June 19, 2014

Building a service-oriented agency: Lessons from the USPTO

McKinsey & Co recently published a writing by David Kappos, the former head of US Patent and Trademark Office. His approach can be very useful in the building and management of economic development organizations.

source: dilbert.com

Mr. Kappos offers 3 principles when it's about building a 21th century agency: 

#1 Seek and respond to stakeholder input
"The quality and quantity of stakeholder participation with government agencies is directly correlated to the ease of participation. (...) Recently, for the first time in its history, the agency began to study the patent-applicant pool to better understand who is using USPTO services—and who isn’t, but should be. This type of analysis and segmentation is standard practice for companies trying to better gauge customers’ needs, and is an underutilized approach in government. (...) Sometimes, of course, the agency’s response to feedback had to be, “We cannot do that, and here are the reasons, but here is what we can do to help you.” Even in those cases, the dialogue generated public confidence that the USPTO is staffed by smart, caring people who “get it.” That confidence is the highest-value currency there is for a public institution."
"The 21st-century agency will embrace the power of communities, now enabled by social networks. The USPTO was among the first US agencies to take up blogging and tweeting, hire staff skilled in social networking, and use wiki-style tools to enable stakeholders to contribute to important agency documents." 
At this point I have to remind you to my Free Resources about EDO social media marketing issues.

#2 Organize agency to serve your employees
Services need satisfied and motivated employees, but development agencies often forget about their #1 resource to deliver world-class services: their own employees.
"The USPTO’s end products are trademarks and patents (both those granted and those denied). It therefore made sense to me to restructure the agency’s management system around the workers who actually generate those end products: namely, the attorneys who examine trademarks and patents. (...) That way, everyone could come to work every day knowing that their job is to help examiners succeed."
Well, what is your development agency's end product? If we say, 'marketing actions' from events to blog posts, all your staff support the key workers who generate these end products?

#3 Develop systems and solutions in user in mind

A successful EDO-leader is mayor-oriented, and not 'user'-oriented, we know. The only question who is the User in economic development.
"Depending on the context, the user may be an employee, a contractor, an external constituency, or the general public. A user-centric approach is particularly essential in the development of IT systems, since the success of many of today’s most ambitious government projects hinge on IT components."
"I believe the 21st-century agency will eschew the fixation on cost and schedule. It will employ a third determinant, supreme over the other two: user acceptance. If the project does not meet users’ needs and expectations, it will return to its starting point."
If you have questions, do not hesitate to ask it - publicly or privately (csorjan @ businessparkinstitute.com).