State of Change – Jason Jackson profiled by ProFile Magazine

State of Change – Jason Jackson profiled by ProFile Magazine

Government bureaucracy doesn’t intimidate Jason Jackson. His background in the military and technology has taught him how to be an agent of change in virtually any situation, and he’s doing just that as the State of Nebraska’s chief human resources officer.

“What I enjoy in this role most is how visible the results of your work are in terms of impacting people’s lives,” Jackson says. “If we can make government more efficient, then we can improve services or provide tax relief through greater efficiency to our citizens.”

If that sounds like a big goal, then it’s because it is. Jackson enjoys leading major change, and his place in state government gives him that chance.

Jackson is a US Naval Academy graduate who served for five years in the US Navy, earning the Navy Achievement Medal and Navy Commendation Medal for his service in the War on Terrorism. Today, he attributes a large part of his management style to his military experience. Specifically, his time in the navy taught him how to make decisions under ambiguous circumstances.

“The military imbues leaders, out of necessity, with the ability to make informed decisions under pressure with limited data and have a personal commitment to those decisions,” Jackson explains. “You also learn to execute upon those decisions quickly and get the whole organization in line behind them.”

Making those decisions is about more than having the confidence to make them. It’s also about recognizing that failing to be decisive is more detrimental to the organization. The key, Jackson says, is simply optimizing decision-making in the time you have. Jackson is finding that skill particularly valuable in government. Bureaucracy in general, he says, has a history of perpetuating the status quo and avoiding risk.

“We’re suboptimizing our performance when we wait to have all the information rather than using our judgment to know when we have enough information to make informed decisions,” Jackson says.

The other notable lesson Jackson learned from the military is how to adapt to a number of leadership roles in a short period of time. Jackson says his navy career forced him to be a leadership generalist to a greater degree than his peers in civilian jobs were afforded.

“You go from being an engineering officer to being a combat officer to leading an IT division to being an assistant operations officer all in matter of a few years,” Jackson says.

As a result, Jackson quickly grasped how to lead diverse organizations and apply generalist leadership principles. He also learned when to defer to subject-matter experts and how to remove barriers. Those have turned out to be the building blocks of his civilian career.

Read the full article here.