Mar 072013
digital tools like smartphones and the Internet make management hard

Managing a business or government agency as information pours into organisations is one of the great challenges for modern executives.

As part of the Australian Cisco Live event, a panel looked  at Public Sector Leadership in a Connected World, many of the issues discussed apply to private sector executives as they do to public sector managers.

Cisco’s Director of Global Public Sector Practice, Martin Stewart-Weeks, kicked off the panel with the observation that “we now live in a world where information has become completely unmanageable.”

Martin quoted from David Weinberg’s book Too Big To Know, Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. The author has a good explanation of his book in this YouTube clip.

Trusting the community seems to be the biggest problem facing politicians and the public service, policy consultant Rod Glover puts the general distrust towards governments on the failure of leaders to consult over changes and decision.

Economist Nick Gruen and Australian Industry Group adviser Kate Pound echoed this problem in that a change of culture is needed among leaders towards the way information is controlled and managed.

Nick sees that culture changing while Rod thinks there will need to be demonstrated successes before risk adverse public service leaders will be prepared to adopt new ways of managing.

Kate’s view is that culture change will require a realignment of incentives which will make managers accountable for the delivery of services. She cites a situation where businesses are obligated to register online but the agency’s website doesn’t work.

So the problem is as much gathering the right data along with processing the information inside an agency. Both are challenges for organisations with rigid hierarchies and  information flows.

Information is no longer power — it’s how you use it. But the structures are still based around access and control of knowledge.

The big culture shift for politicians, public servants and corporate executives is we can no longer hoard information.

For managers in both the public and private sectors, the task is now to share information and trust the right people will use it well.

Paul travelled to Cisco Live courtesy of Cisco Systems

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