Archive for the ‘Transition 2008’ Category

President Obama Signs Pre-Election Transition Bill

October 29, 2010

Based on lessons learned from the 2008 transition, Congress passed a bill providing additional transition planning time, money, and authorities. Public Law 111-283 (October 16, 2010).

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Transition 2008-2009 Blog Index

September 1, 2009

This is the final entry to the IBM Center’s Presidential Transition 2008-2009 blog.  Following is an index of highlights from the 275 entries over the past two and a half years we’ve been writing.

But we’re not leaving!  The IBM Center for The Business of Government is expanding its blogging, post-presidential transition.  The new blog — The Business of Government Blog — will focus on the broader themes related to the management challenges of implementing President Obama’s agenda and the governance issues facing public sector leaders.  In coming weeks, we will be adding other bloggers, but for now, you can bookmark our new landing page and start reading today.  Share this new link with your friends!

Finally, thanks to our many readers and contributors who made over 95,000 visits to the Presidential Transition 2008-2009 blog!

Blogs on “The Big Picture” — Where Is Government Reform Going?

Blogs on What the Campaigns Said About Government Reform

Blogs on the History of Transitions

Blogs on the 2008 Transition:  Pre-Election

Blogs on the 2008-2009 Transition:  Post-Election

Blogs on The Bush Administration’s Transition-Out Activities

Blogs on the Obama Transition:  The First 100 Days

Post-100 Days:  Staff Transitions and Other Actions

Blogs on Recovery Act Implementation

Blogs on Open Government Implementation

Blogs on Other New Administration Management Initiatives

Blogs on FY 2011 Budget

Blogs on Management Ideas for the New Administration

a.  Getting Results/Governance

b.  Workforce

c.  Technology/Web 2.0

d.  Managing/Improving Performance

e.  Engaging People

f.  Government Contracting

Blogs on Advice for the New Team

Blogs on What Other Groups Are Doing

Leadership Advice: Don’t Ignore Management 101

July 9, 2009

I attended an event yesterday evening billed as “What It Takes to Change Government.” Hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, it was the culmination of a nearly two-year research project supported by Booz Allen Hamilton as their public service contribution to the presidential transition effort.

Background.  The report, summarized by the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson in yesterday’s edition, set out to identify the methods and techniques of successful leaders.  The study was led by Harvard’s Steve Kelman, who studied 17 federal leaders, both successful and unsuccessful, to find out what they did different.  In the process, his research team interviewed these leaders.  In addition, they interviewed more than 250 others – public servants, OMB and GAO staffs, congressional staff, and other stakeholders — about these leaders’ performance.  The interview data were used to test 46 hypotheses (based on a review of the management literature) related to political management, leadership and internal capabilities, and strategy development.

Were successful leaders made or born?  Were external factors (e.g., luck) more important than leadership behaviors?  Is leadership more important than management?  See the academic version of the paper! 

What did they find?  The findings were not startling.  They found the basics work.  Successful leaders used similar techniques, and these techniques can be found in any Management 101 course: develop a strategic plan with a small number of goals, work proactively with stakeholders (including employees), use performance measures to assess progress and hold people accountable, and spend time managing your organization. Probably the most counter-intuitive point was:  reorganize when necessary.  Typically, public sector leaders avoid reorganizations because they are so divisive and time-consuming.

Unsuccessful leaders tended to not use these techniques.  For example, they might develop a strategic plan, but not engage employees or stakeholders.  The unanswered (and possibly unanswerable) question is:  if we know what works, why don’t people do it?

The event.  The Partnership event showcased Dr. Kelman and three former leaders interviewed during the project who were judged as “successful,” David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office, Adm. James Loy, former commandant of the Coast Guard, and Charles Rossetti, former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.   Interestingly, each headed agencies with few or no other political appointees and each had a fixed term of office. 

Each offered their insights on leadership elements, often overlapping with the findings of the report.  For example, Walker cited the importance of strategic planning, employee feedback, customer satisfaction, and quality of work.  Admiral Loy advised to look for people who are “damn good at those thinks you’re not so good at.  Whose opinion you value.  Whose counsel you trust.  Surround yourself, so to speak, with those elements that will not only strengthen your strengths, but strengthen your shortfalls.”

Interesting tidbits.  The report was well-summarized by the news media.  However, here are some interesting highlights from both the report and the event:

  • Successful agency heads had one-tenth the number of political appointees working for them than those judged as unsuccessful.
  • Unsuccessful leaders determined goals without substantial data regarding the external environment, internal capabilities, or the risks they faced.
  • The more time spent outside the agency, the less likely a leader is to succeed.  Successful leaders spent about one-half their time focused within their agency.
  • When using performance measures, unsuccessful leaders most often considered only cost and production.  Successful leaders more often added measures of customer satisfaction and quality, oftentimes based on measures developed outside their agency as a way of adding credibility.
  • Three-quarters of successful agency leaders reorganized their agencies – not because they wanted to do so, but because their agency’s existing structure hindered achieving goals.  For example, Rossetti said IRS had 16 different IT departments.  To create an interoperable IT system, he consolidated them into one.

Want more on the elements of Management 101?  Visit the IBM Center’s transition book on-line:  “The Operator’s Manual for the New Administration!”

Collaborative Governance

July 6, 2009

4th of July FireworksI spent part of my 4th of July weekend reading a new book by Beth Noveck, the White House staffer helping lead President Obama’s Open Government initiative.  The book, “Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful,” provides useful insights into both potential open government initiatives the new administration might undertake, as well as some possible underlying principles that may be reflected in the open government directive currently under development.  A quick note:  it’s not all about wikis!

She says:  ““. . . it is vital to have leaders committed to fundamentally redesigning the working of government and the relationship of government to the citizenry.”  She proposes that government institutions be dramatically redesigned, with a focus on collaborative governance that uses open technology, open standards, and innovative practices.

Distinguishing Between Representative and Collaborative Democracy.  While she advocates participative democracy (in contrast to direct democracy or representatives democracy) as an organizing principle, she makes a distinction between different types of participation: deliberative democracy and collaborative democracy.

“While both deliberation and collaboration may be group-based, deliberative democracy suffers from a lack of imagination in that it fails to acknowledge the importance of connecting diverse skills, as well as diverse viewpoints, to public policy.  Whereas diverse viewpoints might make for a more lively conversation, diverse skills are essential to collaboration.

“Deliberation measures the quality of democracy on the basis of the procedural uniformity and equality of inputs.  Collaboration shifts the focus to the effectiveness of decisionmaking and outputs.

“Deliberation requires an agenda for orderly discussion. Collaboration requires breaking down a problem into component parts that can be parceled out and assigned to members of the public and officials. . . . .

“Deliberation is focused on opinion formation and the general will (or sometimes on achieving consensus). Consensus is desirable as an end unto itself.  Collaboration is a means to an end.  Hence the emphasis is not on the participation for its own sake but on inviting experts . . . to engage in information gathering, information evaluation and measurement, and the development of specific solutions for implementation.

In the end, she notes: “Deliberation focuses on self-expression.  Collaboration focuses on participation.”

She concludes:  “If governance is thought of as a granular and focused set of practices, ways can be designed to delegate greater power to citizens to gather facts, spend money, and participate in making decisions.. . . by organizing collaboration, government keeps itself at the center of decisionmaking as the neutral arbiter in the public interest and also benefits from the contributions of those outside government.”

Putting Collaborative Democracy to Work. Later in her book, she raises ideas the Obama Administration might undertake based on collaborative governance principles, include policy “jams” and wikis, a “network braintrust” that would be a corps of experts to help develop agendas of new innovations, and creating “collaborative governance labs.”   Some of her ideas have already been put into practice, such as the President’s Open for Questions, where the public poses questions on-line that they then vote on and the highest rating questions are answered by the President.  These models are also being reflected among agencies, as well.

Related Writings.  Interestingly, I drafted a (little noticed!) white paper last year for the National Academy of Public Administration on potential directions the winning presidential candidate might take, depending on what philosophical values he or she might bring to the job.  I had noted that moving toward a more collaborative enterprise was one possibility, but that it would require developing a clear set of common purposes and developing the institutional mechanisms to engage organizations and individuals in “peer-to-peer”-types of arrangements.  It seems the Obama Administration is taking such steps.

Dr. Noveck is the only academic exploring the concept of collaborative governance.  Dr. Don Kettl’s book, “The Next Government of the United States” begins to build the case  for this approach.  In addition, Rutgers professor Charles Heckscher has explored this trend in private sector organizations.  He says that the collaborative approach challenges the values of both the hierarchical and market-based approaches to governance, but that:  “. . . . those who hold the value of democracy as primary will be dissatisfied with the collaborative model:  it does not imply equal rights to power or processes of majority rule. . .. .it does involve a radical challenge to hierarchy.” The use of power must be justified on the basis of common purpose, not position.  The collaborative model is also not the same as meritocracy, because that implies that those with the most merit rise to power.  Collaboration minimizes the concept of “position” and doesn’t have much use for the concept of general merit – it focuses instead on contribution – which is a value common among the Millennial Generation.

At this writing, the open government directive is still being drafted.  The third phase of citizen involvement, which allows citizens to draft and vote on each other’s proposals, ends today and White House staff will begin the drafting in earnest.  It’ll be interesting to see what direction they take!

Updated Index: 250th Blog Entry

July 2, 2009

This is our 250th blog entry!  Thanks to our many readers and contributors.  Here’s an updated index of the highlights of the past couple of years since we started this effort to track the 2008-2009 presidential transition effort.

Blogs on “The Big Picture” — Where Is Government Reform Going?

Blogs on What the Campaigns Said About Government Reform

Blogs on the History of Transitions

Blogs on the 2008 Transition:  Pre-Election

Blogs on the 2008-2009 Transition:  Post-Election

 Blogs on The Bush Administration’s Transition-Out Activities

Blogs on the Obama Transition:  The First 100 Days

 Post-100 Days:  Staff Transitions

Blogs on Recovery Act Implementation

Blogs on Open Government Implementation

Blogs on New Administration Management Initiatives

Blogs on Management Ideas for the New Administration

a.  Getting Results/Governance

b.  Workforce

c.  Technology/Web 2.0

d.  Managing/Improving Performance

e.  Engaging People

f.  Government Contracting

 Blogs on Advice for the New Team

Blogs on What Other Groups Are Doing

Transparency: an IT Dashboard

June 30, 2009

As promised, federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra (described by the Washington Post as “King of Geek“)  launched an “IT Dashboard” today that provides the public an accessible view of how  individual agencies in the federal government are spending their technology dollars.  Now this is transparency with a purpose!  Previously, this kind of information was available only annually, buried in an obscure table in the OMB budget (see Fiscal Year 2010 supplemental tables for an example).

Federal Computer Week reports that the website will allow users to embed charts and other information on their own websites and that agencies are responsible for updating cost, schedule, and performance information on a monthly basis.

Zients Confirmed

June 20, 2009

This entry is short enough to qualify for a Tweet!  The Senate confirmed Jeffrey Zients on Friday afternoon to be the deputy director for management at OMB, and President Obama’s chief performance officer!

The “New” Transparency

May 15, 2009

magnifyingGlassA couple weeks ago, I attended the Mercatus Center’s 10th annual ceremony releasing their assessment of how transparent agencies were in reporting their performance via their annually-required performance report under the Government Performance and Results Act. It made me think about how far the whole transparency movement has come.

Old-Style Transparency.  Federal agencies have been required to report performance information for a decade.  Several organizations, such as the Association for Government Accountants and the Mercatus Center, have been assessing the quality of these reports.  There’s been a consistent theme in their assessments over the past decade that, while there is a steady supply of performance information, that it is not being used to make decisions and the reports are not being widely read.

Traditionally, performance reporting has been seen as a top-down exercise, with an agency head annually collecting, assessing, and reporting on his or her agency’s performance to the Congress and the public.  This approach to government transparency — reporting its performance to the public — has increased dramatically over the past 15 years via annual performance plans, annual performance reports, annual financial reports, scorecards on how well programs were performing, and scorecards on agency management capacity.

New-Style Transparency.  The Obama Administration seems to have raised the bar and shifted the focus on what constitutes “transparency.”  This new world is reflected in several initiatives:

  • USASpending.gov, a website where all agencies must post their grant and contract spending.  This was enacted into law under President Bush, but the law was co-sponsored by then-Senator Obama.
  • Recovery.gov, a website where all Recovery Act spending and results are to be posted publicly.
  • Data.gov, a planned website where raw federal data sets (e.g., from the Federal Register, Census, EPA, etc.) will be posted to allow public users the ability to perform their own analyses and create their own uses for the information.

In each of these cases, the data is far more immediate.  It isn’t a pre-digested end-of-year report.  It is far more interactive, and allows both employee and citizen engagement around the interpretation and use of the data.  It takes data and its analysis out of the hands of experts and puts it into the hands of line managers and citizens.

In a way, the new transparency trend runs counter to conventional wisdom, which recommends a small number of measures, digested and interpreted for simplistic understanding.  It means less centralized data interpretation.  It is far more decentralized in terms of data availability and allows individuals the ability to conduct their own analyses and come to their own conclusions.

Challenges to Hierarchy.  But what are the implications of this new-style transparency?  By making data more widely available – even if only within the government – it will empower a wide range of users to more routinely make fact-based decisions.  This has the effect of pushing analysis and decision-making down to the front-line instead of staff offices.  This could be the beginning of a new performance agenda, which author W. David Stephenson calls “Democratizing Data.”  Support for making such data available more broadly to the public is being pushed by advocacy groups such as the Sunlight Foundation.

In addition, there will be questions raised by professional analysts about data quality and the quality of data analysis. However, Intuit and Wikipedia use this approach to gain the “wisdom of crowds” (also sometimes called “crowd sourcing”) in their businesses and the quality and accuracy of the information tends to be equivalent to that produced by professional analysts.  In any case, this may be the beginning of a new accountability structure for networked government.

Transparency: Promising Practices

May 14, 2009

If you haven’t read the GSA Intergovernmental Solutions’ Spring 2009 newsletter, it’s worth downloading and reading.  It’s about 40 pages of articles.

This issue’s theme focuses on transparency and provides a useful snapshot of where government is at.  It provides President Obama’s directive, an overview of the www.recovery.gov effort, and potential directions in coming months, such as the proposed www.data.gov site that is a vision of the new federal CIO, Vivek Kundra.

The issue also provides some examples of what other governments are doing in the transparency arena, include Texas, Georgia, and New Zealand.