Making City Hall Leaner

Nigel Jacob at Governing: “…How do we create services that people actually want to use?
The first change is to start thinking about these services as products. What’s the difference? Well, this is where we can learn something from startups. Products are the tools that we build to deliver value to our users.
Products are typically managed by one or more product managers that watch very carefully how users interact with the product so  the startup can determine which features to keep and which to toss. We can contrast this with traditional government services which are developed at some point to solve a problem of some sort, but because they are typically not monitored in a way to understand whether these services are actually adding value, they quickly fall out of sync with the needs of people.
Consider government websites that allow people to access their benefits. These sites are typically clunky to use and hard to navigate. This isn’t a small issue. It can be the difference between people getting and not getting the resources they need to survive.
Case in point: CalFresh.
These are services.

Compare this to a site such as Balance which was designed by watching how people use the CalFresh site, talking to these users about how they would like to access their benefits and then building a tool that actually responds to their needs.This is a product.
So, we need to be thinking about not only what government is building (in terms of tools), but also how it builds them.
The approach to building high-value products used by startups (and other orgs looking to build better products) is called Agile.
There are many flavors of Agile, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. One of the more recent agile methodologies that has garnered support in the startup community is Lean developed by Eric Reiss in his book, “The Lean Startup.”
Now, a word of caution. Any methodology that is used outside of the context in which it was intended runs the risk of simply not working. However, at its core, Lean is about learning what works and what doesn’t, so I’ll focus on the central elements of Lean since they have much to teach those of us who are working to overhaul local government about how to create value….(More)”