Experience Management

Thank you, ‘bureaucrats’!

When I say “bureaucrat” do you think “boring?” In celebration of Public Sector Recognition Week, let me tell you the story of a former art gallery curator and an MBA grad who have joined forces to spark creativity and innovation in government. 

When I say “bureaucrat” do you think “boring?”

Let me tell you the story of how creative government professionals are using innovation to make life better for people all over the country and around the world.  At the hub of this effort is the Innovation Lab at OPM -- a multi-disciplinary team of government employees who are experts in Design.  Led by Arianne Miller - an MBA grad with deep human capital management experience - and Sean Baker - a design strategist and former art gallery curator -- this amazing team takes on the challenge of driving deep and lasting change in government by teaching public service professionals the discipline of human-centered design (HCD).

Through HCD, the Lab helps government employees explore the root causes of complex challenges, reframe problems into opportunities for change, generate new ideas about what’s possible, test low-fidelity solutions to determine what works (and what doesn’t) and implement new solutions.  The Lab’s designers have been at the forefront of the government’s customer experience, employee experience, and human-centered design movement for nearly a decade now.  The Lab and their partners prove time and again that a design and experience management approach achieves better outcomes for people and organizations.  Thanks to them, agencies across government are adopting XM as the best way to do the hard work of serving the American people.

A few of the many outcomes the Lab has helped Federal employees and programs achieve:

  • Designing and implementing innovative hiring efforts to bring more than 30 senior Customer Experience Strategists into more than a dozen federal agencies to accelerate the transformation of the services they deliver to the public.
  • Helping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention address the opioid epidemic by designing prescriber guidelines informed by the lived experience of many different stakeholders - from patients with acute or chronic pain to patients' family members and/or caregivers, and the healthcare providers who care for patients with pain or conditions that can complicate pain management.
  • Dramatically improving the Federal applicant experience through a multi-year partnership with USAJOBS.gov
  • Reimagining the veteran's experience - from making it easier for veterans to understand and access their benefits to designing better patient experiences in VA health facilities across the country as well as care delivered remotely through Telehealth services

Best of all, these agencies, offices and teams have made significant changes to how they do their work, delivering better results while saving resources.  As teachers, coaches, and mentors, the Lab’s interdisciplinary team taps into the transformational power of people by teaching them design-led methods, developing better tools, and supporting them to try new things.

Since I’ll bet most readers of this blog have never heard of Arianne, Sean, and the rest of the Lab’s network of designers, then you know they do not get, or seek, public recognition for their work.  Like most other “bureaucrats”, they’re in it for the impact - and they achieve tangible results through persistence, patience, and a relentless focus on people.  Most importantly, they are leaving a legacy of change that will benefit generations of Americans to come.

So in the spirit of Public Service Recognition Week, I want to thank Arianne and Sean for leading the Lab, overcoming the challenges, focusing on the mission, and making our government a better place to work.  Thank you for making “customer experience” and “human-centered design” the new language of public service delivery.  And thank you for using the Lab to deliver exciting design experiences to your customers - the public service professionals who are dedicated to finding better ways to help the people they serve.

When we say “bureaucrat,” let’s think “being better” -- through innovation and creativity -- for the benefit of every American here and around the world.


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Sydney Heimbrock // PhD

Dr. Sydney Heimbrock works at the nexus of customer experience, human capital and process improvement to drive organizational transformation in government. Prior to joining Qualtrics, she helped Deloitte build Human Centered Design capabilities into its human capital and customer strategy offerings for Federal, state and local governments. As founding Executive Director of the Innovation Lab at OPM, she was an early leader in the Experience Management movement in government. She has served as the Federal government’s Chief Learning Officer, led government-wide Strategic Human Capital Management initiatives under the President’s Management Agenda, and helped developing countries build democratic institutions that provide social safety nets and fuel labor market growth. Her professional expertise includes measurement and evaluation, human centered design and design education, leading and managing creative teams, strategic foresight and workforce planning, continuous process improvement, strategic human capital management, leadership and workforce development, and public policy analysis.

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