Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Posts Tagged ‘books

The AFFIRM – DorobekINSIDER Book Club – Forged in Crisis

leave a comment »

How many times have we heard that we are living through unprecedented times? If you are like me, COVID-19 has put unique and extraordinary challenges on government — and on government workers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could tap Abraham Lincoln’s leadership lessons from the Civil War? Legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery to become a national leader of the abolitionist movement. How did he come to be a transformational leader? 

The AFFIRM Book Club offers a unique opportunity to tap leadership lessons from people who faced unprecedented challenges. The concept of the AFFIRM-DorobekINSIDER Book Club is similar to the Oprah Book Club — but I try to find books that are more… wonky… they are books that focus on the six words that guide me — helping government do its job better.

The book we will be discussing is Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times by Nancy Koehn, a professor at the Harvard Business School. The book profiles five significant but disparate figures in history — and looks at the leadership lessons we can pull from each of their against-all-odds journeys. And we will learn that leaders are not born — they are made.

I think the book is really a timely read for this moment in time. My hope is that you find the book empowering, as I did, particularly during these days when we can feel as if we are being pulled apart by sheering winds.


Think of the AFFIRM book club like a wonky version of Oprah’s book club, where we focus on books that meet my simple, six-word criteria: Help government do its job better. So… it’s easy — and I’ll repeat it below…

First — read the book. For some, it might feel daunting, but… I think it is manageable. Each of the five people gets a section of the book… and — cheater warning — if you run out of time, you can read the first chapter of each of the sections, which provides an overview of the person. You won’t get as much out of the book, but… at least you will have a sense as to the challenges these remarkable people faced.

Then, register to join us on Thursday, August 13 at 12n ET, as we will have a discussion about the book — and about what the lessons are for government.

We are lucky to have Prof. Koehn as part of the discussion — along with government executives as bring their insights about the challenges that government faces today — and how we can apply these leadership lessons to the world today. And we invite your insights and questions during the discussion.

I have created a Facebook group if you want to share your thoughts or insights as you are reading. Or, if you want to Tweet out thoughts, use the hashtag #AFFIRMbookclub

Later this week, I will post how I got connected to this book and why it particularly speaks to me.

Previous DorobekINSIDER Book Club ‘meetings’:

Written by cdorobek

August 2, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

The Federal News Radio book club ahead this Wednesday…

with 2 comments

speed-of-trustComing up this Thursday Wednesday… the first Federal News Radio Book Club. (Earlier I said the incorrect day — it is Wednesday!) Our first book is The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. [More about the Federal News Radio Book Club here… and here… and if you have an Kindle eBook, you can have the book downloaded in minutes.]

I have had several people who e-mailed me to ask if they need to be some place specific to participate in the book club. The answer is yes — just be near your radio or steaming on your computer on Thursday, Nov. 19 for In Depth with Francis Rose, heard on Federal News Radio 1500 AM and between 1-3p ET. On Nov. 19, we will have Covey on the program… also joining us will be Dave Winnergren, the Defense Department’s deputy CIO and one of the best readers — and best managers. More on that in just a moment… I will also be there as will, of course, Francis Rose.

So… it’s that easy.

Some additional resources…

Finally… thoughts as you’re reading the book… send your comments or questions.
There are all sorts of ways to reach us.

  • Let us know your question before the show. Just leave a message on our new comment line: 877-936-8250. You can be anonymous if that works for you. We can then ask your question or play your comment on the air. The ‘who are you’ question is less important then what you say.
  • E-mail me at chris at
  • E-mail Francis at frose at
  • Use Federal News Radio’s ‘sound off’ page.

And we’ll see you on the radio… Thursday, Nov. 19th between 1-3p ET. (We’ll, I’m on each day, but… that’s when we’ll be talking about the book.)

Written by cdorobek

November 15, 2008 at 6:05 PM

The Federal News Radio Book Club: The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey

with 5 comments

speed-of-trustJust before I left Federal Computer Week, I came up with an idea of creating a book club for feds. Now that I’m over at Federal News Radio, we’re working with FCW on the book club. But the great thing is that we get to talk to the author of these books.

Before I go through history of it, I want to let everybody know the book that we have selected. The first book club book is The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. (I have the Kindle e-book version, of course.)

On Nov. 19, Covey will join us on Federal News Radio’s In Depth with Francis Rose for an hour. Joining Rose and Covey and me will be Dave Wennergren, the Defense Department deputy chief information officer and one of the wisest people that I know… and one of the most avid readers.

This idea is actually borrowed from Wennergren — and Oprah Winfrey, of course. Oprah has been having her book clubs for a few years. As an avid reader, particularly of business books, I think there are lessons that we can share. Wennergren — an avid reader. I often just follow him around writing down titles of books — but he has long used books as a way to build teams. FCW is working on a story about Wennergren as the government IT’s Oprah. Earlier, when he was the CIO at the Department of the Navy, FCW did a story about his leadership style — and we referred to his book clubs, which he refers to as Expanding Boundaries.

So when I came up with this idea, I asked Wennergren if he would be interested in participating… and if he had any good ideas for books. He is the one who suggested The Speed of Trust.

We are going to do this regularly. We’re going to try to have Wennergren involved in a few of these a year — as much as he can, is able, and his schedule allows.

I just started Covey’s book — and, to be honest, I didn’t know anything about it until Winnergren recommended it. It is essentially about how to build trust across an organization so you can accomplish your mission.

We also want to tap your thoughts. What we’re looking for are the books books that would help people in government — or who do business with government — do their jobs better.

So… the specifics…

What: The Federal News Radio Book Club… the inaugural book: The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
When: Nov. 19 at 2p ET
Where: Federal News Radio 1500 AM and

And yes — you can participate. Go read the book… and then send us your thoughts, insights and comments. What spoke to you and how you do your job? What did Covey leave out?

There are all sorts of ways to reach us.

  • Let us know your question before the show. Just leave a message on our new comment line: 877-936-8250. You can be anonymous if that works for you. We can then ask your question or play your comment on the air.
  • E-mail me at chris at
  • E-mail Francis at frose at

This is a first. It is an experiment. We welcome your thoughts on this concept. Let us know what works — and what doesn’t. And if you want to suggest future books, you can do that too by just leaving a message here on the blog as well.

Regardless, mark your calendar for two weeks from today… Nov. 19 at 2p ET.

Written by cdorobek

November 5, 2008 at 9:33 AM The Estrin interview on innovation

leave a comment »

Judy Estrin, author of "Closing the Innovation Gap"

Judy Estrin

I have been going on and on about our interview with Judy Estrin, who was part of the team that actually created the Internet and is author of a new book, Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy. We got to have Estrin on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris today — and she was great. In fact, if there was an issue, we just didn’t have enough time. We could have spent an hour with her.

I’m not sure why I failed to mention it previously, but… my step-father worked for Estrin way back in the day on a start-up company, Bridge Communications, which was eventually bought by Cisco. Small world.

Federal News Radio PM Internet editor Dorothy Ramienski was good enough to pull together a story based on the interview. You can hear the interview for yourself there. Or you can hear the interview here [.mp3].

Next week, we’ll try and get folks from The Center for the Study of the Presidency on to talk about their report about innovation — and what the presidential candidates aren’t saying about it.

Written by cdorobek

September 16, 2008 at 8:28 PM

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , , Report urges candidates to focus on innovation

with 2 comments

Regular readers know that I’m fascinated about innovation, particularly in the rhelm of science and technology. It is an issue getting a lot of attention these days. In fact, it is largely the basis of NYT columnist Thomas J. Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America.

The Center for the Study of the Presidency — to be honest, a group that I had never heard of before — has put out a report focusing on presidential leadership in the areas of science and technology. (I found the study — and the group — through an article in New Scientist headlined, McCain vs Obama: Who will end the war on science. And yes, I will read just about any magazine!)

CSP Releases Report on Presidential Leadership to Ensure Science and Technology in the Service of National Needs

The role of science and technology assets is often overlooked as an element of national power. Many of the major policy challenges confronting the next President—energy resources, nuclear proliferation, climate change, environment, health-care, food and water, security, and economic prosperity—require scientific advice or guidance for successful strategic resolutions. The Center’s issue group on Presidential science and technology assets has released a new report urging both Presidential candidates to beginpre -election planning to ensure science and technology governance assets for cohesive and informed policies and effective policy implementation.

Read the report here [.pdf]

To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to read the report. (I don’t often recommend reports or books that I haven’t read — well, I try not to.)

I have been racing through another book on innovation because this afternoon on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris [3-7p ET on 1500 AM in DC or anywhere at ] we will be talking to the author of a book on innovation. The book is Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, by Judy Estrin.

I’ve been racing through the book so I can be prepared for the interview. Estrin actually was part of Vint Cerf’s research team that literally invented the Internet. Talk about innovation.

The book is not about government’s role specifically, of course, but she does talk about the role of DARPA and makes a case for long-term thinking that can spur innovation.

Estrin will be on early — in the 3p ET hour — and then the interview will be posted online.

I’m also working to get the folks from the Center for the Study of the Presidency on… to continue the theme.

As they say, stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

September 16, 2008 at 10:07 AM Talking about the innovation gap on the Daily Debrief

with 3 comments

In the coming days, we will talk about what we hope to do with Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. The Daily Debrief team have only met once — and there were a lot of creative juices flowing. So I’ll save some of the specifics about what we are going to try and do for later.

One thing we are going to do is try to stretch all of our minds just a bit — get outside of the people we talk to all the time. When I was over at Federal Computer Week, I proposed the creation of a FCW Book Club. I believe they are going to keep that idea going, thank goodness. I don’t know how well it would work on radio, to be honest, but… we are going to try and tap into thought leaders out there — people who can talk about issues that will impact how the government does its work.

Along those lines… While vacationing on Monday, I read the story in the NYT headlined Another Voice Warns of an Innovation Slowdown.

Judy Estrin, 53, has spent her entire career in Silicon Valley, a region that thrives on constant innovation. Ms. Estrin, the former chief technology officer of Cisco Systems, has founded four technology companies.

Yet she is deeply worried that Silicon Valley — and the United States as a whole — no longer foster the kind of innovation necessary to develop groundbreaking technologies and sustain economic growth.

“I am generally not an alarmist, but I have become more and more concerned about the state of our country and its innovation,” she said last week, explaining why she wrote her book, “Closing the Innovation Gap,” which arrives in bookstores Tuesday. “We have a national innovation deficit.”

I find this whole question of innovation just fascinating — and I do think there is a government angle. The government, after all, was the inventor of the Internet. And, as I noted previously, it also spurred the creation of the technology behind the company Pixar. And, coincidentally, there are probably some government uses of computer animation, I’m sure.

Government agencies are also enormous users of technology, so agencies ability to accomplish their missions depend on ongoing innovation.

(Slightly off-topic briefly: We may also try to get one of the people who have written about Pixar. There have been a lot of people writing about Pixar lately. For example, I’m just about finished reading The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, which I would definitely recommend. It essentially is a biography of this amazing company — and, again, I think there are some connections to how the government does business. Hollywood, after all, is a large, very conservative organization that is slow to adapt to change. Yet movies have been evolving — andPixar is an excellent example of that. Pixar uses technology, and, in fact, has been at the cutting edge of computer annimation . But in the end, technology only serves the mission — telling stories. This month’s issue of the Harvard Business Review has an excellent piece byPixar President Ed Catmull, who, I might add, is a computer scientist who makes movies. How cool is that? Catmull’s HBR piece, How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity: Behind Pixar’s string of hit movies, says the studio’s president, is a peer-driven process for solving problems, he offers wonderful insights into how to develop a creative company. But… I’m veering way off the topic here. More on this later.)

Back to innovation… We have confirmed that during the week of September 15, we are going to have Judy Estrin on the Daily Debrief.

I just ordered her book, Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, so it should arrive by the end of the week so I can be adequately prepared…

We’ll let you know the specific time when we get it nailed down… and you can always hear Federal News Radio interviews on our Web site at

Stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

September 3, 2008 at 12:33 AM