Why we need new methodologies in government

New methodologies. This is something that we at the HHS IDEA Lab talk about a lot – about how it is important to bring new methodologies into government to help HHS employees work differently, but more importantly, work more effectively and efficiently to better serve their customer – whether they be another government agency or the American people – the best they can. But what does that exactly mean? What methodologies am I talking about and how is the HHS IDEA Lab getting HHS employees to adopt these methodologies?

All good questions.  Let’s take them one at a time.

First, the methodologies I am talking about are business methodologies used in the private sector, typically seen in software development and manufacturing; methodologies like lean, lean startup, agile, and design thinking.  These methodologies have proven to be effective when implemented correctly.

Secondly, we have been experimenting with a couple different ways to get HHS employees to try and adopt these methodologies.

  1. We have integrated training of design thinking and lean startup principles into HHS Ignite, our internal incubator,  so that the current class of participants have had to learn and execute new concepts such as identification of their value proposition, customer segments and conduct user interviews;
  2. We have brought in external experts who have had great success in the private sector with these methodologies through our HHS Entrepreneurs and HHS Innovator-In-Residence pathways. Through both pathways, we have brought in people like Nag Murty, our Innovator-In-Residence with the West Health Institute, who has been trained by the Stanford D School in design thinking, and HHS Entrepreneurs Jared Goralnick, who has had success in starting multiple companies and is bringing design thinking to Administration of Children and Families staff and grantees , and Mindy Hangsleben, who previously worked at Intel and trained experts across the U.S., Asia and Central America on lean methodology and did the same with the employees at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT; and
  3. We are integrating new methodologies into requirements as well as utilizing existing ones seldom used.  With the launch of the new HHS Buyers Club initiative, we are changing the way IT projects are acquired and implemented. The Buyers Club encourages program management, contracting/procurement officials, and other acquisition stakeholders to move away from antiquated IT development methodologies like waterfall – where the end product may or may not meet your user’s needs – to agile, which enables frequent user feedback through multiple iterations and a series of sprint development cycles.

So we are trying to get these new methodologies into the hands of HHS employees, and now you know how we are doing it, but you may not know why.  The reason is simple, as a government we need to modernize, we need to do things better and a new way of operating will help get us there. It’s insane to think that if we continue to do things the same way that we will get a different result – which is why we need to change the way we work.  Different operating methodologies will yield different results.  And if there is so called “failure” along the way, that should be accepted and used as a teaching moment, as a way to learn from our results and make adjustments.

If you want to just get a taste of some of the work being done, check out the video by Mindy Hangsleben on lean methodology at HHS through the HHS Entrepreneurs pathway.