In organisations like the UK Government Digital Service and France's Etalab we see a drive to bring agile "startup" behaviour into the heart of large, complex organisations.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) must have the agility of a start-up to drive through change across Whitehall, says its director Mike Bracken.
Computer Weekly - Government Digital Service needs agility of a start-up - December 9, 2011
Cette mission est réalisée par une équipe très agile et très mobile à l’organisation « type startup » qui compte seulement sept membres. Elle est très proche du Premier Ministre qui s’intéresse de près à la question de l’ouverture des données comme nous l’ont confirmé les membres d’Etalab.
blog.administration2020.fr - Un entretien avec Etalab plus qu’enrichissant - January 24, 2012
To some extent this is just new terminology to describe an old concept - the skunkworks. The challenge has always been how to take these kinds of coherent, small, agile groups and integrate their work and their culture into the entire organisation - the problem of agility at scale. While we have great solutions for scaling websites from 1000 users to millions, we don't have great solutions for scaling organisations from a dozen employees to thousands while retaining innovation. It's the classic challenge of loft+coffeemachine versus aircraft carrier.
Can there be then a startup called government? San Francisco is trying to make it possible.
On their recently-launched site innovations.sfgov.org they list the thematic areas of their innovation portfolio:
- StartupSF - to help businesses launch and connect with the community
- EngageSF - using open data, ideas gathering platforms, and targeted hackathons to help citizens build on the city's information
- SmartSF - using sensors, other urban technology, and discussions to build a smarter, more responsive city
I think there are common threads that run through these approaches, that help to move beyond the classic skunkworks - building in outreach from the outset, so that the small group is integrated both within the rest of the organisation as well as with the broader community outside.
Common Threads: A small, highly-visible, expert core team. A growing community / ecosystem around that core. Focused projects. Technology-enabled but not technology-dependent.
You can follow the San Francisco initiative on Twitter: