I worked in government for many years at a local and state level. I enjoyed my time in government, focussing on how we could assist the community and deliver services better on the ground.
One of the real challenges when I reflect on my time in government was the lack of a business owner’s mindset. That is, the ability to think like a business owner, think like it was your business, your money and feel like you had skin in the game. I have spoken about this in quite a bit of detail in a previous blog, What would you do if this was your business? – the criteria critical for great decision making.
The other critical challenge that I feel that all government organisations need to also embrace is an entrepreneurial culture. That is the ability to think entrepreneurially about new ideas, new business models, and commercial partnerships as well other business ideas that could benefit the organisation. This skill I believe will also be important in the future as governments are challenged to do more with less.
Reflecting on this now that I have been running my own businesses for the last five years, it would require some significant rethinking in the manner in which government employees would go about their roles and jobs. I have given some thought to the climate that would need to be created by government leaders in their teams, units and organisations for entrepreneurship that benefits them and their communities to flourish. These insights are based on contrasting my time working within government and my time in the private sector running my own businesses.
The key areas are as follows:
- Embrace making mistakes. Fail fast to learn quick, rather than government employees and entire organisations being penalised for one mistake. This would require government leaders to handle mistakes in a constructive manner with their people rather than react;
- Invest in leaders. The leaders in government employees need nurturing, development and encouragement to be more constructive rather than reactive or passive leaders. This shift must start from the top and be actively led;
- Measure people on outcomes. Watching the clock, clicking the card, and clocking in are all things that need to be removed as part of the culture of government organisations. By shifting from measuring inputs to measuring whether people actually achieve outcomes, you would see a quantum shift in productivity, not to mention you will work out quickly who is performing/delivering and who is not;
- Focus on how easy it is to do business with yourself and remove bureaucracy/red tape accordingly. Challenge every person in the organisation to have a ‘stop doing’ list or a ‘remove red tape’ list. This one initiative will free up the valuable time and energy required to think creatively and develop initiatives that add value to others; and
- Educate staff on commercial practices. Government organisations are poor commercially not because they are that way inclined but because many government employees have not worked in commercial settings, practices or organisations. Teach them the business models of the private sector, educate them on risk allocation and mentor them on how to drive commercial win/win outcomes with their service providers.
The days of the private sector solely driving entrepreneurship are long gone. There needs to be a focus on government organisations embedding an entrepreneurial mindset in every employee to ensure that they are driving this internally but also extending this to the communities they service. This initiative alone will stimulate our economy and government organisations in creating an entrepreneurial environment that will thrive.