Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for March 7th, 2009

Federal News Radio 1500 AM Book Club: “What Would Google Do?” coming up on Friday

leave a comment »

Just a reminder that you still have a few days to read Jeff Jarvis’s “What Would Google Do?” which is the Federal News Radio Book Club book for March.

First, the details:

3125936268_d71b8a90a1_oOur discussion will take place Friday, March 13 on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s In Depth with Francis Rose at 2p ET.
In addition to Rose and myself, we will be talking to Jarvis… also joining the discussion will be Frank DiGiammarino, the vice president of strategic initiatives for the National Academy of Public Administration and one of the creators of the National Academy’s Collaboration Project.

The Federal News Radio Book Club is something akin to the Oprah book club — but we talk about books that help feds do their jobs better. So unlike other book clubs, our “meetings” take place on the radio — Federal News Radio 1500 AM. And we’d love to hear your thoughts about the book, questions that you’d like to raise, ideas that you think worked for you — and ones that didn’t. You can send Rose or me a message … or even better, share your on our Facebook page for this edition of the Federal News Radio Book Club, where other people can share your thought and ideas.

Second, some pre-reading…

If you don’t have time to read the book, you can listen to our conversation with Jarvis on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris . But you can read the Cliff Notes version — the Jan. 29 issue of BusinessWeek magazine ran excerpts of the book — including excerpts of the section on government headlined The United States of Google.

But BusinessWeek also featured a “What Would Google Do?” management tip sheet.

Among the principles that Jarvis outlines in his book:

* give up control;
* get out of the way;
* make mistakes well.

These three are particularly useful for government — they are almost directly applicable to government management — and will be particularly challenging.

* Give up control

Jarvis argues that Google doesn’t try to be everything for everybody. To the contrary, it tries to link to everybody. Government agencies tend to want to control the information. They get concerned about people misinterpreting the information that is presented. These days, people don’t want to be controlled. They want to search for the information they want — they want to Google it — and that means giving up control of the data.

* Get out of the way

This is related to giving up control, but too often, agencies feel that they have to do everything. It isn’t true. And there are two illustrations of that: The District of Columbia’s remarkable Apps for Democracy program … but then there was also the Environmental Protection Agency. Jeremy Ames of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division came up with the idea of holding a contest for radon public service announcement videos. Rather then contracting it out, people submitted their own videos — and the results were remarkable. But just as powerful, the video initiative spurred people impacted by radon gas to form their own social network outside of EPA. Essentially, the EPA got out of the way. And it all started with a video. Simple, but powerful.

* Make mistakes well

This is one of the most difficult aspects for agencies — and the most disconcerting currently. The government is terrible at making mistakes. Nobody tolerates them — not Congress, not those involved with oversight… not even the press. It has created a ultra-conservative culture that is intolerant of any change and innovation. What would Google do? Beta test everything. G-mail is still in beta, for goodness sake. That is largely because they are still making changes. CEO Jeff Bezos was recently on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show and he was talking about the ability to make mistakes and how important it is to the culture of that company. Specifically, he pointed to Amazon’s attempt at auctions, which failed. But he noted that Amazon now has a successful business selling with third-party vendors. That business would have never come about without the auction failure. Make mistakes well.

I think you will enjoy the book and it will help you see things in different ways — agree or disagree with what it says. I’d love to hear both. What ideas work in government — and which done — and why?

I hope you’ll join us on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s InDepth with Francis Rose on Friday, March 13 at 2p ET.

Written by cdorobek

March 7, 2009 at 9:32 PM

FOSE week: Causey on benefits… Web 2.0 and intel… and my panel: Goverment 2.0: Evolutions or Revolution

leave a comment »

fose2008largeIt’s the big FOSE trade show next week. Despite a rough year and questions about how many people will be there, FOSE still is the only place where the government IT community comes together as a community — and that’s important. I’ll be interested to see how crowded it is. (One vendor told me thatFOSE would not release the number of people registered.)

Regardless, I’ll be there.

Three events worth attending… Rock star Mike Causey’s benefits forum… AFFIRM’s session on Web 2.0 and intel… and my panel, Government 2.0: Evolution or Revolution.

Here are the details:

* Causey’s benefits panel (03.10.2009; 11:30a-1p; Room 15-A)

Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Mike Causey will be holding his very popular Federal Benefits Panel … Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 11:30AM – 1:00PM, Meeting Room 15-A

* Web 2.0 and intel, sponsored by AFFIRM (03.10.2009; 11:30a-1:30p; Room unknown)

This panel, sponsored by AFFIRM , is being moderated by Tom Temin, co-anchor of Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Jane Norris … Among the speakers:
— Michael Kennedy, director, Enterprise Solutions, Intelligence Community Enterprise Solutions; Associate Director of National Intelligence & CIO
— Alex Voultepsis, Chief of Enterprise Services Division, Intelligence Community Enterprise Solutions, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
— John Hale, Chief of Service Delivery, Director of National Intelligence, Chief Information Officer, Intelligence Community Enterprise Solutions (ICES)

The intel community deserves a lot of credit for Intellipedia, a suite of social networking tools anchored by a Wikipedia-like wiki where people in the intelligence community can post information. And it has blazed the trail in so many ways that one has to imagine we will look back on it with, as one person said on Twitter, “the reverence it deserves.”

And there is a bit of debate about whether the intel leadership is fostering its growth. This is the headline from a recent piece in Government Computer News: Intellipedia suffers midlife crisis. And the piece quotes Chris Rasmussen, who works for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and a member of the team that created Intellipedia:

“We are struggling to take it to the next level,” said Chris Rasmussen, a social-software knowledge manager and trainer at the NationalGeospatial Intelligence Agency, speaking by phone to the Semantic Community–Semantic Exchange Workshop held yesterday in Falls Church, Va. “Grass roots will only get you so far. [Intellipedia] is going well. But we’re not replacing the big-agency systems,” he added.

The problem? The growth of the collective intelligence site so far largely has been fueled by early adopters and enthusiasts, according to Rasmussen. About all those who would have joined and shared their knowledge on the social networking site have already done so. If the intelligence agencies want to get further gains from the site, they need to incorporate it into their own formal decision making process, he contended. Until that happens, the social networking aspect ofIntellipedia is “just a marginal revolution,” he said.

Read the full GCN story here.

You can register for that panel here

It will be fascinating to see what the intel leadership says… and it leads right in my panel on Wednesday…

* Government 2.0: Evolution or revolution (Wednesday 03.11.2009; 10-11:30a; at last report room 146 B/C)

I will be moderating this panel, which is sponsored by ACT/IAC. If you have not registered, follow this link and you get into the session — and FOSE — for free. (How’s that for a deal?)

And we have a fantastic group…
— The previously mentioned Rasmussen
Martha Dorris, the acting associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications, which leads
Mark Drapeau of the National Defense University
— And Steve Ressler, the founder of GovLoop, the social network for feds (I’ve heard from numerous people that Ressler really wowed people at last week’s IPIC 2009 conference.)

We’re having a call on Monday to go over what we will cover, but… my sense is we’ll touch on Rasmussen’s comments… amplified here inDrapeau’s column, Government 2.0: The midlife crisis.

Government 2.0 has reached its midlife crisis. Despite some leadership from influential individuals on using social software in government, there is still in many cases a disconnect between authorities issuing directives and ground troops carrying them out. In some corridors of Washington, this impervious middle section of government is jokingly referred to as “the clay layer,” the layer through which no light shall pass. Resistant to change and adhering strictly to doctrine even when nonsensical, people in the clay layer can halt progress. Despite their intentions and being in a strategic position, they often stop the progress being called for.

This midlife crisis was pointed out by one of Government 2.0’s most outspoken evangelists, Chris Rasmussen, of the U.S. intelligence community, at a well-attended event held recently in the Washington area. As covered in a widely read trade press article, Rasmussen lamented the impossibly high standards that social tools are held to, even within government firewalls. Furthermore, many tools, such asIntellipedia, are used as supplements to (rather than substitutes for) legacy systems. As Clay Shirky once quipped, this is like putting an engine on a rowboat to make the oars go faster.

Read the full piece here.

Frankly, the concept of government 2.0 being in “mid-life” to me is just preposterous. We’re so far from mid-life, I’m not sure this baby is even walking yet. But… there definitely is this varied views that we’ve been talking about here on the DorobekInsider too, so… let’s talk about it.

And, by the way, while we do have a panel, this will be a discussion, so… I hope you’ll join in the discussion — I think it is an important one — and a relevant one to the challenges agencies are facing right now.

And remember — follow this link to get in for FREE .

Written by cdorobek

March 7, 2009 at 11:16 AM