"Grow: don't build" - a submission to Labour's Digital Government Review

The Labour Party are consulting about the future of digital government through their Digital Government Review. This post is my response to two of the topics of the review: "Skills and Culture" and "Continuous Innovation". It is mostly about how digital transformation might be handled rather than what it should do and is essentially a list of links to things I have written in the past. So...

Government has not properly grasped the implications of complexity: unaware, it has been applying industrial age thinking to digital age problems and getting things wrong, sometimes badly.

"The problem is not in plans, people or methods; it's in mindset. Trying to build things that really need to be grown just won't work; no matter how you manage them."

I wrote this in 2010 in anticipation of problems with Universal Credit...

We must approach this complexity in a fundamentally different way...

We must stimulate a change to the culture of government and adopt genuinely incremental ways of handling change...

We must become comfortable with non-linear problem-solving and adopt more emergent ways of working...

We must uproot mental models that are no longer serving us well, like this one...

We must change unhelpful misconceptions about failure...

We must end confusion about 'Agile'...

We must have a simple way for everyone involved to understand how this very large scale incremental change will be managed...

We must have a simple, commonly-held, view of what the future structure of digital government services will look like...

And, crucially, we must shift from a mindset of 'building' to one of 'growing'...

All this lot in a soundbite... "Grow: don't build"


Afternote - see also my article in Computer Weekly - Government doesn't get complexity.