Budget Tips for Public Service Managers

June 25, 2007

Warning – Facetious Post Follows … 

Out at dinner the other night and I received some excellent tips for budding public sector managers, particularly at this time of the changeover to a new financial year.  A useful heuristic is to “Use the Power of Compound Interest”.  Think of your budget a bit like a wealth investment strategy.  It’s also bit like “The Secret” and having your positive thought processes become your future reality. 

The strategy is to always ask for more.  Think that you need $800,000 for your budget for the next financial year?  Instead, ask for $1.4 million so that when it is cut back, you’ll probably get $1.1 million which is still way more that you thought you really needed.  Play the game – everyone else is doing it!  Sure there is activity-based costing and other games that Finance areas play to try and refine and define your ask – but you’re the one in the hot seat and it’s clear that the best managers are the ones who can sell and bargain more than others.

In the end, it is all just money for JAM – or Just Add More.

[And I will post more shortly – attended the Dave Snowden and Viv Read Cognitive Edge workshop last week and lots of material to post from here!]

Service Delivery and Citizen Engagement

June 12, 2007

There was a very good paper published recently at Online Opinion by Martin Stewart-Weekes from Cisco about improving citizen engagement.  With my previous work history at NOIE and DCITA researching the use of information and communications technologies for e-business and e-government, I found the article engaging and insightful. 

He talks about three insights from the history of e-government:

  • The challenge for success is not technical, but cultural and organisational;
  • That it only really becomes compelling when it becomes invisible;
  • That the past focus has been on lifting the reach of service delivery rather than deepening the relationship with the citizenry.

Martin notes that the recent development of Web 2.0 technologies offers the potential for greater openness and collaboration in policy making and for more effective electronic engagement (and he references a new book by Peter Chen who I know from old CIRCIT days and early work on electronic democracy).  Martin further adds that these new technologies could transform the way that we are governed and concludes with the point that as with many disruptions, the future is unclear and is yet to emerge. 

The history of disruptive technologies is that the incumbents who stand to lose out tend to hold on for as long as possible until a tipping point is reached.  Web 2.0 technology has not reached that stage as yet but the prevalent use of social computing by youth and its increasing use in the business sector demonstrates that this tipping point is coming.  The introduction of these technologies will be messy and involve failures as well as some successes.  Early endeavours are likely to dip in to the co-production environment but not fully embrace it or as Peter Chen states, ‘Web 2.0 is – theoretically – about citizen empowerment, co-production and devolution, but [current] “government blogs” sounds a lot like e-democracy 1.0: a top down model of supply with “if we build it, they will come”.’ 

While the use in Australia of Web 2.0 for engagement in policy development or in political interaction is nascent, the article provides a link through to a New Zealand Network of Public Sector Communicators who are providing some interesting perspectives on the use of Web 2.0 technologies in Government.  For an Australian perspective, AGIMO earlier this year released a set of 8 principles for ICT-enabled citizen engagement.

Bain and Company Management Tools Survey

June 5, 2007

During my strategic foresight degree, I conducted a survey amongst public service agencies of their use of various foresight tools.  I modelled the survey on the Bain and Company Management Tools Survey which has a pretty strong following in corporate circles featuring international comparisons and a long timeline on which to identify some trends.  When investigating the Bain survey, I was interested in the use of KM and now see that scenario and contingency planning has been added to the list as one of the management tools.  

KM was one management tool that was consistently ranked in that 15th to 25th bracket of most frequently used – far less than many of the others.  In the 2006 survey, it is now ranked equal 8th which means that more organisations are engaged with KM than ever before.

What I also found interesting in previous surveys was that KM was consistently rated as one of the lowest in satisfaction from the use of the tool.  Those people that did use it were not satisfied with the results – unlike other management tools which were a bit easier to apply and where the results were more tangible.  The results from the 2006 survey state:

  • Knowledge Management moved into the top 10 most used tools in 2006 despite being ranked in the bottom 5 for satisfaction in every survey for the past ten years
  • Knowledge Management is used more heavily in Asia-Pacific but with a significantly lower rate of satisfaction to the rest of the world
  • Some satisfaction levels vary by company size, though large companies are generally more satisfied with tools with the one exception is that large companies are less satisfied with Knowledge Management
  • Three tools, Knowledge Management, Balanced Scorecard and Outsourcing, are heavily used but have satisfaction scores below the mean
  • More Asian firms seem to be early adopters of tools, with much higher usage rates of tools such as Consumer Ethnography and Corporate Blogs

Also interesting to note that corporate blogs is now one of the 25 tools and has by far the lowest satisfaction rating – although 15% of companies plan to start using them in 2007.

How do Bain and Company define KM?
“Knowledge Management: Develops systems and processes to capture and share a company’s intellectual assets. Related Topics: Groupware, Intellectual Capital Management, Learning Organization, Managing Innovation.”

So what about scenario and contingency planning – defined as Involves raising and testing various “what-if” scenarios. Related Topics: Crisis Management, Disaster Recovery, Groupthink, Real Options Analysis, Simulation Models.”

More than 70% of companies in Europe and North America and nearly 80% of large companies are using this management tool.  Usage rates and satisfaction levels are trending higher over time.    That’s certainly good news for budding futures consultants but linking this back to smaller organisations remains a priority and the potential for Asia is also high.

So what else do the general survey results tell us?   It seems paradoxical that companies are increasing their use of tools that have consistently failed to satisfy managers, that Asia is more interested in things KM and early adopters of new tools than other regions, and that KM works best (or perhaps is better implemented) in smaller organisations.

There’s an opportunity here for KM and futures practitioners.  How can the satisfaction levels for KM be increased, particularly for larger organisations and Asia, in an environment when more organisations are adopting KM?   How can scenario and contingency planning be further heightened in Asia and in smaller companies?  And why is it that futures methodologies have a higher satisfaction rating than KM?  Be interested in anyone’s comments.  I’ve raised these issues for KM on the actKM list and might post back some responses if any come through.