Big vs. Small Federal Agency Government 2.0

It’s almost commonplace to hear things like, Federal agencies are getting better with Government 2.0, transparency, and communicating with the public. But most of the examples of this that I see and hear are from big agencies. You know, agencies like these:

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

But what about smaller agencies? There are dozens and dozens of them. Agencies and other entities like these:

BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS
CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION
EXPORT IMPORT BANK OF THE US
FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE BOARD
MILLENIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION
NATL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES
NATL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
NATL MEDIATION BOARD
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
PEACE CORPS
US COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
US NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMM
US OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS
US POSTAL SERVICE

Now, I didn’t research all of these for this post; maybe some of them are making Gov 2.0 advances. But what I find somewhat interesting is that while small cities and towns seem to be the hotbeds of innovation within the country, within the Federal government it’s the large agencies that innovate most, or so it seems. I imagine that money is the reason in both cases – cities and towns innovate to survive because they don’t have enough money to survive without innovation; large agencies innovate because they can hire/retain people to do it full-time.

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Kind of interesting but I think I agree with you without diving into too much. I believe that often the innovation also occurs at agency level not department (TSA vs DHS HQ, etc)…Theoretically some of the smaller agencies would have greater ability to take chances…I know OPM for example is starting to try.

Profile Photo Henry Brown

MY OPINION

Suspect, although related to the budget issue, it is more directly related to who is in place in the various levels of management.

I believe that the larger agencies have somewhat higher turnover, for several reasons. And IF a manager/leader brings the Gov 2.0 “mindset” it will propagate a whole lot faster than where those managers have either been in place for the entire century, and or their manager has been.

I would offer where relatively “new blood” is brought into the mix the smaller agencies, being somewhat more nibble, can innovate with the biggest of the biggest, Examples could be GSA, FCC, and to somewhat of a lesser degree OPM

Profile Photo Noel Dickover

The reverse is also probably true – while large agencies are getting recognition for taking on Gov 2.0 efforts, my guess is large swaths of those agencies have little or no insight or awareness of Gov 2.0. The smaller ones may be later out of the gate (at a recent Gov 2.0 event, one from a smaller agency mentioned that they don’t have the resources to be first out of the gate – that they will wait for the big guys to build the infrastructure and tell them how to do it), but I’d guess they’ll be able to turn their “PT boat” sized organization lots faster than the larger agencies will be able to turn their aircraft carrier sized orgs.

Profile Photo Erica Pastore

In my humble opinion, I think for small agencies it’s mainly due to prioritizing resources in working environments where a small staff wears many job hats. I think many of the larger agencies have the resources for dedicated 2.0 staff, which smaller agencies typically do not. Also, there is some rationale to waiting for the larger agencies to solidify their efforts so small agencies have adaptable models. Further, some smaller agencies may not want to devote too many resources to developing policies for their employees to use 2.0 prior to inevitable government-wide directives.

Profile Photo Mark D. Drapeau

Maybe Erica. But what’s interesting is that much Gov 2.0 innovation actually comes from small cities and towns, where …. a small staff wears many hats.

What I think it is: More pressure to innovate on some organizations making them willing to take on more risk. In this respect, it is not surprising that the Fed Gov 2.0 innovators tend to be DOD, State, IC, and NASA in general, and not (say) Labor, Interior, Commerce, VA. On the local level, it’s cities and towns with budget trouble, or high crime, things like that = pressure.