Piloting Efforts

Moving forward using a pilot approach, a short duration, limited scope implementation regardless of whether multiple efforts are launched provides a number of benefits to public sector organizations. The combination of their limited impact along with the psychological benefit of being perceived as a smaller, potentially temporary change makes their use ideal in public sector organizations.

In many organizations, the lower resistance to pilots relative to changes perceived as more permanent or wide-scale is enormous. People simply tend to react better and accept the concept of pilots more readily; their inherently lower level of risk fits well with the risk averse culture that exists in many government organizations.

The reality is virtually anything can be introduced as a pilot, even large scale changes. Successful change agents in organizations have managed to push through enormous change by disarming the organization by simply labeling the effort a pilot. Certainly if the effort failed to succeed, something else would be done so in essence everything by definition fits in the category of a pilot to some degree.

Beyond a perception standpoint, pilots also often act as a mechanism for sparking innovation. By giving individuals something to react to, it fuels their creative juices and helps them envision even more ways to improve the pilot. They become embedded in the review process which in turn leads to a sense of ownership that occasionally translates into a role of champion of the changes the pilot is seeking to accomplish.

The flip side is that failure to embrace this feedback often leads to the opposite response where individuals reject the pilot because the improvements or changes they identify are never incorporated into the pilot. Incorporating the feedback from individuals represents a great mechanism for securing buy-in to a concept. One federal organization recently deployed a new knowledge management (KM) program to a skeptical workforce using a pilot approach. With little organizational KM capability and a lack of understanding of what to really focus on, the organization launched multiple pilots and solicited feedback. One pilot seemed to almost instantly institutionalize itself across the organization based on the fervor with which the pilot participants used and promoted it. The organization then put more investment into it and similar types of KM capabilities.