The Changing Government Office Portent Broader Changes – Plus the 7 Gov Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • The Target hack has IT folks spooked. But what can and should be done? We talked with the new head of ISC2 Dan Waddell.

You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: The changing government office portent broader changes?

The workplace is changing. Many organizations are essentially downsizing their real estate footprint because it isn’t needed — many people aren’t in the office regularly… but those organizations also can’t afford it if they want to remain competitive in a very competitive environment.

Those changes are starting to be seen in the government as well. For some, it is telework — the Patent and Trademark Office has made telework an essential part of how it does business… and GSA’s headquarters renovation features a very new way of working — few set offices and a more open environment.

At the recent Management of Change conference, sponsored by the American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council, I moderated a series of discussion looking at what they billed as the “open, flexible government.” A moment of honesty: When the team first asked me to participate, I was suspicious. The topic seemed outside the “normal” realm, both for the conference and for me. That being said, as I did my own research on the topic, I was increasingly interested in this evolving workplace world. And, with all of those caveats, the discussion was enormously illuminative.

Below are the takeaways as presented at MOC itself.

My big takeaway: This is a new way of managing. One of our participants from the Defense Information Systems Agency offered up one of my favorite quotes: You haven’t managed until you’ve managed teleworkers. The open, flexible government workplace is about more than telework, but the message is clear: This is a new way of managing. Even today, too often there is a focus on ‘butts in the seat’ rather than a real — and very complex — assessment of results. All too often these days there is still an assessment of putting in eight hours, rather than the more difficult, more nuanced discussion of what was accomplished in those eight hours. To me, that is a real game changer for government — and an important one. The fact is that we have been talking about focusing on results… well, forever. Maybe this will be a real driver.

That being said, there are real obstacles out there — this isn’t right for everybody — workers or supervisors. One person noted that one-third of the people are going to be unhappy — no matter what you do. We need to assume that and move forward. But we also aren’t particularly good about measuring results.

Other takeaways:

  • Things are changing: I mentioned this before, but… did any of us really predict that the government would be discussing BYOD, ie bring your own device? BYOD isn’t the norm by any measure, but some agencies are looking at it — and doing it. In fact, at GovLoop’s recent event on mobile, the Marine Corps said that they are considering a BYOD-like approach. (They are specifically NOT calling it BYOD because of the connotations with the terminology.) But many agencies are facing real budget shortages. Does it make sense to continue to have space that goes mostly unused most of the time? (Data suggests that the average building utilization rate is 35 percent to 45 percent — that means that more than half of the time, the space is not being used.)

  • More than just telework: There was much discussion about telework, but in the end, the ‘open, flexible government’ is about much more than telework. It really is about work becoming something that you do, not a place where you go.

  • A real change in mindset: We spend a lot of time on this program talking about change — and specifically, how difficult it is to change government. And this change is a significant one. And there were some true doubters involved in our discussion. And there have been some failures in rolling out this new kind of work environment, most notably the Office of Personnel Management’s Results Only Work Environment.

  • This is about more than telework: The open, flexible workplace could change culture. What is more daunting in most government offices than the office itself. Those L-O-N-G hallways of offices with locked doors and plaques with enormous titles on them — is there a better way to tell people that you are part of a bureaucracy and that your job is to show up and do what you are told? It has always seemed to me that, in some ways, the design of the buildings are the very first obstacle to innovation. (Curiously, the cubicle was originally designed to change that mindset.)

Finally… here was my background reading as I prepared for the event

And below are the “official” takeaways as parented at MOC:

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. USA Today: Report shows $6.7 billion in improper Medicare payments- “Medicare paid out $6.7 billion in 2010 for health care visits that were improperly coded or lacked documentation, a report released Thursday found. That’s 21% of Medicare’s total budget for diagnostic and assessment visits, according to the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.”

    1. HHS IG report: Improper Payments for Evaluation & Management Services Cost Medicare Billions in 2010

  2. Washington Post: Three takeaways from Thursday’s VA hearing after the ‘troubling’ report- “Three Department of Veterans Affairs officials testified before a House panel on Wednesday about the destruction of scheduling records at a Phoenix VA hospital. The hearing came hours after the VA inspector general’s office released a report saying the department’s health clinics have falsified their records to hide treatment delays, calling the issue a “systemic problem nationwide.”

    1. The VA IG report: Interim Report: Review of VHA’s Patient Wait Times, Scheduling Practices, and Alleged Patient Deaths at the Phoenix Health Care System

  3. Federal News Radio: U.S. Cyber Command wants DISA to take greater role in DoD cyber defense- “U.S. Cyber Command is in talks with the Defense Information Systems Agency to give DISA more day-to-day responsibilities for defending DoD networks from cyber threats.”

  4. Federal Times: How GSA plans to double its market share by 2017- “The General Services Administration plans to more than double its market share of government spending by crafting a new digital ecosystem of contract offerings and interactive purchasing tools.”

  5. Defense News: 9,800 US Troops to Cost $20B; Pentagon Afghan Spending Request Will Be Higher- “The Obama administration estimates that keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in 2015 would cost about $20 billion, but the Pentagon is still expected to request tens of billions of dollars more for additional security operations in the region, according to sources and experts. The White House said Wednesday that it was finalizing its 2015 overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending plan, one day after a senior administration official revealed a troop-cost estimate.”

  6. Nextgov: Preparing for a shortage in feds in science and tech: “While the federal government has developed a strategy to close the workforce gap in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical fields, little has been done to address specific gaps in these fields in the federal government, according to a new report.”

  7. FCW: Benevolent government data mining, or Big Brother?-“The New York Times recently ran a fascinating story called, “U.S. mines personal health data to find the vulnerable in emergencies.” It raises provocative issues that will become more and more relevant over time, as technology allows for ever-improving data mining and data analytics.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

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David B. Grinberg

Chris: I believe the real future of work will be “Results-Only” (ROWE) for both the public and private sectors, especially as millennials take control of the workforce. The public sector needs more experimentation with ROWE and for a longer pilot duration.