Throughout the Summer of 2009 and the 2010 Spring Semester of my NYU-Stern MBA program, I had the opportunity to serve as an Associate to the NYC Mayor’s Office. I partnered with Senior Policy advisors and Agency Commissioners on two landmark projects: 1) The first ever Agency-wide Customer Service Initiative in NYC impacting over 36 million yearly requests from New Yorkers and 2) the Technology Efficiency plan; a 2020 technology blueprint for NYC generating cost-saving measures of $100MM over the next decade and making the City more effective, innovative and friendlier to New Yorkers.
It was an incredible experience to learn how a government with over 300,000 employees (bigger than the population of most cities in the United States) and over 75 agencies operates to provide services to 8 Million New Yorkers.
During my second term as an associate, I presented a list with seven recommendations to the incoming Deputy Mayor. Two of them touched on leadership (I won’t get into these ones). Out of the remaining five, the first two pointed to the need to get his team onboard on Social Media to discourage working on a project behind “closed doors” and conduct better research (outside the portal of Forrester and Gartner) by opening a line directly to experts. A third one pointed the need to request from his staff to become adopters and beta testers of the tools and service portals that NYC develops. A fourth one recommended to encourage simple “exchanges” between the individuals of the team. What I really meant was the setting up Office Hours across the office for people to exchange ideas. A fifth one recommended a City-wide (for NYC personnel) Innovation Training program.
Over the past two years there has been a great social media outreach effort from the Bloomberg administration requesting ideas from New Yorkers on how to improve New York City. In the spirit of open sourcing ideas, I am sharing my recommendations on this post.
These recommendations were part of a document I shared with the incoming Deputy Mayor of Operations Mr. Goldsmith during my culminating weeks (June 2010) of my time as an associate working on the NYC Mayor’s Office Technology Efficiency Report.
Encourage Open Sourcing @ the Mayor’s Office of Operations
The Mayor’s Office of Operations has one of the most qualified PMs in the city. However, most of the work is still performed behind “closed doors”. The culture does not encourage reaching out for expertise beyond the comfort zone of NYC colleagues, borrowing occasionally consultants working on an ongoing engagement, and the Gartner and Forrester web portal. There are different parties in the field in NYC and throughout the country that can assist and can add great value to a program.
Encourage the use of Social Media within the Office to follow the Vision and share Knowledge
Currently there is a curtain separating the DM vision from the team at 253 Broadway. The vision only arrives at the office in the form of feedback to the different projects headed by a handful of Senior Policy Advisors. Junior Advisors then do their best with the feedback passed down from their more senior colleagues and try to understand as closely the direction that the DM wants to take.
DM Goldsmith, the previous DM, following an open sourced model, was very active sharing great insights and collecting ideas through his Twitter account. Most colleagues at Operations don’t have a Twitter account and the ones active are not being used.
Members of the Operations team should be encouraged to begin using Twitter to follow the DM vision and the individuals/organizations he follows in order to align themselves with the direction of the office and contribute to the conversation.
Leadership should encourage its teams to meet more often to exchange experiences in projects and challenges. There are great ideas that arise from listening to other ongoing projects at the office. Monthly informal group presentations on current status of ongoing projects should be held instead of waiting for the final delivery day for a presentation.
Becoming Early Adopters @ the Mayor’s Office of Operations
There are a number of great NYC portals live to the public. We need to experience what these portals have to offer before they are simply listed into reports.
The members of the Mayor’s Office of Operations should all be registered members of these services (eg: NYC Aps, 311, NotifyNYC, HHS, Jumpstart and Fastrac).
It took me 30 minutes to sign up to seven of the web services that the Mayor’s Office launched over the past four years, yet most individuals within the Mayor’s office only have registered to the portals that they were assigned to work on at one point or another.
Encouraging Simple Exchanges @ the Mayor’s Office of Operations
Most employees choose to bring lunch back to the office, not because of their work load, but because they do not want to put the time to arrange lunch with a colleague.
Lunch with a colleague should be encouraged to increase collaboration and sharing of valuable information throughout the office.
Developing and carrying out a Citywide Innovation Training Program
The City is in dire need of innovation training. Companies like J&J understand that although there is a significant amount of innovation developed internally, most innovation comes from the outside of their organization and they have their corresponding training efforts to spot it. NYC employees need to know how to spot internal and external innovation; managers need to know how to capture it and the City needs to know how to share it and champion it.
An innovation project can train over 80,000 employees under a minimal budget if we follow the blueprint of the Customer Service project which I was part of (Great Service. Great City.) We can collect best practices and success metrics from the City and the private sector, partner with leaders in Innovation like J&J, leverage DCAS for the train-the-trainer sessions and encourage in-agency training. We can then leverage DOITT for curriculum development and NYCMedia for the design of an internal campaign.