#OneTeamGovGlobal: I was there

In its debut song, “Losing My Edge”, LCD Soundsystem band lead, James Murphy, sings from the perspective of an aging hipster, who’s identity is both propped up and threatened by his own perceived superior taste in music at a time when anyone can access the bands, albums, and songs that he was once known for. Right out of the gate, he admits vulnerability, but has difficulty letting go:

Yeah, I’m losing my edge
I’m losing my edge
The kids are coming up from behind
I’m losing my edge
I’m losing my edge to the kids from France and from London
But I was there

He goes on to remind us of who he once was. For example, he used to work in a record store and had everything before anyone. Now, he’s losing his edge “to the Internet seekers who can tell [him] every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978.” Not only that, he’s losing his edge to “better-looking people with better ideas and more talent…and they’re actually really, really nice.”

Its a song about awkward transition, disruption even, and how difficult that experience can be when our ego is attached to a fragile sense of nostalgic relevancy.

Doubting himself, he doubles down on past glory days. At one point he claims, “I’ve never been wrong.” Everything around him is changing. He’s stuck.

Why am I writing about this?

Because One Team Government Global (#OneTeamGovGlobal) happened on July 16, 2018 in London, England.

I was there…

…along with hundreds of passionate people from lots of countries for a one-day unconference about public sector reform and changing the ways we work through practical action.

I was also listening to LCD Soundsystem the other day so, naturally, here are my #OneTeamGovGlobal takeaways and reflections for the public service to avoid losing our edge.

Policy meet digital, digital meet policy

The One Team Government community (aka OneTeamGov) started up in a bottom-up way in the UK because a number of policy and digital officials observed the disconnects between their professions, events, and functions at a time when roles and realities were converging.

The first OneTeamGov unconference was back in June 2017 and it brought “policymakers, designers, and doers” together to engage openly on ways to work together to make government more effective.

Check out the first OneTeamGov unconference here: http://2017.oneteamgov.uk/

Last month’s #OneTeamGovGlobal was hosted in a similar vein, but this time at a global scale.

This movement is on the move, so policy and digital (and others), let’s be friends. We have a lot to do together.

Change takes practice

Change is tricky. Even more so when it involves people, teams, and organizations with different perspectives and contexts. That’s why it’s so important to generate shared understanding and experiences of what it means in practice. By doing it.

I was drawn to #OneTeamGovGlobal because I wanted to be and learn with others who are putting OneTeamGov principles into practice:

They’re not a set of rules or a recipe. Taken together the OneTeamGov principles are guiding heuristics for policy shaping and delivery in the era of “Internet seekers”. They can be considered in relation to what you, your team, and partners are trying to do and accomplish.

Feeling stuck? We can engage our colleagues on what putting these principles into practice might look and feel like in our context. What’s one practical action we can do together? Do it, reflect on it, adapt, repeat.

Check the ego

Yes, I was there and it’s something that I’ll look back fondly on. I’d do it again in a second. What made it so meaningful though is that others were there too. We have a shared and sustained purpose. The event is over and I still feel part of something much bigger than me.

OneTeamGov is shaping me and I’m shaping it. It’s not a one-way thing. It’s a relationship. The same can be said about where I work, those I work with, and our mandate at Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency.

Esko Kilpi wrote a related post recently called “I am not I”.

He illustrates that if we treat ourselves as independent from others, we might perpetuate silos between ourselves as individuals and us as a community.

Another way to look at it is to view individuals as inherently social. As in, I’m not independent, but interdependent. Kilpi writes:

From this perspective, individual change cannot be separated from changes in the groups to which an individual belongs. And changes in the groups don’t take place without the individuals changing. We form our groups and our followerships and they form us at the same time, all the time.

How we see and position ourselves relative to others is fundamental to how we approach work, life, and change.

He goes on to state, “A key management challenge today is to understand that the only way to guarantee agility and resilience is to actively and widely participate in the conversations that matter in an enriching way.”

Which is a good segue to the unconference…

Engagement and relationships matter

Along with the people and the content, I was fascinated by #OneTeamGovGlobal’s format. The manner in which hundreds of people co-created the day’s agenda and discussion topics on the spot was awesome to be a part of.

Instead of listening to keynotes and panelists all day, we shared and learned with each other. We benefitted from the diversity of experiences and perspectives in the room. No one person was the expert or put on a pedestal above others.

Let’s not default to one-way and top-down practices at times when deeper engagement and peer-to-peer learning would create value, like building relationships and planting seeds for change. To cite Kilpi again, “Richer connections and more challenging, more exploratory conversations leave people feeling more alive, more inspired and capable of far more.”

We can convene and facilitate meaningful engagement. The experience has inspired a bunch of us to unconference back home (it’s a verb too, right?). OneTeamGov breakfasts (aka lean coffee), liberating structures, learning organization, ULab, co-design, and other participatory approaches intentionally place value on this kind of capacity building to engage people in what we’re collectively trying to do.

We need the right people and the right conditions

I took in a session on how to manage self-organizing teams and realized rather quickly that for most of the people there, working in a self-organizing way was the norm. They worked on digital teams.

I manage a social innovation unit in a policy and program shop. I’m fortunate to be able to work on cross-functional teams for projects that we co-lead and support. It’s challenging and we’re learning by doing everyday.

To design and deliver policies and services that work in the digital era, let’s get policy people working with those with digital skills and vice versa. And let’s bring in other functional roles and skills too, like research, evaluation, and communications.

Along with the people and skills, let’s create the enabling conditions while we’re at it. We can’t effectively have one without the other. They’re mutually reinforcing.

This @DimSocially graphic and Eman El-Fayomi’s recent post, Productive collaboration: how to build a workflow that works across disciplines, both nail it.

Networks connect, communities care

OneTeamGov means different things to different people, which is cool. I’ve heard it described as a network, a community, and a movement.

The last session I took in was on what success looks like for OneTeamGov. It was a rich discussion about what OneTeamGov is and isn’t, what scale means in the UK vs other more nascent jurisdictional contexts, and how to demonstrate impact.

The one thing OneTeamGov is not? A program.

I had Networks are not Communities in mind when I shared that what makes OneTeamGov more than a network is how deeply those drawn to and propel it care.

For me, OneTeamGov isn’t as much about scaling solutions as it is about practising, amplifying, and scaling ways of working that we think make sense for policy making and service delivery in the digital age. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive and I could be both right and wrong about that.

How best to scale new ways of working while acknowledging the need to be adaptable and responsive to diverse contexts and needs?

Stop thinking we’re losing our edge

In her case for policy people to attend the first OneTeamGov unconference, Beatrice Andrews of the UK Policy Lab observes:

…sometimes, particularly in the policy making world…there is a real pressure on us to focus on all the things we’re not good at. Of course…we should all be learning and developing, but policy makers are amazing. They do have an incredible set of skills, they work in often very tough environments, with very demanding sets of stakeholders. They are trying to balance the interests of many, many people and essentially deliver great services for citizens and taxpayers…I think we’ve got a lot to teach the digital guys and I think we’ve got an awful lot to learn from them as well.
Paul Maltby’s series leading up to the first OneTeamGov unconference is recommended reading: “What digital and policy can learn from each other

We sometimes fixate on how we think we should be and the things we should be doing. When we don’t see what we imagine should be happening relative to our peers, we may react in any number of ways, including feeling uncertain about ourselves, our skills, and how we work. So many assumptions and expectations underpin that scenario.

I was struck by how the #OneTeamGovGlobal discussions were grounded not in what should be, but rather in how things are and what could be.

To me, that’s a healthy distinction. It’s grounding. It opens the door for change to take root and grow.

I don’t mean to minimize the task before us to make government more open, responsive, and resilient to change. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Here’s the thing though: “the kids coming up from behind” aren’t threatening nor are they our saviours. They’re not better looking!

They do have ideas, skills and ways of working that will help us become better at what we do. The same goes for policy people and others…if we work together.

They’re here and, increasingly, “they" need to be “us".

really nice people alert!