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Reform is a part of life in the U.S. and many other countries around the world. Over the last few years, various reform issues have been the center of discussion in Washington – financial reform, health care reform, immigration reform, and cyber reform, just to name a few. Last week, during the State of the Union, President Obama highlighted at least 10 types of reform he would like to pursue over the next year and used the word reform no less than 12 times, compared with 15 times in 2013 and eight times in 2012. While such reforms will undergo substantial political debate, the sheer volume of proposals is indicative of a notable trend in the U.S. (see figure): an increase in the volume, variety and velocity of reform.
This uptick over time is largely due to the increased complexity of our society – from technology, innovation, and the global economy to the changing nature of threats. The public expects government to be able to keep up with private sector advances. For example, companies create complicated financial instruments or intricate electronic networks that lead to the need for new rules. Reform, when successfully carried out, should simplify and improve the way we live.
Society expects rapid response to problems, reform solutions that work, and transparency throughout the process. Once the political debate is over, government agencies charged with implementing reform must not only effectively communicate changes amongst themselves, but also with industry and the public, using an array of social, mobile, and other technology platforms. The public consequences of errors can have major negative effects on the entire overhaul.
We should no longer approach reform implementation as episodic; it has become continuous, with overlapping timeframes and requirements. In this State of the Union address a wide variety of far-reaching reforms were addressed for this year alone, including tax reform, patent reform, immigration reform, defense budget reform, voting reform, and job training reform.
The reform game has changed in recent years – there is more to do in a more complex world with more eyes than ever on reform. Implementing these changes seems overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be an opportunity for government agencies to seize the opportunity to shine, and for corporations to create competitive advantage in the new reality and excel.