How and Why to Align Government Innovation Strategies with Public Policy Goals

Capital building.
A government is more than its buildings.

Innovation thrives when it has a goal. This gives innovation strategy in the government sector a distinct advantage, provided there are clear policy goals. It becomes a question of properly aligning strategy and goals for maximum impact.

What Are The Mandates?

Getting a list of goals may seem a simple question, but it can depend on what each government, and department within it, defines as “goals” and how they prioritize those goals. Each department will have a broad mandate, but catering to that mandate can be done in any number of ways. Define those mandates and how they’re approached by each department, even if they don’t seem relevant at first. This will help deliver the most useful ideas to the people who most need them.

Who Are The Stakeholders?

In government, every citizen is a stakeholder, as all are affected by any policy decision. However, some are more directly affected than others. Every department, and government, will have different levels of commitment from a variety of stakeholders, and balancing those needs will ensure the effectiveness of government innovation strategy.

Internal stakeholders are also important. Government departments depend on each other and draw on each other’s resources in a myriad of ways, and understanding this can be the deciding factor in effective innovation.

What Are Your Metrics?

Measuring your effectiveness will require choosing your metrics beforehand. Start with the metrics your government already tracks, especially if you have strong historical data for comparison. For example, if you’re working for a Department of Motor Vehicles, they usually track metrics such as customer service time, customer satisfaction, and the overall number of customers handled on a given day. Ask yourself what impact you want to have on these metrics.

When choosing metrics from scratch, look at what’s most relevant to the mandates and goals. And don’t forget, there are internal metrics to consider as well; a department that assists others in their mission will have different rules than one largely operating on its own terms.

House of Commons.
Reconciling many stakeholders is an ongoing job.

What’s Important, Short-Term? Long-Term?

The day-to-day business of government is important, but good governance is driven by both short- and long-term thinking. In other words, the trash needs to go out and the roads need to be paved, but what plans are in place to reduce emissions from waste and where roads will be built over the next ten years? How can those be done better, even in small ways? Developing a sense of where both short- and long-term goals lie will allow you to deliver effective innovation where it’s most needed.

Where Will Incremental Innovations Have Impact?

Broad, sweeping innovation is possible in government organizations. But due to the scale and needs of stakeholders, it’s more likely that you’ll be working on incremental innovation. Don’t make the mistake of assuming a small change will have a small impact. Short messaging service, or SMS, was a small idea intended to make mobile phones more like the PCs users understood; if you missed a call or had a voicemail, the service could send you an automated message. Nobody expected it’d become a vital form of communication.

So think of it in that perspective. Yes, the innovations you’re applying are likely incremental, even if they are building toward a larger goal. But they can have enormous positive effects. To learn more about innovation in government, contact us!

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