The coming departure of Dan Gordon from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy has provoked an interesting set of reactions.
On the one hand are the expected, and deserved, words of praise. As OFPP administrator, Gordon accomplished a lot in his two years, and people who worked closely with him or are affected by his initiatives are right to call attention to those successes.
But on the other hand, Gordon will be yet another agency leader to head for greener pastures after a short tenure, and as former deputy OFPP administrator Robert Burton pointed out, that's disruptive to agency employees.
And it's not enough time to really make the kind of difference that's properly called a legacy.
But it's become common in government. Vivek Kundra was federal CIO for just a bit more than two years, from March 2009 to August 2011. And Steve Kelman, who served as OFPP administrator for four years ending in 1997, was the last person to hold that position for more than about two years.
This matters as we enter the next presidential election year because that's a traditional time for presidentially appointed leaders to leave. If the incumbent loses, of course, all of his appointees will resign. But even when the incumbent wins a second term, it's common for many or most of the appointees to move on as the new term starts.
The practical effect of these transition points is that real agency leadership falls in many ways to senior career feds. But they are charged with carrying out the policy directives of the administration, as enacted at each agency by the appointed agency head. Career feds really aren't empowered to set a vision for an agency.
So in addition to tension about diminishing budgets, add uncertainty over continuity of leadership to the agenda for 2012. It's going to be a difficult year in some significant ways.
Posted by Michael Hardy on Nov 04, 2011 at 7:26 PM1 comments
Everyone's afraid of the budget. We all know that for at least a few years, the federal budget is going to be drastically reduced from the levels it has been – or at least, that's the trend of rhetoric.
And so, agencies are scrambling to adapt in anticipation of coming cuts. They'll be trying to figure out ways to retain programs at lower levels, and to identify the ones they can eliminate with the least amount of damage.
But maybe there's another way to look at it. It's often said that trimming available resources forces people to be more innovative. The difference here is one of degree: We're not expecting a trim but a clear-cut. Or as GSA Administrator Martha Johnson put it in a speech at the Executive Leadership Conference, not a diet but a stomach-stapling.
Is that as catastrophic as some are suggesting? Consider the words of author, peak oil theorist and social critic John Michael Greer, who wrote:
Beauty is inseparable from limitation: the stricter the limits, and the more fully they're accepted, the greater the beauty. That's why art becomes truly great when it embraces formal structure, and also why so much modern poetry is so awful; a really great poet can make the limits of language provide the necessary limiting factor, but anybody else needs structures … or they just produce shapeless mush.
Limits do indeed compel innovation. Drastic limits, such as are likely to come in the next budget cycle, can compel a complete rethinking and overhaul of the way government works. For years, we've been reading, and writing, articles quoting business process experts who urge readers to not just add a new technology for efficiency, but to re-engineer the business processes to make full use of it.
This new era we're entering is one in which that wisdom will become urgent. No longer will it be optional to fundamentally reconsider standard modes of operation, it will be essential. The end result will no doubt be a government that does less, spends less, provides less than it has in the recent past. But it might also be a government that does what it does more elegantly, efficiently and wisely, if agency leaders take seriously the reality of the time and approach it with eager creativity rather than grudging compliance.
Beauty is not the aim of government. But if agencies put their minds to it, and create innovative ways to operate in an era of greatly limited resources, that would have a sort of aesthetic pleasantness of its own.
Posted on Oct 28, 2011 at 7:26 PM4 comments
Scott Klososky, author, entrepreneur and advisory board member for Critical Technologies, delivered a provocative speech at the opening of American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va.
Provocative, yes, but also questionable in some of its particulars, and Klososky did not stick around to take questions publicly after filling his allotted hour.
Klososky alluded to the “rivers of information” that flow through Twitter and other social media platforms, saying that people not using Twitter are cutting themselves off from those alleged rich streams of information.
Well, perhaps. But Klososky ignored the quantity of false information that pollutes that river. Whether mistaken, incomplete, slanted or deliberately fabricated, there is a considerable amount of misinformation in the river.
In fact, we think Klososky is wrong to characterize what flows through Twitter as information at all. Instead, it's just data – some accurate, some not, but very little of it useful in its raw form. For data to become information, someone has to sort it out, figure out what’s correct and what’s not, and further, what’s important and useful and what’s trivial or irrelevant to a given information-seeker.
While Klososky rhapsodized on the fast-changing world of information flow, he ignored the value of gatekeepers -- people whose job it is to do just that – and presented the flood of unverified, unsorted data as a good in itself. We disagree.
Posted on Oct 24, 2011 at 7:26 PM1 comments