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FCW : July 15, 2015
KRIS VAN RIPER is the government practice leader and JOHN TAYLOR is a research analyst at CEB. Federal agencies currently face pressures from all sides to innovate, improve digital services and boost operational efficiency. Although the responsibility to innovate does not lie exclusively with IT departments, so many citizen services are now delivered via digital platforms that information and technology will invariably be at the core of 21st- century innovation. The prevailing operating environ- ment in government IT, however, lacks the flexibility and creativity to meet current demands to innovate. For years, federal IT departments have emphasized a standard, stable and secure technology portfolio. Although that approach has been an effective way to promote efficiency gains from process standardization, it has been insufficient to meet the challenges of innovation. CEB research shows that 68 percent of IT employees across industries and IT functions fit a behavioral profile of risk aver- sion. That finding is echoed in the Office of Personnel Management’s 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, in which only 35 percent of federal employees said creativ- ity and innovation are rewarded in their organizations. Traditional approaches to driv- ing innovation fail to counteract those impediments. Dedicated innovation teams cannot keep up with the enterprisewide demand to innovate. Building an innovative workforce by hiring new employees or providing training takes too long. Attempts to shift organizational cul- ture, which involves the deeply held assumptions and beliefs of an orga- nization and its employees, are also notoriously challenging and slow. Unlike culture, the climate of an organization can shift signifi- cantly in the short term. Organiza- tional climate refers to employee perceptions of their work, which are influenced by factors such as process and practices, signals from leaders and the permissions manag- ers grant. We have found that when those signals and processes empha- size openness rather than standard- ization and risk-aversion, IT is three times more likely to deliver value to the enterprise. A climate of open- ness treats collaborative work as the default, sees opportunity in risk and uncertainty and is receptive to new ways of working. IT leaders can take the following actions to increase their organiza- tions’ climate of openness: • Foster networks to help employees adapt to change. Employees are more likely to adapt to changes when they can access networks that support them in problem solving and allow them to understand how their daily work connects to organizational suc- cess overall. The best organizations encourage employees to participate in team-level discussions and set individual goals to connect strategic priorities to daily activities. • Share lessons learned from failure to increase employ- ees’ openness to risk. Many IT employees fear the negative con- sequences of volunteering to work on a high-risk project. However, by avoiding risky projects, they miss out on potentially high-value inno- vations and crucial learning experi- ences. To encourage more risk- taking, IT leaders should not only focus on success stories but also the near misses that led to valuable lessons learned. • Change the message com- municated by IT’s score card and objectives. The performance metrics that IT leaders communi- cate to their workforces shape IT employees’ perceptions about what is rewarded on the job. Standard IT metrics, such as percentage of proj- ects delivered on time and on bud- get, can have a negative impact on openness. To encourage a climate that values innovation, IT lead- ers should tailor score cards and employee objectives to emphasize speed to delivery, mission impact and talent development. n Building an open environment for innovation Federal IT leaders can more effectively promote innovation at their agencies by creating an organizational climate that is open to risk and change The prevailing environment in government IT lacks the flexibility and creativity to meet current demands to innovate. Commentary | KRIS VAN RIPER AND JOHN TAYLOR July 15, 2015 FCW.COM 11 0715fcw_011.indd 11 6/18/15 2:57 PM
June 30, 2015
July 30, 2015