Journal: Government as Client, Three Levels of Smart

Cultural Intelligence, Government, Methods & Process

Steve Denning

Radical management: what to do when your customer is the government

One constraint on implementing radical management is that the customer is on a different path altogether. A frequent example is where your customer is a government bureaucracy. You are aspiring to delight your client, and your client is saying, “Don’t bother with me such questions. Just deliver what the specifications ask for.”

. . . . . .

…realistically, most government organizations are not even trying to practice radical management. One way of understanding how they function is to recognize that organizations operate at three levels, using a schema proposed by Ranjay Gulati in Reorganize For Resilience: Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009)

Level 1: “You take what we make.”

Level 2:  “We believe that our offerings will be useful to you.”

Level 3: “We seek to understand and solve your problems with our offerings”

While radical management is operating at level 3, most government organizations are still stranded at level 1. They are paying scant attention to their stakeholders. Often they have not even taken any decision as to who their primary stakeholders are. As a result, no one really knows what the purpose of the organization is. The managers in such organizations typically follow rules and procedures, rather than systematically consider: how could we deliver more value sooner? These organizations are the quintessential bureaucracy, and the management is quintessentially Dilbertian.

Phi Beta Iota: The government is full of good people trapped in a bad system.  We’ve decided that in addition to educating the five billion poor one cell call at a time, we have to give government employees an easy to use cell tether to a World Brain that helps them evolve the consciousness of government from the bottom up.

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