Your description of mapAsheville brought this to mind. It often thinks in terms of technology and the utilization of it in an analytical way. When community, in the form of special interest groups or the general citizenry, becomes intimately involved in the outcome it opens up into more of a social program..
Kim: "We talked a little about cloud, but I didn't get around to asking whether migrating city services to cloud has been an important part of the turnaround in Asheville." I think cloud has been a fantastic enabling technology to allow internal staff to focus on the work that they are best suited for. But, eight years ago, it wasn't really available. It's fair to say that we've used the enabling tech that has been avialable at the time. For example, eight years ago, there was no help desk! Once we implemented one, it became apparent that manual web updates were taking an ENORMOUS amount of time -- so we automated that, too, with content management systems.
Joanne: "Yes, I would think the public sector relies heavily on intrinsic motivators. How did an emphasis on these motivators impact employee retention from the time you joined until now?" It's an interesting question. To tell you the truth, I think that the atmosphere of candor has probably made turnover HIGHER than it used to be. That's not to say that we cycle out 25% a year, but I think it's higher than the days when nobody ever left. And I think that's healthy. The key is that when someone is employed, they're fully engaged. (Not outsourcing their work to China and looking at cats all day. ;-))
Bleubug: "Getting early end-user/customer involvement is important but it also builds up expectations that are sometimes hard to manage. The scope always seems a limitless vista at the beginning of many projects and by the end is an opaque pea soup fog. Underselling to end-users might be a key in a smooth trip." Totally agree -- we underpromise and overdeliver, always. :)
Bleubug: "How do you maintain a high level of professional conduct, attitude, and service in your organization? Certainly it's a cliché that government offices (of any level) fail in that but we've all experienced it to some degree in life." I am a big fan of Kouses-Posner's Leadership Challenge. There's a concept called "modeling the way" that I find to be exceptionally important in leading a team. People tend to do what the leader does. And when they don't, an atmosphere of candor and kindness can help redirect them.
Alison: "Do people typically stay with you for a long time because of the atmosphere and other benefits, or do they view working at Asheville IT as a stepping stone in their career, given the financial limitations typical of government in general." It's a tossup, it really depends upon where someone is in their personal life and career. I've said goodbye to wonderful high performing pros because I simply couldn't do anything about compensation and that was really important to them, similarly for reasons of total flexibility, we have some flexibility, but it's hard to be "location independent" when you work for local gov.
Kim: the City has won some awesome technology and innovation awards, including GMIS, NATOA, International Economic Devleopment Council, and quite a few more. City staff is awesome and when we tell their story it's easy to see why they get awarded. :)
How do you maintain a high level of professional conduct, attitude, and service in your organization? Certainly it's a cliché that government offices (of any level) fail in that but we've all experienced it to some degree in life.
Do people typically stay with you for a long time because of the atmosphere and other benefits, or do they view working at Asheville IT as a stepping stone in their career, given the financial limitations typical of government in general.
Joanne: "What incentives, rewards and recognition were used to help you level up your team?" There's wonderful work in the organizational behavior world about how INTRINSIC motivation (internal) is far more powerful than EXTRINSIC (money, rewards) motivation. Dan Pink's book, Drive, is fantastic on this; he talks about autonomy, mastery, and doing meaningful work. From that level, we talk a lot about professional development and being as good as we can with the resources and time that we have available. We are ALWAYS talking mission focus -- how we're making the community better, safer, etc. We will NEVER be able to compete with private sector on bonus or salary, even though we do have a quality of service award for exceptional performance, it's token compared to what you'd get in private sector. (And I already mentioned the recogition picnic, but one innovation that we did last time was to recognize folks in BUSINESS UNITS who were exceptional.)
Alison: "I wonder where the end-customers' ideas come from: Specific IT-driven surveys or public meetings, or other public forums/surveys driven by other government bodies?" We have many ways for customers to give us feedback. We run a quarterly survey with open ended feedback; we run focus groups; and we're active in the community and participate in "non IT" things sometimes to get some cross pollination.
Alison: "Have you noticed a correlation in your ability to recruit and retain high-quality employees with the city of Asheville's improvement in customer satisfaction with IT, your visibility in management and IT circles, and your willingness to use things like teleworking?" Yes. Except for my visibility. ;-) But seriously, everyone wants to be part of a team that's doing well!
Joanne: "Was training and coaching used to motivate and inspire internal people to play in innovative and customer-focused ways?" Absolutely. We went from ZERO investment in professional development to a healthy level. We have an annual retreat where we blend fun and learning. And we have an awards picnic every year with a little goofiness and serious recognition.
Bumping up an earlier question from Alison: "I wonder where the end-customers' ideas come from: Specific IT-driven surveys or public meetings, or other public forums/surveys driven by other government bodies?"
Jon, don't you think pain is a unavoidable side affect of innovation? When people expect services to be as reliable and predictable as the telephone system was when I was younger how can you manage to keep everyone happy?
Have you noticed a correlation in your ability to recruit and retain high-quality employees with the city of Asheville's improvement in customer satisfaction with IT, your visibility in management and IT circles, and your willingness to use things like teleworking?
Getting early end-user/customer involvement is important but it also builds up expectations that are sometimes hard to manage. The scope always seems a limitless vista at the beginning of many projects and by the end is an opaque pea soup fog. Underselling to end-users might be a key in a smooth trip.
Interesting. Smartphone payment for parking totally failed near me - in Cocoa Beach, Florida - but I think it's because it seemed (from the outside) to be thrown together very quickly and wasn't explained well to local residents. Tourists may have got the concept, but many folk who live here f/t had a hard time with the concept.
I'm curious as to how much emphasis and focus there was on people (customers, employees) vs. hardware and other critical areas. It sounds like motivating employees and connecting with customers was a high percentage of the success formula.
Some background on why Asheville is growing-- HuffPo article on 5 things to love about Asheville (including, but not all about the beer). :)
I love Asheville!! such a beautiful city.. used to travel to the county couthouse there when I was responsible for collecting civil small claims filings in all of North Carolina for Judge Joe Brown and Swift Justie with Nancy Grace.
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