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Can-Do Opportunities in Government Management

Freezes, furloughs, sequestration, budget cuts, increased scrutiny on conferences and trainings – government managers are dealing with quite a plate of challenges these days. Amongst these issues, how can government leaders inspire their teams to provide great public service?

On yesterday’s DorobekINSIDER Live, Chris Dorobek discussed the climate of government management with a line-up of 5 great panelists experienced in government strategy, public sector consulting, and academia. Listen to the recorded event here and check out the recap.

After talking about the current challenges in management as well as the implications of Obama’s recent new management agenda, Chris asked each panelist one final, loaded question:

Given the various challenges facing government, what can folks do to manage and inspire better public service?

Here are the panelists’ recommendations:

Chris Mihm – Managing Director of Strategic Issues, Government Accountability Office

Mihm provided two easy, no-to-low cost management suggestions:

1) Conduct Regular Data-Driven Reviews

Programs like CompStat that utilize data in accountability processes and organizational management have gained traction over the years. The system was originally implemented in the NYPD as a multilayer approach to crime reduction. Key to the program are weekly crime control strategy meetings, which are heavily dependent on discussion of crime data. Along the same idea, Mihm suggested that managers have “how are we doing meetings” to examine the status of agency projects against goals, plan adjustments, and follow-up on outstanding issues. These regular meetings are easy to hold, and can help to establish collective clarity among a manager’s team.

2) Create a Line of Sight

Mihm emphasized that this doesn’t refer to performance appraisal. Managers should make sure to maintain two-way conversations with their employees on how and why their work matters within the overall framework of the agency. Creating this line of sight is meant to energize people to engage in the organizational mission.

Doug Criscitello – Managing Director, Grant Thornton’s Public Sector Financial Services Practice & Former CFO, Department of Housing and Urban Development

On a similar note, Criscitello stated that it’s all about mindset in the context of an agency’s mission. In particular, he suggested that federal employees could benefit from adding an important, contextualizing phrase to the beginning of their missions: As constant stewards of taxpayer dollars, we seek to…[insert agency mission]. Aside from the Treasury Department, this kind of verbiage is missing in government. Criscitello emphasized, “We need a constant focus on managing taxpayer dollars and to never forget that. That’s how we get around some of these issues of the mismanagement of funds and scandals.”

Jonathan Bruel – Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Public Policy Institute & previous Senior Adviser to the Deputy Director for Management, OMB

Bruel offered two ideas:

1) Be flexible and look at ways of doing business differently. Breaking out of long-established routines can lend insight to new efficiencies.

2) Work collaboratively by reaching outside your agency and across silos. The joint work between the HUD and the VA is a striking example of cross-agency collaboration on the problem of homelessness. “Innovation occurs when people from different organizations get together and collaborate,” stated Bruel.

Steve Ressler, Founder & President, GovLoop

Management advice comes in twos during this DorobekINSIDER. Ressler gave his two:

1) Call and Reminder of Stewardship

Ressler loved that idea of a call and reminder to public servants to be stewards. While most folks might be constantly ready to be led, it’s important to turn that around and call onto all public servants to lead and aid us through these tough issues.

2) Create Mechanisms for Folks to Help

Often, people are lacking clear ways to help. Programs like the White House Innovation Fellows or others that enable people to submit new ideas are great examples of programs that provide channels for folks to apply their creativity and motivation to tackle government challenges. “Make it clear of ways people can get involved,” Ressler said.

Alan Balutis – Managing Partner, Cisco Public Sector Consulting Service & Former CIO, Commerce Department

Balutis gave us a great quote from an old coworker, that, “Our job in government today is to make government better – just a little bit better each and everyday.” He noted the Innovation Awards at HHS, which was also a beneficial program at the Dept. of Commerce. The outputs out of Commerce included [the now-trending] ideas of telework and government credit cards. Balutis further stated that he’d implement a government buy-out program to transition out retiring baby-boomer senior leaders and train the next generation of government managers to build a true 21st century government.

With all this valuable advice, Dorobek encouraged listeners to go out and do good things.

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Dennis Snyder

I think everyone wants to good work. It’s an inherent element of being human. However, what you’ll find is that empowerment to do good work is not inherent in government. Quite the opposite as mid-managers scramble to protect their rice bowls and survive budget cuts and downsizing. This is a great article and should be required reading for agency management at all levels.