chapter concludes by laying out a vision of government in which information technology (IT) has transformed the service-delivery process.
Organizations and individuals in organizations make decisions about the technologies that they will design and deploy for a variety of reasons, some stemming from the organizational culture. This section discusses some potential impediments in the realm of organizational culture to an effective transformation of the SSA’s service-delivery strategy. To be sure, some of these potential impediments, including a cautious approach and instincts to preserve the status quo, are inherent in any large organization and especially in government organizations. Nonetheless, such impediments present a particular challenge when an organization reaches a critical juncture such as the one that faces the SSA now.
Organization and organizational culture—especially as they relate to structure, decision-making processes, approaches to problem solving, service provision, change management, and so on—are significant determiners of the success of any large organization’s attempt to make fundamental and critical changes. By “cultural issues,” the committee is referring to a combination of history, leadership, existing social and political relationships, overarching regulations and rules, and existing operational procedures that determine or influence the agency’s activities and ways of doing business.
The experience of industries such as the financial services industry demonstrates that development, deployment, and integration of electronic services entail just such critical and fundamental change. Culture has an effect at all stages and in all components of any path forward in this area. Thus, the committee has examined relevant SSA cultural issues in order to ensure a more complete and well-rounded report and a more relevant and realistic set of recommendations.
To provide a historical context and a variety of perspectives, this section draws on presentations and discussions from meetings of the committee, the findings of previous National Research Council reports, General Accounting Office (GAO; now Government Accountability Office) reports and testimonies before Congress, and various consultants’ reports. Together, these sources provide strong evidence that organizational culture has been a challenge to past attempts to improve electronic services provision at the SSA. Moreover, despite these previous findings, the organizational culture does not seem to have changed or evolved as quickly as it could (or should) have.