Blogue de Lyne Robichaud

10 janvier 2012


Government projects should not last more than three months, recommended Beth Noveck on March 2nd, 2011, at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) of the House of Commons of Canada. "If possible, promote innovations that can be implemented within 90 days or less. Requires organizations to act more quickly discouraged bureaucracy and encourage the creative brainstorming and innovation." (ref

90 days, 100 days, or 120 days, whatever the number of days, I have no objection to play around Beth Noveck's proposal with a rubber band and adjust various project's timeline to situations.

I like Beth Noveck's proposal because she dared to question the slow pace of governments, and she suggested openness and collaboration as a solution to force government leaders and managers to move faster, by removing some of the thick layers of bureaucracy. Moving faster necessarily implies less bureaucracy.

Let's suppose a government project requires more time than 90 days. I would plan it in stages. Steps of 90-100 days, with a pre-established action plan (I like clarity crispy clear action plans, well defined in advance) and published at the beginning of operations, for everyone to see clearly in which direction the government is heading (this allows for re-adjustments, gives room for experimentation to obtain citizen's interventions, leaves a door open to new unexpected ideas to be proposed, and therefore, you end up with improved strategies). I would set up an online dashboard that shows progression of projects made by the team(s) or department(s).

Hesitation, however, it is definitely not included in my model of leadership. "The only limits to our realizations of tomorrow is our doubts and hesitations now." (F.D. Roosevelt)

The role of a leader is to give a vision to an organization: why it has to exist and what improvements it brings to our lives. The leader makes decisions influencing the future of the organization and the decisions have to be consistent with the leader’s vision. I can see that it is difficult to make decisions about something, when the 'something' is not included in the leader's vision.

What happens when there is a lack of open government vision in leaders of a government? Hesitation can be felt at all levels.

By hesitation, I mean that a leader can easily answer the question “I do not know”. But a leader cannot answer “I do not care”. Sometimes leaders do not clearly say “I do not care” (they talk about other topics, and focus on other priorities). However, their lack of words or gestures provide a hint.

Another problem - that can be directly associated with open government implementation delays - arises when managers of a government think that it is impossible for a leader to say “I do not know” or “I made a mistake”. In many instances, an infallibility syndrome leads to paralysis.

Peter Bregman, a strategic advisor to CEOs and their leadership teams, recommends: "People want you to be honest with them, even if you're a leader and honesty means exposing yourself as a little intimidated, or shy, or unsure. That kind of vulnerability doesn't alienate; it attracts. It makes us approachable. It allows people to identify with us, to trust us, and to follow us." (ref. Do people really want you to be honest?)

No matter how complex and confusing situations often look, a leader should be comfortable with uncertainty.

In open government, there is a lot of uncertainty, because it is a new experimental new trend of public management, still in development.

Leaders must learn the fact that situations are tangled, otherwise the groups they lead will be crippled by turmoil. There is always a jumble of needs and responses that must be sorted out. Fear and survival, competition and creativity, etc. They each have a voice, but underneath the jumbled surface, there is one voice: the silent whisper of spirit. Leaders who learn how to listen to this voice chase away hesitation.

Lack of vision, hesitation, and infallibility: they can lead to wasting months and months, and even years of precious time. And during that wasted time ― because I believe that open government and open data can contribute to develop a new sector of the economy, in addition to reducing costs and ensuring a healthy management ―, economic opportunities are missed.

Read more in my Edgeryders mission report, Towards open government in Quebec and Francophonie

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