Cultivating innovation to ignite organizational transformation
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Having graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in 1998, I found myself reassigned there two years later only to watch the same frustrating cycle of inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Classes were still being manually scheduled using 3x5 cards, the results transferred into a 1970’s mainframe for printout on 15 inch-wide computer paper, and then distributed by hand. Incoming US and international families from any of 50 countries found it difficult to locate timely orientation information. Students, faculty and staff did not have a convenient, consistent method of finding people, places or things on campus. The school’s intranet was littered with outdated, irrelevant information. And the crews of 300 warships, positioned worldwide, were hungry for 24/7 distance learning programs. Bureaucracy, fiscal pressure, excruciating oversight, and declining enrollment stifled the school’s prospects. A group of us in the technology department launched the school’s first Web Operations Group and I modeled NPS’s new website after Monterey’s weekly open-air farmer’s market. I harvested three conclusions: 1) Like the fresh produce sold every Tuesday afternoon, no one wants information that is beyond a week old; 2) The marketplace provides a secure, convenient, consistent forum in which to transact business as well as ideas; 3) The stalls with better marketing and more relevant produce or services garnered more business. I started attending NPS bi-weekly leadership meetings and asking lots of questions. With no budget, I taught myself how to use web-authoring tools, studied the government Web edicts, and leveraged my server privileges to help stakeholders communicate ideas, collaborate on research projects and partner with NPS. After collecting survey data, I pitched the final concept to school leadership, crafted the new website over Christmas break, and went live six weeks later. As a result some report processing was reduced from two days to two minutes, information resources were doubled, data clutter was reduced by 96%. The redesigned website now loaded in a third of the time and a simple, ubiquitous search tool helped people locate campus resources instantly.
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