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In my last post I wrote about the implications of accelerating compression, automation, and specialization of knowledge work. That post dealt with commercial organizations, but the imperative to act is as important, if not more important for government executives.

Don’t believe me? Well listen up: the US federal government spent roughly $308 billion – roughly equal to the nominal GDP of Denmark – on services contracts in 2012. Organizations like CSIS are reporting that the government is becoming more dependent on services contractors, yet spending on services is decreasing.  Investing in data and technology has also spiked dramatically in the federal sector. In many ways, the government is most susceptible to Microslicing. If you take that massive spend, and turn it upside down with technology, data science, and millennial culture, you have either an opportunity or a mess on your hands. 

So what is an SES to do?

Well, the 7 principles of Microslices I introduced in my last post apply to government, with a few minor tweaks:

  1. Statistical and Technical Literacy
    This must be required for every contractor.

  2. Shared Risk
    Government executives must learn to build contracts that share risk with consultants using fixed and value pricing.

  3. Results Orientation
    Excluding only truly exceptional circumstances, you should not work with a contractor or consultant unless the price is based on results delivered.

  4. Negotiation of Interests, Not Positions
    Government agencies should focus on their interests – the results they need – instead of taking positions in an RFP of procurement that box the agency into a corner.

  5. Planned Advisor Obsolescence
    We’ve already demonstrated that the government is becoming more dependent on outside consultants to perform basic work. Instead, why not embrace Microslices, which by definition are small, automated, and transferable services capabilities?

  6. Insistence on Measurement
    It is crucial that government executives release any fear that the wrong numbers might be “bureaucratically incorrect” and find a way to measure and to use measurements to make better choices.

  7. Mass Customization
    Government leaders should recognize that the networked delivery model of Microslices will allow big firm capabilities to be delivered by teams of small, specialized firms.

Government organizations might not go out of business if they don’t adopt these principles, but the consequences are grave nonetheless. Federal agencies that fail to adapt risk charges of incompetence, embarrassment, and wasted resources. They will continue to fail our most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the young, and our veterans.

Worse yet, our defense and intelligence agencies risk allowing our adversaries (who most certainly are paying attention to these trends) to get a leg up on critical capabilities.

Don’t be that SES who ignores the canary in the coal mine. Do something about it.

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