Innovating Around Government Rules

Question: How can your organization innovate when you have a strong bureaucracy that likes rules and stability?

The problem: Most organizations have rules managed by a bureaucracy that tries to maintain the current way of doing things, often without reasons for those rules other than “that’s the way we have always done things”.

To get big changes to the way work is done in organizations with strong bureaucracies, like a government agency, requires:

  • a team of insiders and outsiders to come up with new ideas
  • a clear external motivation to do something
  • strong leaders who believe in the ideas and push the bureaucracy to implement them consistently over a number of years
  • re-organization along customer lines

For example, the Business Transformation Agency of the U.S. Department of Defence came up with innovative ideas but was disbanded. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service was successful in transforming its bureaucracy.

For more on this story, please read Brad Power’s post, “Innovating Around a Bureaucracy” at the Harvard Business Review.  And if you have time, please leave a comment there.

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