Wanted: concrete steps toward culture change. Can MOC deliver?

man with light bulb sign

Of all the nebulous challenges facing agency leaders, fostering a culture of innovation might be one of the toughest.

Can tactical steps in one direction create, as a byproduct, culture change?

The American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s (ACT-IAC) “Management of Change” conference is due to kick off May 17 in Cambridge, Md., and the MOC agenda addresses topics of transformation, innovation and organizational culture that are both inescapably important and difficult to pin down.

Kathy Conrad, MOC’s 2015 government chair and principal deputy associate administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies/18F at the General Services Administration, said the conference will be geared toward exploring the hard, tangible things leaders can do to effect a sort of change-by-osmosis.

Key among those: continuous delivery, a core component of agile development.

“If you do agile successfully, you change culture in the process,” Conrad said.

“Continuous Delivery as Strategy” is one of the primary tracks lined up at MOC on May 18, with discussions centered on how organizations can use iterative delivery models to cut costs and improve products. Innovative attitudes can develop organically when continuous delivery is implemented, according to Conrad, and the tactics-first approach is more likely to succeed than top-down attempts to make "innovation" the ill-defined target of some organizational initiative.

Rapid acquisition and a “move fast and break things” spirit are not exactly familiar territory for many federal agencies, but they’re the sorts of cultural factors the conference plans to discuss.

“The key to success is not parachuting in ... bright people and throwing solutions over the wall,” Conrad noted, stressing that organizations need to ensure they develop talent and innovation within as fresh blood from outside injects new ideas.

The tracks at MOC -- an Internet of Things track, “Disrupting the Status Quo,” “Innovating from the Outside-In” and “Continuous Delivery as Strategy” -- are not hard-and-fast courses, Conrad noted.

Participants will be free to pick and choose throughout the day, and an “actionable, hackathon approach” will permeate the sessions. According to NetImpact Strategies President Kavita Kalatur, MOC's industry chair, the goal is to "get away from the 'sages on the stage' approach."

While much of the conference will be dedicated to hands-on work, including the collaborative production of playbooks and roadmaps, stage speakers will also make a more traditional appearance.

Box CEO Aaron Levie, for example, will host a “fireside chat” May 19 on making innovation work, and executives from Uber and Viacom will also offer their insights.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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