citistat and changing SF gov't culture

citistat and changing SF gov't culture


Well, I'm learning a lot, but I'm still figuring out what I've learned. Our team leader is really good and has gotten us to three really good city department meetings. I've talked to a lot of good people who really want to improve things. (The following is longer than I want.)

I'm writing down a little, mostly reflection, trying to capture my thoughts and to let you know that I'm following through. This represents some current thinking, and I gotta do some polishing… later.

The big issues involve communication and leadership. In emergencies, people call 911 and service from the right department is dispatched. If there's a street clearning issue or a tree down, you call 28-CLEAN, and get to public works or a related department. (I'm embarassed to say I didn't know that until today.)

This means we need people who know who to talk to in order to get things done. Traning for that is really challenging. Some of the info is computerized, and that info can be built into a Web application.

To repeat, sometimes a person would prefer to phone for a solution, and a different person would prefer to solve problems via the Web. For that matter, there are people who can't use a site, due to disability or even inability to read, or lack of access.

Everyone gets a place at the table.

Also, I think we need some top-down leadership that promotes getting things done, including active and continuous encouragement of line workers to improve processes. I think line workers know how to do things better than now, and need to really be given the power to do that. That's harder than it sounds, given that there are multiple city departments and unions involved.

That is, we need line workers to fix processes, and that means giving them more authority.

Another lesson has to do with the way the City does information technology. We have a centralized group, the Department of Telecom and Info Services, DTIS. On the other hand, individual departments have their own IT groups, and sometimes the relationship is a little awkward. That's actually the norm in large organizations.

DTIS is actively trying to figure out the right balance between centralization and decentralization. Current thinking is that application development should be done by particular departments, and infrastructure should be more centralized. (I'm not doing this subject justice, so take this brief comment with a grain of salt.)

Citistat/311 is largely a matter of workflow and "customer relationship managment", though, and it's not clear if that stuff is infrastructure… but it might be used by all City function… and the public.

Part of Citistat is the idea that it be used to measure how well all this works… but maybe our first priority is get workflow working first…? That is, requests for service get into the system, it gets to the right people, and the problem is resolved… and the citizen can monitor this, to some extent. There needs to be a way to notify citizens of status changes, without driving a line worker crazy.

Ah, that's enough… more to come…