What Are Your Top 3 Suggestions to Improve Government in 2013?

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This topic contains 33 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  Peter Sperry 7 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #175223

    Mark Hammer

    Think of this as an “easy suggestion” box.

    I’m fishing for ideas that can be fully realized within the coming year, rather than things that might require much longer time arcs for planning and implementing. I suppose they might be fairly tailored or specific to certain organizations or contexts. But if you have an idea, or a commendable practice you’ve witnessed, that might be quickly instituted, and provide some organizational benefit, no matter how big or small, list it here.

    For example, are there simple practices for de-silo-ing an organization, so that communication between units working on related areas can be improved?

    Are there ways to make feedback from clients/end-users more effective?

    Are there changes to the way jobs are advertised that can focus the applicants a little better so that HR and hiring managers have less to wade through and applicants have less wait and frustration?

    These could be things identified in your employee surveys, or simply long-standing or emerging challenges that might be ameliorated more easily than some think.

    And so on…

    Start pitchin’

  • #175289

    Peter Sperry

    1. Substitute access to a government wide account on Lynda.com augmented with an assigned mentor from existing staff instead of live classroom training for basic office software such as Word or Excel.

    2. Put cameras in OPM training centers and make classes available as MOOCs for federal employees.

    3. Require employees to commit to 2 years continued service or repayment of costs before approving training costing more than $5,000.

    4. Have all agencies list live training classes for each metro area on a consolidated OPM web page and allow participation by employees from other agencies.

  • #175287

    Henry Brown

    Mr. Sperry has sorta touched on my PRIMARY suggestion SHARE SHARE SHARE

    Whether it be intra-agency, across agencies, or across branches of government…

    Other possible “ideas“:

    1. Increased utilization of various social networks (facebook, LinkedIn, govloop) for not only intra-communications but with other interested parties

    2.More public recognition for those who provide innovative methods of doing “business“.

    3. Work toward removing the agency ownership of good ideas and make the good ideas a part of the entire community

  • #175285

    Henry Brown


    Been a while but… Believe that there are already, at least in the federal sector, requirements for signing a “contract” for continued service for expensive training.

    Would expand number 4 to include not only participation but notification/advertising of the available training.

  • #175283

    Peter Sperry

    Henry — DOD is pretty good about this but many of the civilain agencies are not. I have seen senior executives who had already announced retirement plans attend graduate certificate programs that cost over $15K which primarily benefited the consulting group that hired them later.

  • #175281

    Steve Ressler


  • #175279

    Steve Ressler

    Dig them.

    Love your idea on mentoring – I think that’s a huge opportunity. I’d start a mentors program between retired gov’t baby boomers & new hires. Good way to pass on knowledge + retired folks have time & want to give back

  • #175277


    De-silo-ing: nothing works better than cross training. It becomes a fact of life, you have more mobility with staff and know-how gets spread around.

    Feedback – we’re experimenting with smart phone instant “testimonials” – mini-video reviews of how our service helped – and uploading them to our web page; and beyond talking heads, a crawl of tweets with comments and suggestions from users and groups.

    HR – in this small organization (20-40 people), I deal with all hiring myself, whittling down the final 3-5 for interviews. The committee concept is great when you dont know what you want, but when you do — just do it yourself.

  • #175275

    Noel Hatch

    Agree, this is a great idea. I would add mentoring between local community and public servants who work in the neighbourhood. Being used where I live – called “the workshop” where people can drop in, have a cuppa, share their ideas on what the council should be doing, initiatives they’re working on – whether they’re from the council or from community groups and test new technology.

  • #175273

    Make all levels of employees accountable for results, impact. Failure to deliver or execute with no consequences leads to mediocrity and disappointment for those who are productive.

    Improved communications with the folks who are actually doing the work rather than just those in management. Too many essential messages are diluted through the layers of hierarchy. Employee surveys are hollow and meaningless when there is no action to address the challenges identified.

    Respect people’s time and expertise when requesting information by looking to your resources first and only reaching out when you need confirmation, approval, or have a knowledge gap that only an expert can fulfill.

  • #175271

    John van Santen

    1) Address grade inflation (GS-12-14 Administrative Assistants – really???)

    2) Restructure workforce to emphasize self-service and tools – eliminate administrative assistants except for heads of agencies

    3) 360º reviews – all managers, at every level, should be required to solicit and consider feedback from every employee’s peers, subordinates and management in performance reviews.

    4) Elected and bureaucratic officials must determine the value of the government workforce and halt associating the workforce with negative characteristics and using the workforce as the means to win favor with the electorate. Arbitrary cuts, wage freezes, and poor workforce planning are destroying morale, service provided, and discouraging potential employees. Shortsighted political games are harming longterm workforce effectiveness. Size the workforce according to needs and set high expectations for performance; do not keep scrubs on the payroll – there are plenty of ambitious, capable people who can fill the slots for those who consume excessive management attention.

    5) Get better middle management.

    6) Counsel individuals who file repeated nuisance OIG/EEO/MSPB claims. More effective prefiling assistance should be provided to improve the quality of filed claims and to screen out the frivolous ones. These protections are serious and claims should be serious and abusers should be dealt with.

  • #175269

    Kathleen Rutter

    The government spends billions paying employees sick leave. The private sector gives their employees “paid time off” which includes both vacation and limited sick leave options. I believe that federal employees often abuse sick leave and being stricter with this benefit would save the federal government billlions.

  • #175267

    Terrence Hill

    I like #2. Webcast all training, meetings, and conferences. Basically, any time 2 or more gather in the name of knowledge transfer.

  • #175265

    Terrence Hill

    I like # 3- but would go further by implementing social goals and feedback using social networks such as work.com or worksimple.com. Would do a lot to fix our broken, antiquated performance management processes. # 5 will never happen. Tried that during Gore’s NPR initiative.

  • #175263

    Mark Hammer

    Thanks to all for the ideas, and to Steve for bumping the thread.

    I’ll just draw attention once more to the phrase “fully realized within the coming year“. That doesn’t discount the value of any of the excellent ideas offered. I’m just trying to focus on things that could go from “How are we gonna do this?” to “Okey dokey, up and running” before the calendar runs out.

    I’ll leave the great ideas that may take a bit of multi-lateral consultation and planning to get off the ground for somebody else’s thread. I’m just looking for the “club sandwich” fixes, not the Peking duck ideas.

    In the meantime, keep ’em coming. There’s some great window-shopping for your colleagues here!

  • #175261

    Paul Wolf

    My experience and focus is on local governments and as such my three ideas are directed towards them:

    1) Set Goals – It is shocking how few local government agencies and elected officials set goals. Without goals people and programs drift aimlessly. Just setting three priority goals for each department or program would make a difference in performance.

    2) Provide Feedback – local governments do a very poor job of evaluating and providing feedback to employees. Most local governments do not even do an annual performance evaluation. As annual reviews are too infrequent, a better approach is simply to require supervisors to have a quarterly one on one meeting with employees. More important than an actual evaluation or rating is simply having a conversation about how things are going.

    3) Government Wide Department Head Meetings – While people often complain about the number of office meetings, from my experience it is shocking how rarely a County Executive, Mayor and Town Supervisor meets with all of their department heads at the same time in the same room. Rudy Guiliani as Mayor of NY met with his top level department heads every morning.

    Without goals, department heads on the same page and employees receiving regular feedback from their supervisors it is hard to achieve good results.

    I guess in a strange way I am calling for more meetings, but meetings with the right people on the right topics.

  • #175259

    Mark Hammer

    I high school, we would have “assemblies”, where all would be in attendance in the auditorium, and everybody in the school would be able to find out, at the same time, everything of relevance that was going on. I’d love to see such assemblies implemented. Just stuff everyone into the biggest local space available for 20-30 minutes on a Monday morning, and have the various unit heads give a brief 3-5 minute run down of what their unit is currently doing, and who is the contact person for what.

    So yeah, I do like #3.

  • #175257

    Alesia Booth

    My idealism may be getting in the way, but here goes.

    1. It’s been mentioned already but…
      Increase collaboration between agencies on tough problems that impact Government-wide. This could include expanding the use of details between agencies beyond interns/PMFs. But it absolutely must mean a shift of prerogative to encourage multiple agencies to contribute money and time so multiple agencies aren’t continuously reinventing the same/similar wheels.
    2. Start allowing attendance at conferences and interagency meetings again. All the travel and conference restrictions as a result of some bad behavior at GSA is reducing the amount of communication and sharing of best practices.
    3. Overhaul the performance management system. After this year’s end, I haven’t spoken with one Fed who doesn’t complain that the current system is cumbersome, unfair, and meaningless. How about 360 evaluations? Let customers and subordinates have some input and accountability improves. And the elimination of award amounts being tied to ratings? Might just result in ratings that aren’t passed on limit/grant a particular monetary amount.
  • #175255

    Vaughn Ripley

    1. Flat tax across the boards;

    2. Legalize marijuana (not just medicinal) and tax the stuffing out of it;

    3. Cut ALL unnecessary spending (including unused employees).

  • #175253

    Bill Kirst

    Deploy social business tools and principles to drive lasting change via collaboration and engagement. Vala Afshar captured it pretty well in his blog on HuffingtonPost:

    Washington Can Benefit From Social Business Leadership Principles


    Join in on the discussion. Also, take a look at my recent post on using these same tools and principles to manage better change: http://goo.gl/Wq9Wz

  • #175251

    1. Host a professional mixer between Congress and frontline government employees: I’d bet there are members of Congress who have never met a career public servant (not beyond the senior leadership that testify). We need to remedy that and I think they’d make different decisions (and talk differently about “government”).

    2. Make it easy for retirees on the fence to depart in good faith. There are a lot of people just holding on and biding time. This isn’t everyone of retirement age, but there are some folks who are hanging on just because it’s comfortable and they can pad their financial portfolio until the economy turns around. Let’s make it irresistible for them to move on to the next chapter. This will create space for new people, new ideas, new thinking.

    3. Sponsor a huge marketing / recruiting blitz for government. We’ve got a perception problem in government that needs to be fixed. We ought to highlight people doing amazing jobs and give gov a little positive PR. Of course, then we need to make it easier for people to find jobs and get hired. But at least the tide of public perception might shift (a little).

    P.S. Maybe we want to do it in the order of 2, 3 then 1. 😉

  • #175249

    Mark Hammer

    I like #1. And not just to foster empathy for the frontline worker. I find that folks who run for elected office are generally motivated by all the right things, but tend to think in terms of abstract issues, big picture ideas, and “solving” things by assuming that throwing more money at them, with a few general directives, will necessarily result in the desired outcomes. That’s all well and good, but sometimes, maybe often, what causes otherwise thoughtful and well-intentioned policies and initiatives to stumble (and cost way more than initially expected), are the operational details that only the frontline people are familiar with.

    So that’s a great suggestion not only for morale, but also for making elected officials more able at getting the nation’s business done more effectively, efficiently, and economically.

  • #175247

    David Salusbury

    Great idea Mark!

    My top 3:

    1. LISTEN AND ACT on audit reports regarding reducing excesses and introducing efficiencies

    2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T each other! Aretha Franklin had it right; we need to take account of this simple advice at all levels of our organizations

    3. LOVE IT OF LIST IT: Just as we should love our home–or move; we should love our job–or move on to something we would enjoy more! If we feel we cannot move, we should put maximum energy into what we have!

  • #175245

    Peter Sperry

    Mark — A crazy idea that may only apply to our northern neighbors. Set up a Candaian Govies helping Canadian Citizens web sit where Canadian Government employees can list vacation destinations, dates, contact info and areas of expertise and make it available to Canadian citizens who may need help from their government in an emergency. Since there are more Canadians in Florida on any given day in winter than in the entire province of Quebec, I am sure there are often instances where people suddenly need help from your government. They may spend hours on the phone or web trying to track make the right contact when there is probably a Canadian government offical on vacation within 5-10 miles of their hotel who could cut through the red tape much more quickly and easily.

  • #175243

    Mark Hammer

    Since there are more Canadians in Florida on any given day in winter than in the entire province of Quebec

    Now THAT made me laugh! 🙂 Never been to Florida myself, but I am told that most of the major Quebec newspapers can be easily found there. And if you saw the pile of snow on my street this morning, you could well understand why!

  • #175241

    Peter Sperry

    I used to work for a Florida Congressman and just came back from a trip to Disney World. You might be surprised how many of the coastal condos from Myrtle Beach to Miami are owned by your fellow countryman hiding assets from your tax collectors. Disney employees often joke they get so many Canadians, Brits, Australians and South Africans they could qualify for Commonwealth status. We even used to track a not inconsequential number of Candaians registered to vote in our congressional district. They are all part of the “Snow Bird” population that comes south every winter and returns north in the summer.

  • #175239

    Bill Brantley
  • #175237

    Bob Magarity

    On the topic of de-siloing an organization….

    From an information perspective, every organization is always doing 3 things:

    1) creating data (people or sensors)

    2) storing/securing data

    3) consuming data

    Most organizations remain silo’ed because they only focus on (1) and (2). But the data an organization has created can be a focal point of collaboration. First, you have to make it searchable and then discoverable. What’s the difference? A search provides a list of documents or data objects that match a search. But this sometimes generates a page of results that most people do not wade through. You have to apply then a vocabulary or conceptual overlay to help filter down to what people find. Secondly, once an end user has found some data, they need to be able to share it….immediately from the point where it resides. This is where collaborative tagging, commenting and rating can take place.

    This is a data centric perspective on de-siloing an organization. Team building excercises are good ice breakers for social approaches to this problem. Group meetings where leaders share what they’ve been working on is also useful.

  • #175235

    Bill Ryan

    From a local gov standpoint:

    1. Keep working to change the “culture”

    2. Business Process Improvements

    3. Keep innovating in order to improve service delivery to the citizens


  • #175233

    David Salusbury

    Good ideas!

    I wonder if we can come up with a good definition for culture? We all seem to be a bit tentative on this!

    I quite like: “The way we do things around here.”

    David Salusbury


  • #175231

    Julie Chase

    1. Speed up acquisition/procurement. Raise the GSA Pay card from 3K to 5K. The toner alone for the office adds up to the 3K in one fell swoop (at the local mandatory source). It is ridiculas to have to wait 90-120 days to purchase something over the micro threshold.

    2. Speed up the ordering of IT and software. I don’t need to email 20 people 2 states away and wait 6-8 months before I get the software and lo and behold, the next version comes out. Oh and speed up the permission to buy process, that is what takes the longest.

    3. For goodness sakes get rid of NSPS-light. Go back to PARS until something better comes along. I took my rating money and asked for time off, as the amount I received would have eaten me up in taxes. Compare that to the awards the WG receive, the GS’ felt cheated.

    4. If DoN wants to attract young folks, for goodness sakes, offer a contract for work and student loan pay-off.

    Mentors…mentors, mentors. for sure. I offered to be a mentor, and was told because of my current grade, I could not.

    Social media is “informative only” where I am. You, as an employee are not allowed to comment during working hours.

    Involve and collaborate with WG (wage grade) government employees. Everyone benefits from training. Not everyone works in an office.

  • #175229

    Julie Chase

    re #2, as a 303 series, in a single digit grade level, I will tell you, my GS 12 and WS 10 need and value my work.

  • #175227

    Joel Wisner

    I really like the idea of connecting Congress with working level executive branch employees. What about a contest where people submit video entries of 90 seconds saying who they are and what they do for the American people. Then you can select the most compelling ones (maybe one from each agency) to meet some of the congressional leadership or certain committee members.

  • #175225

    Tobias Cichon

    1. Citizensourcing – Both citizen ideation and crowdfunding for government project idea inception, prioritization, funding and execution.

    2. Online Open Government – Not just the availability of transparency, but the complete revamping of the idea of what happens with “public data,” and the ease of access necessary for it to be useful. By default everything should be published online and it should be SEARCHABLE, SORTABLE, and REPORTABLE.

    3. Annual Open Data Hackathons – Minimal investment can create phenomenal digital solutions such as mobile apps to report graffitti, bike routing, public transportation information, residential area concern demographics, etc.

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