It’s a simple concept. Imagine that your organisation has a large bucket. You start putting in pebbles, gravel and sand – all the small projects and tasks that take up time and resources and offer a semblance of productivity. Before you know it, the bucket is full and there’s no room for the “big rocks” – the policies and programs that add real value. They are left on the side, untouched. But, if you put the big rocks in the bucket first, everything else can fall into place.

This well-known illustration describes how leaders should prioritise and manage their to-do lists. Strategic plans usually start with a laundry list of things that organisations need to get done to progress. In reality, many projects get started, but few ever get finished. This is particularly true for public service agencies that continuously face high expectations and limited resources.

The big rocks provide a foundation for moving forward in the digital age and tackling, head-on, the disruptive forces that are transforming service delivery. Big rocks allow for focus. They force us to concentrate on things that matter most and will have the greatest impact on improving outcomes. It’s an approach that leads to success. While every agency has its own unique challenges and goals, there are five big rock themes that are consistent across the ecosystem:

1. Risk appetite and ethics

Leaders can cultivate an environment for enduring innovation to occur by managing risks, empowering staff and embedding ethical decision-making into the workplace culture.

2. Mutual obligation

Digital requires a new social contract. While people expect personalised and combined services that leverage digital data, they lack trust in how government agencies use their personal information. Before reshaping public policy, it is necessary to clearly define the mutual obligations of people and the state with regard to personal information.

3. Trust and confidence

Trust in digital services is better expressed in terms of confidence. Government agencies need to show people real-time, contextual benefits at each and every interaction. In other words, it should be clear that value outweighs risk when engaging in a digital transaction or data exchange.

4. Positive storytelling

It’s time to reverse the old notion that negative headlines attract more attention. Digital platforms like social media offer ample opportunity to use positive storytelling to counterbalance the over-emphasis on the likelihood and consequences of risk materialising.

5. Empathy for the individual

While evidence suggests that better social outcomes come from deep collaboration, there still exists entrenched divisions in the balance of power. Focusing on the experience of the individual and challenging traditional views on accountability and responsibility can break down these barriers, leading to effective collaboration.

In the coming months, we will explore each of these priorities in more detail. We will discuss practical ways for leaders to unlock opportunities and manage the risks of the digital age to improve service delivery.

Let’s continue the conversation! Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn. When the world moves, move ahead.

Louise May

Lead – Strategy & Consulting, Australia & New Zealand

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