I work for the Government (big G) and but even leaders within my agency who disdain technology and for whom the internet instills fear realize that the best ideas are not confined to a 9-to-5 work schedule. I was surprised at how far behind my agency was in terms of technology when I joined almost 20 years ago and it has remained behind the times ever since. However, I think one of the greatest benefits that employees and especially leaders in my agency have gained in terms of connectivity is that technology makes it easier to do something that leaders should be doing anyway—asking for help. As provided by David Weinberger (2011) in chapter 6 of Too Big to Know and explained by Jon Husband on his Wirearchy website, the change from paper, books, and other mediums to digital means as a way to share information allows for instantaneous feedback with readers and in my workplace, even though we may not be using Office 365 (more like Office 2000), we still are able to connect and interact at a level that was impossible to conceive even 25 years ago. While it is true the Government is more risk averse than the private sector, we are still innovating though at a much slower pace. In the private sector, you innovate or no longer exist but leaders are extremely accountable for results. In Government, it often takes longer and it can be more difficult to measure results but mistakes in my line of work can become huge problems so people triple check everything. However, it is still important to seek alternative solutions rather than shooting down ideas. Empowerment is critical since it unleashes creativity not only in the same sense as Gartner’s (2014) Six Steps to Build a Successful Digital Business but even in organizations with weak or heavily regulated links to the internet like mine. The idea or product might not be perfect but should be rewarded and it is important for agencies such as mine to stay connected to the private sector since it is easy to live in a bubble. We need to pay attention to the private sector and bring their lexicon into the public sector such as the predictions provided by Gartner (2010) for the workplace of the future so that ideas such as work swarms, the de-routinization of work, and hyperconnections can at least be explored. It is important for leaders to listen to different groups of people, not just in the Government but also in academia, science, business, and non-government organizations. Smart leaders know to empower networks of people to spark dialogue – that is the beauty of the panoply of connectivity that exists whether our organization is on the cutting edge of technology or woefully behind.
I realize that some people see agencies such as mine as exotic, not necessarily relevant to their lives but our challenge is to engage and show the public that what we do is relevant. It is important that the services we provide to our citizens and other customers be user friendly and that comes from the tech sector. We are here to serve the public, not vice versa but certain security measures are necessary, of course. One of the ways we are seeking to become more user friendly is by untethering our workforce so that our employees are not bound to their desks and have more flexibility in their work and can potentially have a better work-life balance. But there are issues that need to be addressed and one of these is as shared by David Weinberger (2014) in his talk about the Power of the Internet concerning the anticipation of leaders about what the internet will allow untethered employees to accomplish. Another issue is the expectation by many managers that an untethered diplomat is constantly available to work, creating overtime and work-life balance issues. Some situations and activities require after-hours availability but supervisors should realize that other situations may not require an instant response from their staff and should strive to create an environment that encourages work-life balance. To me, the promise of untethered employees circles back to Jon Husband’s article explaining the Wirearchy and how knowledge, trust, and credibility between the employee and leader encourages dialogue, strategic conversations, and responsiveness not only between the two but also between the organization and our customers. Ben Hammer
Gartner. (2010, August 4). Gartner says the world of work will witness 10 changes during the next 10 years. Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1416513
Gartner. (2014, May 21). Gartner identifies six key steps to build a successful digital business. Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2745517
Husband, J. (n.d.). What Is wirearchy? Retrieved from http://wirearchy.com/what-is-wirearchy/
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.
Weinberger, D. (2014, October 22). David Weinberger on the power of the internet. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iPXmEh24KXA