance that can cause intrapreneurs to take their ideas and run. This is the last thing that government agencies need to happen while they try to obtain and retain the talent they already possess. If you are lucky enough to have an intrapreneur working at your agency, there are steps you can take to make sure they don’t jump ship at the first opportunity.

Allow Employees Time to Think – There may be an intrapreneur right under your nose and you may not even realize it. Heck, they may not even realize it! A good leader encourages and coaches individuals to instill forward thinking. Inspire your staff. Build confidence. Empower their originality. Lead change.

Nurture New Ideas – A new idea doesn’t have to derail the overall strategy of the agency. Often times, leaders dismiss what could have been a more efficient and innovative concept, that contributed to the accomplishment of the agency’s mission, simply because it’s outside the routine way the organization does business. As a leader, recognize that your ideas are not the only good ideas that come out of your department. Work with your staff, don’t dictate, about how their ideas could or couldn’t work for your agency.

Incorporate Innovative Ideas into Daily Tasks – Not all ideas will work for your agency but when a thought-out concept is brought to the table, don’t immediately dismiss it unless you’ve given it a test run. Try incorporating innovative ideas into the daily tasks that are already working for your agency. By changing the routine up just a bit, you might uncover a more efficient way of performing a task or accomplishing a goal. Taking small steps to test out a new idea can set a leader’s mind at ease by avoiding a significant set-back that could occur by taking the idea full throttle too soon. It can also make the intrapreneur feel valued, trusted, and supported knowing that their idea spurred a positive change within the agency.

People often resist change when they’re not a part of the change process. Create a culture where intrapreneurship thrives and ground-breaking ideas are encouraged and the idea generators will want to support the mission.

Are you an intrapreneur? How does your agency allow for intrapreneurship at your agency?

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How are your agency’s training dollars being spent?

In 1967, President Johnson signed an executive order that provided agency leaders and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) the presidential guidance on how training programs should be implemented at government agencies. The order requires OPM to support agencies in developing adequate training programs and to provide assistance with planning, programming, budgeting, operating, and evaluating training programs. Specifically, leaders working in OPM’s Training and Executive Development (TED) Group offer direction on how to implement training programs within agencies, as well as, provide counsel to ensure that those training programs support strategic human capital investments. In fact, OPM created five guides that agencies can use to reference when deciding on specific training programs for their staff. These guides include Human Resources Reporting, Training Evaluation Field Guide, Draft Training Policy Handbook, Collection and Management of Training Information, and Strategically Planning Training and Measuring Results.

Many struggles that federal agencies are facing today include building and maintaining the talent pool of employees, preparing the next generation of leaders, and bridging the gap of multigenerational workers. Overcoming these challenges requires appropriate training programs and government leaders must know how to implement that training in order to achieve the agency’s mission. Below is a list of eight best training practices that the United States Government Accountability Office recommends all agencies implement in order to support effective training investment decisions.

Practice 1: (a) Identify the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts and (b) prioritize funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first.

Practice 2: Identify the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized approaches for its training and development programs.

Practice 3: Consider government-wide reforms and other targeted initiatives to improve management and performance when planning its training and development programs.

Practice 4: Have criteria for determining whether to design training and development programs in-house or obtain these services from a contractor or other external source.

Practice 5: Compare the merits of different delivery mechanisms (such as classroom or computer-based training) and determine what mix of mechanisms to use to ensure efficient and cost-effective delivery.

Practice 6: Track the cost and delivery of its training and development programs agency wide.

Practice 7: Evaluate the benefits achieved through training and development programs, including improvements in individual and agency performance:

(a) Has a formal process for evaluating employee satisfaction with training.

(b) Has a formal process for evaluating improvement in employee performance after training.

(c) Has a formal process for evaluating the impact of training on the agency’s performance goals and mission.

Practice 8: Compare training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons learned.

Source: GAO analysis based on prior GAO reports, other related expert studies, and federal training requirements.

How many of the practices listed above has your agency put into practice?

On September 26th, several agency leadership training developers will be discussing the training initiatives that are working within their agency and how you can fund and implement a training program in your agency. Learn more about how you can join and participate in that conversation.

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Declaring Your Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Declaration of Independence

Today we celebrate America’s 236th birthday! The Fourth of July is honored with celebrations, parades, carnivals, and fireworks. However, today is not just about a day off from work or backyard BBQ’s. July 4th marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence back in 1776. Today we celebrate the thirteen original American colonies becoming independent states and no longer a part of the British Empire.  This statement was drafted and approved in what is known as the Declaration of Independence.

Independence of our nation was initiated by a publication written by Thomas Paine entitled, Common Sense. In Paine’s writings, he advocated for colonial independence and set forth of flurry of public debate on the topic. Several leaders followed Paine’s vocation of communicating the importance and need of moving our nation towards independence. Finally, on June 11, 1776, the committee of five consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman were appointed to draft the declaration. After some final editing, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Paine, Adams, Franklin, and the many other leaders that had a hand in our nation’s independence were empowered individuals that realized a need for our country. As self-leaders, they took the necessary steps to make their goal a reality. Even 236 years later, companies today rely on empowered individuals to get the job done. Self leaders take the initiative to get what they need to succeed and their leaders respond to those needs. This is when a self leader is truly empowered! Authors of Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager teach three skills of self leadership:

Challenge Assumed Constraints – An assumed constraint is a belief, based on past experience, which limits current and future experiences.

Celebrate Your Points of Power – Every individual holds points of power, they just aren’t aware of them. The five points of power are

     Position power – authority of your position

     Personal power – personal traits such as strong interpersonal skills or passion

     Task power – ability to help or block others in getting a task completed

     Relationship power – association with others

     Knowledge power – expertise associated with degrees or certifications

Collaborate for Success – The initiatives self leaders take in order to get the direction and support they need to achieve their goals.

So whether you hold a manager role or not, everyone can be a leader. How are you creating your independence and self leading yourself to successfully achieve your goals?

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

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Struggling To Keep Your High-Performing Employees? Try Teleworking.

87% of employees reported that telework has a positive impact on their work/life balance.

Budget cuts government-wide have forced leaders to “do more with less” and focus on innovation within their agency. As a result of this, many senior executives are struggling to provide a work environment that incorporates high-performing teams, a work/life balance, and employee interest to stay with and support the agency long-term. A new report to the President and Congress by the United States Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) may be just the answer agency leaders have been looking for to address these concerns.

Research on workplace flexibility has found that not only does teleworking benefit employees, it also benefits the organization. The snow storm that hit DC in 2009 left many federal employees unable to get to their place of employment. The result of the forced shutdown was estimated at costing the government $100 million per day in lost productivity and opportunity costs. If agencies had a telework policy in place, employees would have had the opportunity to work from home or another easily accessible location to get their work done, despite the snow storm. In addition, agencies that allow their workers the option to telework are more apt to recruit and secure high quality employees due to the attractiveness of the work/life balance mobile working offers.

Telework; Weighing the Information, Determining an Appropriate Approach, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, October 2011

If the government is requiring agencies to be innovative in light of the recent budget cuts, managers and supervisors need to provide incentives that will keep these high performing employees working for them. Teleworking is a benefit that would have a direct impact for employees by reducing commute times, freeing up more personal time after work, and empowering employees to work when they are at their most optimal. All of these factors have been found to empower and motivate employees and, in turn, increase performance and results.

Telework; Weighing the Information, Determining an Appropriate Approach, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, October 2011

The Ken Blanchard Companies along with Training magazine conducted a survey to further explore how to create employee work passion. One question asked what influenced employees to remain with their organization the most. The survey conveyed several factors that impacted employees differently based on their work experiences. The factors that were ranked include:

Job Factors – Autonomy, Meaningful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety

Organizational Factors – Collaboration, Performance, Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)

Relationship Factors – Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leader

The research that was conducted reveals that employees are constantly making appraisals of their work experiences and these appraisals result in intentions to stay, to use discretionary effort, to perform at a higher than average level, and to endorse the organization and its leadership.

Want to learn about more ways to create an environment where people want to come to work and give their best? Log on to the live webinar at 9:00am PST/12:00pm EST today about cultivating employee work passion.

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Doing More With Less: Can the Federal Government Make it Work and Keep Employees Happy?

Manage the journey of change rather than announce the destination.

Budget cuts are being implemented government-wide.  Agency leaders are currently faced with continuing to manage the day-to-day functions of maintaining a successful organization while upholding the morale and motivation of their employees. Change can be a significant struggle, especially when dealing with less and expecting more. The Partnership for Public Service along with Booz Allen Hamilton published a study that focuses on how government agency leaders can continue to guide employees and maintain a functional workforce while having to cope with large budget cuts. Over 30 senior-level federal employees were interviewed for the study.  Those individuals shared eight strategies that were successful for the agencies they worked for back in the 1990s, when they were faced with major budget cuts and reductions in the number of federal employees, yet were expected to do more with less.

The eight strategies that were shared could not be successful without four conditions; requirement of top-level leaders to make difficult decisions and share the vision with employees, ability to plan ahead and be prepared with how to respond to inquiries, experience to decide how to best apply the strategies for the agency, and apply a functional change-strategy that would minimize the adverse implications of the reductions. Those eight strategies include:

  1. Across-the-board cuts – decrease programs or functions equally
  2. Programmatic cuts – reductions based on importance or efficiency
  3. Decreasing administrative costs – cut overhead without weakening workforce
  4. Personnel reductions – cost-savings through attrition and/or forced layoffs
  5. Consolidating or centralizing functions – hope for greater efficiency
  6. Reengineering – improve service quality with awareness of upfront resources required
  7. Investing in information technology (IT) – increase productivity and efficiency
  8. Outsourcing – assign functions to external organizations at a lower cost

Constant change is a way of life in organizations today. Like it or not, in the dynamic society surrounding today’s organizations, the question of whether change will occur is no longer relevant.  Change will occur, budgets will be cut, and resources will be limited. How do leaders cope with the barrage of changes that confront them daily as they attempt to keep their organizations adaptive and viable? Developing strategies to listen in on the conversations in the agency so that they can surface and resolve people’s concerns about change is a great place to start. They have to strategize hard to lead change in a way that leverages everyone’s creativity and ultimate commitment to working in an organization that’s resilient in the face of change.

With the recent budget cuts, how is your organization dealing with the impactful changes?

Read the full report from Partnership for Public Service, Making Smart Cuts.

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Is Innovation Alive In Your Agency?

The Center for American Progress in partnership with The Young Foundation recently teamed up to identify ways public leaders can ensure a constant flow of promising ideas into the federal government.

This report, How to Generate Innovation in the Public Sector, provides the following recommendations:

Identify priority fields for innovation: The government must first identify the fields of public action where innovation is most needed.
Open up the space for ideas: The second priority should be to widen the range of options, creating more space for creative and entrepreneurial solutions.
Finance innovation: At least 1 percent of agency budgets should be used to develop, test, and scale up new and better ways of doing things in the public sector.
Fix incentives: Greater recognition may be both more effective and more efficient than existing programs and initiatives.
Change the culture: Innovation has to be supported from the top, and senior leadership in the executive and the legislative branches should signal that they recognize that some ideas will fail, and that’s acceptable.
Grow what works: There should be a much stronger focus in government on trying to scale up ideas that work—even if that means closing down popular programs or initiatives that have been less effective in the past.

This report also identifies over twenty ways governments around the world have generated ideas to stimulate innovation in government. They are organized under five themes:

• Unleash the creative talents of agency staff
• Set up dedicated teams responsible for promoting innovation
• Divert a small proportion of your budget to harnessing innovation
• Collaborate with outsiders to help solve problems
• Look at an issue from different perspectives to notice things you wouldn’t otherwise

You can read about these innovative ideas here.

In a white paper published by The Ken Blanchard Companies, Managing and Motivating Intrapreneurs, intrapreneurs are described as “someone who innovates inside a company.” A common characteristic is that “intrapreneurs like to push the envelope of the status quo.” This white paper goes on to say, “(Intrapreneurs) motivation for innovation is not necessarily increased tenure with the organization, or even to get rich, but rather their desire to leave a mark, to make a difference.” Does this sound like many of your public sector employees?

Read Managing and Motivating Intrapreneurs.

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