Do You Love What You Do?

Po Bronson had an inspiring piece in Fast Company in 2002: What Should I Do With My Life?

People thrive by focusing on the question of who they really are — and connecting that to work that they truly love (and, in so doing, unleashing a productive and creative power that they never imagined). Companies don’t grow because they represent a particular sector or adopt the latest management approach. They win because they engage the hearts and minds of individuals who are dedicated to answering that life question.

This is not a new idea. But it may be the most powerfully pressing one ever to be disrespected by the corporate world. There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are. It comes down to a simple gut check: You either love what you do or you don’t. Period.

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GAO Report on Interagency Collaboration

GAO Published an interesting report today Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms

Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing interagency task forces. These mechanisms can be used to address a range of purposes including policy development; program implementation; oversight and monitoring; information sharing and communication; and building organizational capacity, such as staffing and training. Frequently, agencies use more than one mechanism to address an issue. For example, climate change is a complex, crosscutting issue, which involves many collaborative mechanisms in the Executive Office of the President and interagency groups throughout government.

Although collaborative mechanisms differ in complexity and scope, they all benefit from certain key features, which raise issues to consider when implementing these mechanisms. For example:

  • Outcomes and Accountability: Have short-term and long-term outcomes been clearly defined? Is there a way to track and monitor their progress?
  • Bridging Organizational Cultures: What are the missions and organizational cultures of the participating agencies? Have agencies agreed on common terminology and definitions?
  • Leadership: How will leadership be sustained over the long-term? If leadership is shared, have roles and responsibilities been clearly identified and agreed upon?
  • Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities: Have participating agencies clarified roles and responsibilities?
  • Participants: Have all relevant participants been included? Do they have the ability to commit resources for their agency?
  • Resources: How will the collaborative mechanism be funded and staffed? Have online collaboration tools been developed?
  • Written Guidance and Agreements: If appropriate, have participating agencies documented their agreement regarding how they will be collaborating? Have they developed ways to continually update and monitor these agreements?

Great by Choice

Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Jim Collins and his colleague, Morten Hansen, enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times.  The DoD, while not driven by stock prices and profits, can apply many of these findings to ensure their major programs, organizations, and enterprises can achieve spectacular, long-term results.

Reforming an Outmoded Government

Michele Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, had an interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post on Reforming an Outmoded Government.

Federal agencies typically lack the expertise and experience to transform themselves into more effective and affordable enterprises

  • With rising budgets (like the past decade), the focus tends to be on growth, not efficiency
  • Need outside help to assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify the most important avenues for change, and design and implement initiatives that will achieve results
  • Change is hard and often threatening. One person’s efficiency can break another person’s rice bowl.

Successful U.S. companies have fundamentally transformed how they do business

  • Adopted strategies to cope with a more complex, dynamic and uncertain environment
  • Delayering to streamline and empower their organizations
  • Leveraged IT to enhance performance, agility and competitiveness while reducing cost
  • Strategic investments in talent management to improve performance

Read the full piece here.

Digital Government

US CIO Steve VanRoekel just released Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.

The Digital Government Strategy sets out to accomplish three things:

  1. Enable the American people and an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.
  2. Ensure that as the government adjusts to this new digital world, we seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.
  3. Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across our Nation and improve the quality of services for the American people.

To drive this transformation, the strategy is built upon four overarching principles:

  1. An “Information-Centric” approach—Moves us from managing “documents” to managing discrete pieces of open data and content which can be tagged, shared, secured, mashed up and presented in the way that is most useful for the consumer of that information.
  2. A “Shared Platform” approach—Helps us work together, both within and across agencies, to reduce costs, streamline development, apply consistent standards, and ensure consistency in how we create and deliver information.
  3. A “Customer-Centric” approach—Influences how we create, manage, and present data through websites, mobile applications, raw data sets, and other modes of delivery, and allows customers to shape, share and consume information, whenever and however they want it.
  4. A platform of “Security and Privacy”—Ensures this innovation happens in a way that ensures the safe and secure delivery and use of digital services to protect information and privacy.

This strategy is focused on “harnessing the power of technology to help create a 21st century digital government – one that is efficient, effective and focused on improving the delivery of services to the American people.”  While this strategy is focused on citizen services, the DoD can apply many of these strategies to defense operations.  The Army CIO in particular has led the way in championing open data and common platforms.  There are tremendous innovation opportunities that can be unleashed once the core elements of a platform, data model, and culture are in place.  I encourage those in the defense community to read the Digital Government strategy and adopt within their enterprises.

Collaborative Leadership in Government

The Partnership for Public Service study Best Places to Work Snapshot: The Federal Leadership Challenge highlights: “Leadership is the most important factor when it comes to driving employee satisfaction and commitment in the federal government.” While there has been positive trends over the last decade, only 50% of government employees are satisfied with their senior leaders.

  • 48% were satisfied with the information they receive from top management about what’s going on in their organizations
  • 43%  felt their senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment
  • 46% felt personal empowerment with respect to work processes

The survey broke out leadership rankings by 30 federal agencies. The Army finished 11th (T), Navy 12th, Air Force 13th, and OSD/Joint Staff 15th.  The Top 5 were the NRC, FDIC, NASA, State, and OPM while DHS finished last.

Leaders who focus on communication and empowerment will yield significant results from their workforce.

Senior leaders – how do you communicate to your organization?  How do you share your vision, assessment of the organization, industry trends, priorities, key programs, and initiatives?  If your employees wanted to learn more about these areas, how would they go about doing so?  What about your external stakeholders?

This is where collaborative web-based tools should play a central role to enable your communication strategy, beyond your weekly staff meetings and monthly/quarterly all-hands meetings.  Public websites, internal collaboration platforms, and a suite of tools should be part of your daily operations.

  • Leaders who blog regularly can effectively communicate across their enterprise and enable employees to ask questions, provide feedback and ideas, and collaborate among each other.
  • Wikis are powerful tools enable everyone to effectively contribute to and access their collective knowledge. From drafting a simple memo to compiling an enterprise-wide knowledge repository, wikis are rapidly taking hold within business operations.
  • Collaboration sites enable discussion forums and employees to self organize into groups based on areas of interest to engage on the organization’s challenges, projects, and innovations.

Leaders should aggressively explore how these sites and tools can transform your processes, policies, and culture to get your employees more actively engaged and committed to the organization’s mission, priorities, and outcomes.