Business of Government Blog Index

The Business of Government Blog has moved to a new address, as of May 10.  Please visit us in our new location at:  http://www.businessofgovernment.org/blogs/the-business-of-government

Please re-set your RSS feed to the new blog site address, as well. . . .

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

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?

Labor-Management Forums and Performance

Some things can move fast in bureaucracies!  President Obama signed Executive Order 13522, “Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services,” in early December to resurrect the labor-management partnerships from the Clinton era. OMB guidance on developing agency implementation plans came out a few weeks later.  To date, a national council has been created – and held substantive meetings – and 50 agencies have submitted plans to the Council on how they are going to implement the Order.  The Council reviewed the plans last month and sent half of them back for revisions, which are due later this week.

The E.O. is framed around an appealing premise: “Federal employees and their union representatives are an essential source of front-line ideas and information about the realities of delivering Government services to the American people.”   The forums are to be “nonadversarial” and comprised of managers, employees, and employees’ union representatives.

OMB guidance also clarifies that the effort is intended to focus the role of these forums on achieving measurable results that align with agencies’ missions and strategic goals.

What is in the E.O.? The E.O. says agencies will work with unions to:

  • Establish, or adapt, existing department- or agency-level labor-management forums (LMFs) “at appropriate levels in their organizations.
  • Allow employees and their union representatives to have pre-decisional involvement in workplace matters “to the fullest extent practicable.”
  • Evaluate and document changes in employee satisfaction, manager satisfaction, and organizational performance resulting from LMFs
  • Develop written implementation plans, which were due March 9th..

These plans are expected to describe:

  • the process the Agency will undertake to design and implement LMFs at appropriate levels within the Agency;
  • the process the LMF will undertake to develop a limited number of mission-linked or process-improving performance goals;  and
  • a plan for developing Agency and/or bargaining unit-specific metrics to monitor progress toward these goals and performance trends in key areas such as labor-management satisfaction, productivity gains, cost savings, and other measures as identified by the relevant LMF participants.

What Are Some of the Best Practices Related to Performance?

The Council has identified some best practices related to improving agency performance, to date. For example:

  • In the area of mission-linked or process-improving performance goals, the Department of Education says it will adopt metrics from the 2008 federal human capital survey and identify mission and process goals after receiving input from lower level forums and joint work groups.
  • Veterans Affairs says it will use annual employee survey and labor-management collaboration to develop metrics.
  • the National Credit Union Administration is the first national partnership agreement under the new EO .  In it, all parties have  agreed to bargain over “(b)(1)” issues (which define the scope of bargaining), regarding the methods and means of performing work.

Probably one of the best plans so far is the one developed by the Department of Homeland Security.  Its plan establishes a good overall framework for engagement and commits to conducting a baseline assessment of the Department’s labor-management relations by September 2010.

What’s Next?

Agencies will need to submit a report on their progress by the end of the year.  The E.O. sunsets in December 2011, so there is pressure on all sides to demonstrate its value in contributing to measurable progress toward improving government services!

Have you heard anything in your agency about the forums?

Passionate About Collaboration

Collaboration is one of the key elements of President Obama’s signature Open Government Initiative.  However, federal agencies’ Open Government Plans don’t seem to address it very well.   But collaboration expert Russ Linden says “collaboration is vital, difficult, and learnable.”  And he’s written a book that makes all three of these points.

If you, like many other in government, think collaboration is becoming a critical part of your being successful, his “how to” book is worth reading.  In “Leading Across Boundaries,” Linden draws on two decades of insights, noting:

“Most people in Western countries have two fundamental needs that must be met if they are to be effective in the workplace.  These needs are (1) to be competent (and respected as such) and (2) to belong, to connect to something larger than themselves.

 

“These two needs are expressed in four questions that most team members ask (not necessarily out loud):

 

  1. Do I have something to contribute that is needed, recognized, and used by the team?
  2. Are we working on a project that is important to me and my own organization?
  3. Are we making progress: do we have a reasonable chance for success?
  4. How will this project support or threaten any of my core needs or interests (and those of my home organization)?”

 

He goes on to observe that when team members can answer these positively, that there’s a greater chance for collaborative behavior in the team, and that collaboration is a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

It’s Vital. Linden illustrates how a collaborative mindset is vital with the story of Hurricane Katrina, where FEMA director Michael Brown thought his job was to manage FEMA and couldn’t control other agencies outside his span of control.  In contrast, his successor, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, saw his role as coordinating a huge network of agencies.  He did this by emphasizing transparency of information a ongoing communications.

It’s Difficult.  Linden covers all the tough parts of doing collaboration:  how do you create and sustain trust among the group’s members?  How do you share information?  How do you navigate the different organizational cultures that may be involved in a collaboration (for example, how do you. blend law enforcement and social workers on the same team)?  And how do you deal with difficult people?  He notes that “collaboration inevitably requires negotiation, give and take, and compromise.  Each is easier in the context of a trusting relationship.”  But you often face “huge egos, empire builders, information hoarders, and cultures that reinforce them.”  He offers examples, and techniques to help overcome these difficulties.

It’s Learnable.  The most encouraging part of Linden’s book is that collaborative mindsets are learnable.  He offers key collaborative factors (such as ensuring the appropriate people are at the table).  He defines the tasks and roles of champions and sponsors.  He offers tools and techniques.  He describes strategies for establishing commitment to a project.  And most importantly, he does all of this by using real-life case examples and not theory.  These examples are federal, state, local, non-profit and international in scope.  These include examples of co-locating operations, such as state fusion centers, and the use of data-driven approaches, such as Washington State’s GMAP initiative.

And why is Russ Linden passionate about collaboration?   He concludes his book with: “I am convinced that a collaborative mindset is the leadership characteristic most critical for dealing with the networked world of the twenty-first century.”  I agree!

White House Management Advisory Board

On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order creating a new White House advisory board to be populated by corporate executives who will provide cutting-edge best management practices to their government counterparts.

As noted by Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky, “The President’s Management Advisory Board will provide the White House and the President’s Management Council with strategic advice on matters related to federal productivity, technology and customer service.”  This advice will be largely directed to the existing President’s Management Council, comprised primarily of the deputy secretaries of the major federal departments.

The executive order says that the 18 members of the board, which will be chaired by Jeff Zients, the government’s Chief Performance Office, will be:

“ . . . appointed by the President from among distinguished citizens from outside the Federal Government who are qualified on the basis of a proven record of sound judgment in leading or governing large, complex, or innovative private sector corporations or entities and a wealth of top-level business experience in the areas of executive management, audit and finance, human resources and compensation, customer service, streamlining operations, and technology.”

This Board is one of a series of recommendations stemming from a January summit of corporate CEOs the White House sponsored.

The General Services Administration will host the Board, and there will be a full-time career executive director appointed.  The Board was granted a two-year lifespan.

As noted in an earlier blog posting, it might be an interesting idea to turn to employees for ideas, as well.  The Administration has created an initiative to support innovation awards and contests.  But it might also consider something like the Australians, who are creating a cadre of their top 200 career senior executives who would serve as resources to their version of the President’s Management Council to lead government-wide management reform initiatives.  Linking this cadre with the members of the advisory board could create an interesting dynamic, and the board’s executive director could then have a really fun job!

A High Performance Government

Paul Volcker, Indefatigable Government Reformer

While Jonathan Breul is attending the IRMCO Conference in Cambridge, Maryland, I’m attending the annual conference of the American Society for Public Administration in San Jose, California.  I understand it’s sunny in Cambridge. . . it’s rainy in San Jose!

Today, Paul Volcker delivered the Elliot Richardson lecture and during the course of his presentation, he said he was personally funding a new public service reform effort that he calls a “Campaign for a High Performance Government.”  Now, Mr. Volcker – a former head of the Fed and currently an economic adviser to President Obama – has already chaired two commissions dedicated to improving public service.  The first, in 1987, was formally called “The National Commission on Public Service,” but informally called “The Volcker Commission.”  It issued its final report in 1989 with recommendations to improve the public service: “Leadership for America: Rebuilding the Public Service.” (if you know of a link to the actual report, please provide it in the comment section!)

The second, in 2001, bore the same name and issued a report in 2003 entitled: “Urgent Business for America: Revitalizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century.”  (thanks to Trey for the link).

He has felt neither of the earlier efforts led to sufficient reforms, so this third try will inventory the status of the public service, document the need for action, and identify steps for reform – such as cutting layers of management, streamlining the political appointment process, and slashing the number of political appointees (all of which were recommendations in the earlier reports).  He says this effort will also include an extensive outreach campaign to educate the public on the need for action.

Mr. Volcker says this project will be centered at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University under the direction of Paul Light and Hannah Sistare.  He also said that the NYU team would like to collaborate with other groups that share their urgency on the need to act.