I was surprised as many were to the resignation of a group of people at GDS (Mike, Tom, Leisa, Russell, Ben and others) – I provided a comment here on Mike’s departure and then went on holiday to sunny Cornwall.
The great thing about disconnecting yourself is that you give yourself the space and time to really reflect.
I thought a lot about what I can and can’t do in Devon, my role and what that actually means to me, my impact or lack of impact, whether or not I’m pushing hard enough or too hard, whether I’m too tolerant of some behaviours and not tolerant enough of others. Basically an all round reflection – probably triggered by my previous post. I’m content and happy with what conclusions I made and I’m clearer about what I need to be doing and what I need to be saying and showing.
I also thought a bit about why when things get really hard, I mean really, really, really hard – some people just give up…I’ve done it before and I now know my reasons why I did it at certain points in my life and I have promised myself that I won’t do that again.
I didn’t intend to reflect on what the departure of those people would mean and will mean to Digital Transformation but as you surf the waves of Cornwall your mind tends to bounce from here to there and I started to think about the implications and lessons for local government.
I then read this post on Tom’s blog and in particular this bit resonated with me:
The first government to reinvent its institutions such that their role and values are native to the Internet era will find that it can transform both the efficiency and empathy of public services, whilst creating new digital infrastructure offering the private sector a global competitive advantage. And that’s even before we get onto the potential positive impact on trust, data security and democracy
and then I read this interview with Mike on why he left Government – the whole interview is very interesting but for some reason this particular bit stuck with me.
It’s the wrong mentality to ask: how big is my department? We should be focused on the user need as that always results in reduced cost and better services. We need to say, as public administrators, that we need to work differently and more collaboratively in a system that is not set up to do that.”
So bringing together my reflections from my time in the sea in Cornwall and reflecting on recent posts I want to say the following…
- Will the fact that these people (Mike, Tom, Ben etc) are leaving GDS change the direction of digital transformation across public services. I’d like to say no of course not – why would a few people leaving a job make such a difference – its worth stating that many people have started and left at GDS and of course even more have come and gone from local government before now without anyone going into meltdown about the future of digital transformation or local services. but unfortunately many people believe it will… Personally I won’t accept it and I don’t want to let that happen
- The internet as a culture, as a business model, as an enabler is still so far from being fully understood in public services – it isn’t an evolutionary process into the internet – it has to be and must be a radical shift into the internet.
- Mandates and support are critical if you really want to affect change – but in the absence of those mandates and support can we give ourselves the mandate and how can we quickly build momentum to show something different?
- It’s time to step up and be loud and continually demand a the fundamental shift that is required to improve services OR we allow the status quo to continue and we know where that ends up…do we really want to see that!!
- People will always come and go, it’s the lessons and inspiration they bring that truly matters – but how do we maintain momentum without clear figureheads to help drive and push things forward. Where are the local government leaders who are capable of doing this and how can we collectively mobilise them?
- We need leadership to guide us to a completely new future – one which we need faith in, not to guide us through variations on the past.
- I hope we haven’t spent the last 5-7 years telling a great story about digital to only step back and let the opportunity pass us by to radically reform services because it is hard and or because we ALL allow decision makers to be driven by the wrong motivations.
- If we really want to see change, a range of people (I include myself in that) will have to let go, swallow some pride and start to really collaborate and DO things NOW and SHOW something is CHANGING. If we don’t the dominant financial narrative will continue (its important of course but its the context not the purpose)
- The primary purpose of public services is to improve people’s lives not to effectively manage the money, that is an enabler much like digital is, information is, data is and of course the people in and around the system are enablers.