Business of Government Blog Index

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Following is an index of blog entries between the start, September 1, 2009, and the end of April 2010, organized around some major themes:

Web 2.0 and Social Media

Launching the BizGov Blog (09-01-09)

Blogs as Public Policy Forums (09-02-09)

Cloud Forecasting: A New Report (11-12-09)

Social Media Trends for Government in 2010 (11-25-09)

Gov/Web 2.0 Predictions for 2010 (01-06-10)

Virtual USA and Web 2.0 (03-19-10)

Middle Managers in a Web 2.0 World (03-31-10)

Using GIS to Increase Citizen Engagement (04-16-10)

Open and Transparent Government

What Do You Do With 110,000 Data Sets? (09-04-09)

New Transparency: Recovery.Gov (09-30-09)

Open Government: Implementation Guidance from OMB (12-09-09)

Implementing the Open Government Directive (12-15-09)

The Open Government Dialogue (Agencies launch 5-week effort) (02-09-10)

Making Sense of Open Gov Dialogues (02-10-10)

Virtual USA and Web 2.0 (03-19-10)

Congressional Transparency Caucus Formed (03-25-10)

Open Gov Plans Countdown (04-02-10)

Open Gov Plans Released, And . . . (04-09-10)

Scorecarding Agency Open Gov Plans (04-27-10)

HUD’s Open Gov Plan Focuses on Mission (05-05-10)

Collaboration

Using Czars to Govern (09-11-09)

Creating Spirit Communities (09-30-09) (based on book by Rosabeth Kantor)

The OMB Prize Memo (03-09-10)

Harnessing Informal Networks (03-10-10)

Virtual USA and Web 2.0 (03-19-10)

Passionate About Collaboration (04-23-10)

Citizen Participation

Blogs as Public Policy Forums (09-02-09)

Citizen Participation: An Update (09-15-09)

Using Crowdsourcing in Government (09-16-09)

Engaging Citizens in Oversight (09-22-09)

Citizen Engagement Newsletter by GSA (10-01-09)

On-Line Town Halls (10-26-09) Congressional Management Foundation Study

Citizen Participation: Other Countries Are Stepping Out (12-07-09)  UK and Australian Initiatives

Redefining the Role of Citizen in a Gov 2.0 World (02-04-10)

Using GIS to Increase Citizen Engagement (04-16-10)

Congress and Citizen Engagement (04-22-10)

Government Performance

The New Obama Performance Team (09-25-09)

Jump-Starting Performance Management (09-28-09) (Senator Carper Hearing)

Priorities and Principles for Performance (10-06-09) (OMB’s Zients Debute)

New Senate Task Force on Performance (10-23-09)

OMB’s New Performance Principles (10-29-09) (Zients’ Senate Budget Testimony)

More on the Senate Performance Hearing (10-30-09)

Data-Driven Performance: Senate Budget Hearing (12-11-09)

Happy Birthday GPRA! (12-16-09) by Jonathan Breul

Performance Reporting: Rhetoric vs. Reality (12-18-09) by Jonathan Breul

Using Performance Measures (12-22-09)

Managing Performance: A Series (12-23-09)

Model 1:  Performance Administration (12-24-09)

Model 2:  Siloed Performance Systems (12-28-09)

Model 3:  Performance Management Framework (12-29-09)

Model 4:  Performance Governance (12-30-09)

Obama’s FY 2011 Management Initiatives (02-02-10)

Obama’s Stealth Management Revolution (02-11-10)

The OMB Prize Memo (03-09-10)

Key National Indicators Are Now Real (03-23-10)

IRMCO 2010 (04-12-10) by Jonathan Breul (conference panel examining Obama Administration management initiatives)

Workforce and Employee Engagement

Federal  Jobs:  A New Era (09-03-09)

Recognizing Civil Servants (09-18-09)

Ask Employees How to Fix It, Part I (09-17-09)

ISO Good Ideas:  Ask Employees, Part II (09-23-09)

Governing by Suggestion Box (10-20-09)

Dealing with Poor Performers (10-16-09)

Motivating Workers (01-04-10)

Chances to Innovate (01-08-10)

Managing Guerrilla Employees (02-12-10)

Balancing Innovation, Risk, and Control (03-03-10)

How Leaders Make a Difference (03-04-10)

Middle Managers in a Web 2.0 World (03-31-10)

Mocking Public Service (04-29-10)

Labor-Management Forums and Performance (05-04-10)

Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform Implementation (Part 1)  (11-30-09)

Health Care Reform Implementation (Part 2) (12-03-09)

Doing Big Things in Government (12-01-09)

Sustaining Health Care Reform (12-02-09)

But will it work? (03-29-10) by Jonathan Breul

Implementing Health Care Reform (04-26-10)

Recovery Act

Engaging Citizens in Oversight (09-22-09)

New Transparency: Recovery.Gov (09-30-09)

Recovery Act: Shifting Mindsets (11-06-09)

Recovery Act Reporting (02-15-10)

Research Topic 2: Implementing the Recovery Act (02-24-10)

Implementing the Recovery Act: The Blog (03-17-10)

Contract Reform

The Insourcer’s Apprentice: OMB’s Jeff Liebman (10-8-09)

Out- and In-Sourcing: True Confessions (11-11-09)

Bottom-Up Procurement Reform (10-13-09)

OMB: Trying a Change in Tone to Collaborating with Agencies (10-22-09)

Acquisition 2.0:  OMB’s Latest Acquisition Guidance (10-28-09)

Signs of Procurement Revolution (11-24-09)

Obama Procurement Agenda (03-12-10)

Program Evaluation and Use of Analytics

New OMB Program Evaluation Guidance (10-07-09)

Davenport:  Make Better Decisions (10-27-09)

Risky Business:  What is Enterprise Risk Management? (10-15-09)

Financial Management

Fiscal Sanity: Lessons from Around the World (12-08-09) by Jonathan Breul

FY 2009 Financial and Performance Reports (12-10-09) by Jonathan Breul

Debt Commission in the FY 2011 Budget? (01-04-10) by Jonathan Breul

Fiscal Summit and America’s Fiscal Challenges (05-06-10)

Presidential Transition, the First Year

Link to the IBM Center’s Presidential Transition Blog, 2008-2009

Falling Behind on Appointments (09-24-09)

Searching for a New Comptroller General (12-14-09) by Jonathan Breul

Improving the Presidential Transition (01-12-10) by Michael Keegan

TWOFER (two new reports: Assessment of Presidential Transition and Fiscal Future) (01-14-10) by Jonathan Breul

Leadership Matters (Rajiv Shah, USAID, and Haiti Earthquake) (01-15-10)

Lessons on Reform

Lessons of Reinvention (09-07-09)

Dispatch from Saudi Arabia (11-2-09) an International Conference on Public Administration

Reinventing Saudia Arabia (11-03-09)

Saudi Conference: Lessons for Us (11-05-09)

Recovery Act: Shifting Mindsets (11-06-09)

Calling on Corporate Leaders: Now vs. Then (White House CEO Forum on Modernizing Government) (01-19-10)

Finding Bright Spots (01-25-10)

Doing What Works (a new initiative by the Center for American Progress) (02-18-10)

Why Execution Stalls (03-08-10)

Modernizing Government: Forum Results (03-24-10)

Australian Management Reform (04-06-10)

White House Management Advisory Board (04-21-10)

Agency Transformation

HUD Transformation Initiative (01-12-10)

HUD’s Open Gov Plan Focuses on Mission (05-05-10)

Veterans Affairs: “Transformation 21″ and Beyond (01-21-10)

Public Management Research

Framing a Public Management Research Agenda (02-22-10)

Topic 1: Performance Improvement and Analysis (02-23-10)

Topic 2: Implementing the Recovery Act (02-24-10)

Topic 3: Federal Contracting and Acquisition (02-25-10)

Topic 4: Technology, Transparency, and Participatory Democracy (02-26-10)

A High Performance Government (04-13-10) Volcker’s new reform campaign

Oversight

Engaging Citizens in Oversight (09-22-09)

Searching for a New Comptroller General (12-14-09) by Jonathan Breul

Final Four to lead the GAO? (03-22-10) by Jonathan Breul

Congressional Transparency Caucus Formed (03-25-10)

5 (not just 4) names to be Comptroller General (03-26-10) by Jonathan Breul

Deperately Seeking a Watchdog (04-05-10) by Jonathan Breul

Conversations with Leaders and The Business of Government Magazine

The Business of Government Magazine: Fall 2009 (12-09-09) by Michael Keegan

Conversation on Human Service Delivery in New York City (02-05-10) by Michael Keegan

Allen, Thad (12-11-09)  by Michael Keegan

Childs, Robert (12-29-09) by Michael Keegan

Clancy, Carolyn (02-01-10) by Michael Keegan

Fauci, Anthony (12-10-09) by Michael Keegan

Fugate, Craig (02-17-10) by Michael Keegan

Hunter, Christine (01-08-10) by Michael Keegan

Thompson, Alan (01-06-10) by Michael Keegan

Triay, Ines (01-23-10) by Michael Keegan

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Fiscal Summit and America’s Fiscal Challenges

Was it a parade of stars or a suicide mission?  Last week I attended a one-day wonk fest on the country’s long term fiscal outlook, the “2010 Fiscal Summit.”  It offered a rainy forecast, with possible thundershowers and occasional tornados.  It was organized by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which is dedicated to educating the public about the looming fiscal decisions our country needs to make.

Participants included political and news media rock stars:  Bill Clinton, Bob Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, Alice Rivlin, Peter Orzag, Leslie Stahl, Bob Schieffer, Gwen Ifill, and of course Peter G. Peterson and David Walker (who heads the Foundation).

The Foundation has been trying to put a spotlight on the nation’s increasing fiscal challenges in recent years, with documentaries such as “IOUSA.” But in recent months, it has been promoting the need to come to some decisions.  The recent creation of President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka The Deficit Commission) – which is to offer solutions by the end of the year – created an opportunity to showcase the importance of the need to act soon (after the Fall election, of course).  The co-chairs of the commission – Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson – participated along with several members of the commission.

Defining Success.  Simpson referred to the commission’s work as a “suicide mission” and that he held out hopes that “we may only move the ball a yard.”  However Bowles observed that success may well be at least educating the American people of the nature of the choices we face so they’ll put pressure on their elected officials to act.  He observed that “we need to develop citizen trust and confidence that this is not for political gain but to solve a problem.”  Both he and Simpson think that “we need a set of facts and figures that everyone agrees on, as a starting point.”  A low bar, but President Obama says he’ll support whatever the Commission agrees to!

Management Matters.  While most of the conversation centered on more taxes and fewer services, former President Clinton and OMB Director Orzag both offered a different path. Clinton said that we are facing the typical problems of every maturing society.  Once a society becomes successful, it becomes rigid and obsessed with security – economic, social, and defense – and these rigidities need to be overcome.

He observed that our current education, health care, financial, energy, defense, and tax systems are all rigid, highly inefficient delivery systems.  He says we have to dramatically change the way we deliver services in each of these systems.  He observed “Congress understands the problem but isn’t organized to deal with it.”  He thinks one option might be to create a super committee that over a two-year period puts in place the changes needed to deal with the long-term deficit problem.

Orzag focused specifically on the inefficiencies in the health care system, saying it is the biggest driver of the deficit.  He hopefully offered that the new legislation creates several institutions that will begin to shift the entire system from paying for the quantity of services to paying for the quality of services.  How these new institutions are stood up – the Medicare Advisory Board, the Payments Advisory Board, and the Innovation Center – will determine the success of these efforts.

Resources.  There are lots of places trying to market the facts and figures, and some solutions, but they don’t seem to be getting traction among the general public:

Next Steps. The Summit ended with a concrete step towards creating grassroots political attention (beyond the Tea Party) with the announcement of a simultaneous 20-city citizen dialogue on ways to fix long term fiscal challenges. The goal is to create “a shared sense of urgency,” noted Walker.

Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones selected to participate in one of these town meetings on June 26th (the Saturday before the 4th of July weekend!).  And in the meanwhile, the Deficit Commission plans monthly meetings through the end of the year.

HUD’s Open Gov Plan Focuses on Mission

The Collaboration Project hosted a “lessons learned” forum last week on how agencies developed their Open Government Plans.  I was particularly impressed with what the presenter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development said, so I dug a bit further and read its plan (or its exec sum). The presenter, Stan Buch, said the department initially approached the effort from a more tactical perspective — as a technology initiative — but quickly saw it as a strategic effort to help transform how the department achieves its mission goals.

As a result, the department is creating a program management office to spearhead its Open Government efforts, and it will operate under the department’s new chief operating officer, Estelle Richman.  It’ll have working groups focused on technology, culture, and policy, in addition to specific mission-related initiatives.

More significantly, it has tied its Open Government initiatives into its department-wide strategic planning efforts and its “high priority goals” that are featured in the President’s budget.  Specifically, it has identified a series of “bureaucracy busting” flagship initiatives, such as:

  • Establish an innovation lab to explore ways to use mobile technology (i.e., cell phones) to provide better information to public housing residents – whether it is emergency information or the ability to provide on-the-spot resolution to problems.
  • Proactively allocate homeless prevention aid to communities based on predictive analytics.  HUD plans to use data sets from throughout the government to build predictive models and map-based visualizations of communities that may be at risk of increased homelessness. The data will be used to forestall potential waves of homelessness due to increased foreclosures, business bankruptcies that might wipeout pensions, etc.
  • Build and host an on-line business practices exchange for non-profit housing providers to share ideas with each other.  Helping community-based non-profits with tools, guidance, and connecting with each other will allow them to become “force multipliers” in their own communities, without the direct involvement of HUD.

HUD’s plan has gotten external recognition, as well.  The non-profit OpenTheGovernment’s assessment of agency Open Government Plans ranked HUD second only to top-ranked NASA.

Have you seen instances where other agencies have used their Open Government initiatives to leverage outcome-oriented, mission-related strategic initiatives?

Key National Indicators Are Now Real

Almost three years ago, I blogged on the need for a Key National Indicator System so we, as a nation, could track our progress using data, not diatribe.  It’s happened.  A provision buried on page 1,489 of the health insurance reform bill makes it real!

The legislation creates a bipartisan commission to oversee the development and implementation of a Key National Indicator System by the National Academies of Science. Congress has 30 days to appoint the 8 members of the commission.

The National Academies can partner with an independent non-profit entity – such as the State of the USA – or it can develop the Indicator System itself.  The project is appropriated $70 million, through fiscal year 2018, to develop and maintain the Indicator System.

This effort was launched in 2003 by then-comptroller general David Walker when he headed the Government Accountability Office.  He, and others, hope that providing an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental source of information about how well our country is doing will help provide a factual basis for policy decisions, and hopefully moderate ideological approaches to deciding on nation’s future.  As GAO puts it: “A well-informed nation is an essential component of a healthy democracy.”

More importantly for the performance world, it could also serve as a solid foundation for creating a more results-oriented approach to governing!

Obama Procurement Agenda

In its first year, the Obama contracting and procurement reform agenda has been heavy on executive orders and memos to “rein in” contractors.  These were largely in response to campaign commitments and led to a flurry of activity in agencies.

But now the new administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Dan Gordon, has been in office for 100 days.  Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller, reports that Gordon told the Coalition for Government Procurement that they shouldn’t expect large-scale statutory or regulatory changes to the procurement system, but that he identified three priorities he plans to emphasize:

  • Reviewing whether there are too many multiple awards schedules.
  • Revamping the definition of functions considered inherently governmental.
  • Increasing the use of strategic sourcing by agencies, where agencies band together to use their purchasing power to buy commodities – such as paper, copiers, and printers — at a discount.

Harnessing Informal Networks

Another Harvard Business Review article in the March 2010 issue is worth highlighting.  A piece by Richard McDermott and Douglas Archibald examines informal and formal networks in companies, such as Fluor and ConocoPhillips, but their insights are relevant to public agencies as well.  And they may be helpful to the Obama Administration’s efforts to create its proposed set of “problem solving networks.”

Background.  “Independent, off-the-grid communities have proliferated in recent years, and many companies have counted on them to deliver creative solutions to challenges that bridge functional gaps,” note McDermott and Archibald.  It was believed that “Too much attend from management . . .would crush the group’s collaborative nature.”  But in fact, these bottom-up communities of practice have been dying in many companies.  In part, this was because new technologies made the information-sharing that went on in these forums far more pervasive and “The community started to feel less intimate, and its members, less obligated to their peers.”  As a result, communities often dissolved.

However, the authors found in their research that communities of practice aren’t dead, but they differ significantly from their earlier predecessors: “Today, they’re an actively managed part of the organization, with specific goals, explicit accountability, and clear executive oversight.”

Strategically Creating Communities.  McDermott and Archibald identified four principles that govern the design and integration of effective communities that are sponsored by their home organizations:

  • Focus on issues important to the organization.  For example, the UN country team in India created a set of 12 communities in a “Solution Exchange”, comprised of people from government and non-governmental agencies.  It cuts across institutional barriers and allows people to connect regardless of where they are. 
  • Establish community goals and deliverables.  “Explicit goals make communities operate more like teams on a day-to-day level, but community goals differ from team goals in that they’re tied to long-term needs,” note the authors.
  • Provide real governance.  Companies often appoint a senior manager to sponsor each community.
  • Set high management expectations.  “Senior managers’ sponsorship is useless if they’re not genuinely engaged with the communities.”  Oftentimes, community participation drops when new leaders are less engaged than the original sponsors.

Maximizing a Community’s Impact.  According to McDermott and Archibald, organizations can increase the operational effectiveness of communities by:

  • Setting aside time for employees to participate in communities
  • Training community leaders for their roles
  • Holding face-to-face events
  • Using simple IT tools

How do communities differ from teams?  Communities tend to be around for the long-term, being the keepers of knowledge or professional discipline.  Teams, on the other hand, focus on specific deliverables.  Community leaders do not have authority over their members, and communities tend to be more inclusive than exclusive.  Teams, on the other hand, tend to be focused on solving a specific problem and then disband.

The Obama Administration plans to expand the use of existing problem solving networks.  Do you know of existing networks that it should be included in its effort?

The OMB Prize Memo

OMB deputy director for management ,Jeff Zients, released a 12-page memo, “Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government.”

Jason Miller, of Federal News Radio, reports that this memo expands on a commitment made in President Obama’s FY 2011 budget and extends the pilots of the OMB SAVE award competition and several other pilots conducted by agencies last year.  It is now a federal policy to use challenges and prizes as a way of spurring innovation.

Agencies will need to designate someone to run the prize and challenge initiatives for their agencies, and there will be a cross-agency “community of practice” of agency staff to support, design, and manage prizes.

The Administration says it will make available a web-based platform for prizes and challenges by mid-July for agencies’ use.  The memo notes: “. . .a prize should not be an end in itself, but one means within a broader strategy for spurring change.”  It offers six examples of potential prizes.

The memo also identifies some potential legal authorities under which agencies create prizes, in addition to the potential use of existing grants and cooperative agreements.  The memo also says that “An agency without explicit prize authority . . . “ may be able to do so under the “’necessary expense’ doctrine” but that they should consult first with their agency counsel!

This won’t be easy, though.   It goes on to discuss the importance of Federal Advisory Committee Act compliance and ethical issues, and cautions against the federal endorsement of products or services, violating intellectual property rights, complying with the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Privacy Act, etc.

So, in the end, “If you have any questions regarding this memorandum, please direct them to opengov@omb.eop.gov!  Or check with your friendly agency general counsel!