The Importance of “Doing” and Innovating
Over the last four weeks I have learned many important lessons about local government management. All the great work I have seen and the tremendous advice I have received could probably fill an entire book. But today I present two key lessons that I have learned:
Learn By “Doing”
My supervisor has encouraged me to experience all areas of Catawba County government. Following her advice, I have shadowed front-line employees throughout the County. I recently spent six hours at the County’s 911 Communications Center. I learned an incredible amount about 911 communications that night but the main takeaway was unrelated to 911. What I learned was the importance of management spending time in the field. The 911 operators repeatedly mentioned the positive message sent when the County management team spends time in the communications center. For the operators who are proud of their work, it provides an opportunity to share their work with the decision makers while at the same time showing that the County values their work and input. While all managers are very busy, try to spend time in the field at least once annually with your different departments.
One of the things that attracted me to Catawba County is its history of innovation. Over the last 12 years, the County has received more than 200 awards for their pioneering approaches to providing services. In the 1990′s, the County was one of the first governments to create a website, ever since, the County has fostered a culture of innovation in the use of technology. In 2013, the Center for Digital Government ranked Catawba as a leader in the effective and efficient use of digital technologies. One of the keys to their award-winning streak is that they are willing to think outside the box.
Through the Re-Inventing Departments budget process, the County provides departments flexibility to achieve goals and rewards them for achieving those goals. Local governments should question if the status quo is the best strategy and, if not, find ways to improve upon the status quo.