Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for August 2009

The DorobekInsider Reader: National Security Personnel System recommendations

leave a comment »

One of the big stories of the week — and possibly of the year — are the developments with the National Security Personnel System. NSPS, of course, is the Defense Department’s pay-for-performance system — it was the attempt by the Bush administration to develop an alternative to the government’s long-standing General Schedule pay system, which emphasizes longevity but does almost nothing to recognize performance.

There were a goal of the National Security Personnel System was to create a more flexible personnel system that aligns more clearly with the Defense Department’s goals.

Here is how the final report of the Defense Business Board’s task group on NSPS describes it:

In 2003, Congress enacted the NSPS.  The aim of the NSPS was to establish a more flexible, mission-based personnel management system that linked to DoD’s mission and organizational goals…

Today, as the DoD faces an almost unprecedented tempo of operations, there is an urgent need to align the Department’s resources to its priorities and to rebuild critical capabilities within the workforce.  Successful performance management systems have the potential to enhance organizational performance and drive effective results.  Flexible compensation and classification tools are required to support the recruitment and retention of high quality employees.

Most managers — and even most government workers — acknowledge that the government’s GS system just doesn’t work well. But many also acknowledge that NSPS didn’t do it well either.

The Bush administration had a big misstep with NSPS: They refused to include the government employee unions in the discussions about the program. That being said, the employee unions are, by in large, opposed to changing the pay for performance system.

To its credit, the Obama administration did not just do away with NSPS. Instead, the Obama administration asked the Defense Business Board to review the pay system. After several months — and several public hearings that felt like some of the health care town halls this summer — the Defense Business Board NSPS task group issued their final report last week. The group’s findings:

1. Initiate a reconstruction of the NSPS within DoD that begins with a challenge to the assumptions and design of NSPS.  The Task Group recommends a “reconstruction” of the NSPS.  A “fix” could not address the depth of the systemic problems discovered.  The Task Group does not recommend an abolishment of the NSPS because the performance management system that has been created is achieving alignment of employee goals with organizational goals.

The reconstruction should include a true engagement of the workforce in designing needed changes and implementation.  Finally, the reconstruction should include desired outcomes and data collection to measure results.

2. Reestablish a DoD commitment to partnership and collaborating with employees through their unions.

3. Establish DoD’s commitment to strategic management and investment in career civil servants.

4. Continue the existing moratorium on transitions of more work units into NSPS until DoD can present a corrective action plan to address identified issues, supported by data that the implemented corrective actions will address the identified issues.

I have pulled together a number of resources about NSPS because, it seems to me, this is a big issue and could be a real opportunity for government.

* The final report of the Defense Business Board’s task group on the National Security Personnel System [PDFScrib Flash version]

* Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System page

* The current GS pay systems… including a FAQ from OPM

* Coverage of the Defense Business Board’s final report…

Read more — and hear many of Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s interviews about NSPS — here

Rudy deLeon is the Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. He also served as the chairman of the Defense Business Board’s NSPS task group. Hear that conversation here.

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller pulls together reaction to the board’s report

Federal News Radio’s Federal Drive talks to Robert Tobias, who was a member of the Defense Business Board task group.

The Daily Debrief talks to Dr. John Crum is the deputy director of the Merit Systems Protection Board about why pay-for-performance deserves this kind of focus.

Federal News Radio’s In Depth with Francis Rose talks to Darryl Perkinson, president of the Federal Managers Association.

Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas talks to Bill Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

And read the full report here:

View this document on Scribd

Written by cdorobek

August 31, 2009 at 7:20 AM

DorobekInsider: Most read on for the last week of August 2009 on DorobekInsider… Daily Debrief… and Federal News Radio

leave a comment »

The most read items for the last week of August 2009…

for the DorobekInsider

  1. DorobekInsider: The buzz of federal government IT: Two scorching IG report on VA IT… sex, lies – but no video tape
  2. DorobekInsider: What’s the deal with GSA administrator nominee Johnson? The Kansas City Star finds out
  3. DorobekInsider: The VA IG reports — what are the next steps? We ask government IT veterans
  4. DorobekInsider: Leadership or management — that is the question?
  5. DorobekInsider: Power IT Down Day – help Mother Earth (and Wounded Warriors) by turning off your computers
  6. DorobekInsider: The GSA Johnson hold update — Bond and Johnson have met
  7. DorobekInsider: What are the most annoying buzz words?
  8. DorobekInsider: Obama’s summer reading list – and autumn’s worthy reads
  9. DorobekInsider: The most read items for the third week of August 2009
  10. DorobekInsider: What’s behind the cyber-czar Hathaway resignation? And why is this post so difficult to fill
  11. DorobekInsider: GSA names Dave McClure to lead the Office of Citizen Services
  12. DorobekInsider: Robertson to be named to head GSA’s OGP and CAO
  13. DorobekInsider: The FCC joins the blogsphere — and Twitter
  14. DorobekInsider: Clearing the desk – and stories mentioned on the Daily Debrief
  15. DorobekInsider: CGI’s official announcement about Molly O’Neill
  16. DorobekInsider: The new TSA CIO — Emma Garrison-Alexander
  17. DorobekInsider: CGI Federal scores a coup hiring former EPA CIO Molly O’Neill
  18. DorobekInsider: GSA’s Dorris, Army’s Sorenson, HP’s Hempfield earn AFCEA Bethesda
  19. DorobekInsider: 1105 Media cuts pay 20 percent — temporarily
  20. DorobekInsider: It’s my birthday, but… you get the gifts
  21. Ed DeSeve to join the Obama administration
  22. DorobekInsider: GSA names Danielle Germain as chief of staff
  23. Congratulations on the wedding of Bob Suda and Joanne Connelly
  24. DorobekInsider: The Roll Call-CQ marriage announcement
  25. DorobekInsider: New DOT CFO nominee… and a possible DOT CIO nominee
  26. DorobekInsider: GSA names a OGP-CAO leader — and then merges the organizations
  27. DorobekInsider: Women In Technology – Government Leaders at the Helm: A New Era — the li
  28. DorobekInsider: 1105 GovInfo names government IT vet Weiss as group publisher
  29. DHS director of the National Cybersecurity Center resigns

The most read on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris

  1. E-messaging, other benefits to come with new TSP Web site
  2. OPM wants to change sick leave rules
  3. Space Station treadmill bears name of comedian Colbert
  4. Analysis: Where does NSPS go now?
  5. Report: NSPS should be reconstructed
  6. BRAC update from two local congressmen
  7. How Web 2.0 is changing responses to emergencies
  8. Will Maryland be the new home of cybersecurity?
  9. The latest TSP news
  10. Update: NSPS recommendations
  11. Cybersecurity concerns from Congress
  12. TSP Talk: Tobacco Bill signed into law
  13. Reaction to NSPS from all sides
  14. IG reports cite abuses, nepotism at VA
  15. The IT Sector Baseline Risk Assessment & you
  16. NSPS update: Unions speak before Board final recommendations
  17. USPTO gets new director
  18. GSA Administrator still not nominated
  19. Remember Sen. Ted Kennedy
  20. Why you might want to be wary of cloud computing
  21. GAO: Missile defense systems in Europe could exceed cost estimates
  22. DHS technology gets more of a human touch
  23. GSA helping to preserve lighthouses
  24. What next, if not Networx? Word from GSA’s conference
  25. Multi-tasking isn’t just a bad idea it can actually hurt you
  26. Cybersecurity challenges
  27. Power IT Down at your agency . . . and help the troops
  28. Update: TSP’s Roth option
  29. Navy CIO: Cyber czar needed soon
  30. No COLA for federal retirees?
  31. NIH and Wikimedia Foundation team up – Part 2
  32. College advisors get inside tips on federal jobs
  33. DoD’s health IT strategy
  34. TSP preps for new Web site debut
  35. DoD and Web 2.0: A blogger’s take
  36. Ask the CIO preview: Treasury Dept.
  37. Companies urge employees to power down
  38. BIG Conference happening in Baltimore this week
  39. CIA faces harsh criticism
  40. Federal Contracting workforce is growing
  41. The possibilities of cloud computing in the federal government
  42. Fortess Technologies helps the warfighter go wireless
  43. Defense Business Board releases NSPS recommendations
  44. Navy CIO outlines IT service needs
  45. TSP Talk: Where is the market going?
  46. GSA issues RFQ for cloud computing services
  47. An argument for broadband across the U.S.
  48. Proposed Budget Would Limit Raises in 2010
  49. GSA’s Casey Coleman moves into the cloud

And the most read item on Federal News Radio 1500 AM…

  1. OPM proposes changes to sick leave rules
  2. OPM preparing for pandemic by adjust sick leave policy
  3. NSPS remains on life support
  4. OPM preparing for pandemic by adjusting sick leave policy
  5. GSA releases FY 2010 per diem rates
  6. NSPS final report released
  7. Travel card programs need better internal controls
  8. Feds Feed Families exceeds food donation goal
  9. DHS clarifies rules around laptop searches at the border
  10. Predator drones help CBP along all borders
  11. Expect changes to TSP Web site early next year
  12. GSA reissues RFI for software-as-a-service
  13. Agencies trying to find balance between Web 2.0, cybersecurity
  14. GSA helping to preserve American lighthouses
  15. Agencies fall short of most small business goals
  16. Langevin ‘concerned and disappointed’: still no cybersecurity czar
  17. stimulates stimulus reporting
  18. AFGE re-elects Gage as national president
  19. Federal News Radio Reports
  20. Federal labor unions say NSPS is toxic

Written by cdorobek

August 30, 2009 at 9:22 PM

DorobekInsider: What are the most annoying buzz words?

leave a comment »

DorobekInsider: What are the most annoying buzz words?

We all remember synergy — pulling desperate organizations together so that the sum was more then then added parts… and we all remember how well that worked.

What is the synergy of 2009? Accountemps conducted a survey of executives… and among the items on their list…

Executives were asked, “What is the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?” Their responses included:

  • Leverage: As in, “We intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits.”
  • Reach out: As in, “Remember to reach out to customers impacted by the change.”
  • It is what it is: As in, “The server is down today, and clients are irate. It is what it is.”
  • Viral: As in, “Our video has gone viral.”
  • Game changer: As in, “Transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company.”
  • Disconnect: As in, “There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides.”
  • Value-add: As in, “We have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we spend more on it.”
  • Circle back: As in, “I’m heading out of the office now, but I will circle back with you later.”
  • Socialize: As in, “We need to socialize this concept with our key stakeholders.”
  • Interface: As in, “My job requires me to interface with all levels of the organization.”
  • Cutting edge: As in, “Our cutting-edge technology gives us a competitive advantage.”

Accountemps conducted a similar survey in 2004. The following “Hall-of-Fame” buzzwords were cited in both surveys:

  • At the end of the day
  • Synergy
  • Solution
  • Think outside the box
  • On the same page
  • Customer-centric

Some phrases cited in the most recent survey suggest executives are suffering from recession fatigue, including:

  • Recession
  • Depression
  • Economy
  • Do more with less
  • Restructuring
  • Downsizing
  • Gloom and doom
  • Pay freeze
  • Bailout
  • Overworked

So what are the government buzzwords out there these days — and I’d be the first to acknowledge that one of them is “government 2.0” — or, to be honest, virtual anything 2.0.

But I’d love to hear your over-hyped buzz words.

Written by cdorobek

August 28, 2009 at 8:36 AM

DorobekInsider: Power IT Down Day – help Mother Earth (and Wounded Warriors) by turning off your computer tonight

leave a comment »

Today is Power IT Down Day — the second annual event that hopes to get all of us to turn our PCs and laptops off overnight when all they do is soak up power for no reason.

Earlier on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to Nigel Ballard, director of federal marketing at Intel Americas and one of the companies sponsoring the event. You can hear that conversation here.

We should also note that the companies — Citrix, HP, Microsoft, Intel and the Professional Services Council — are taking the money that people would save tonight and donating it to the Wounded Warrior Project, which works to “raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women… help severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and… provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of severely injured service members.”

Here is the release that the groups put out:

Today, Aug. 27, is Power IT Down Day, an initiative through which Citrix, HP, Microsoft, Intel and the Professional Services Council encourage government and industry to show their commitment to responsible energy usage.

You can learn more about it, and sign up to participate, by visiting this site:

Simply put, we’re asking that government and industry shut down their computers, printers and peripherals at the end of the work day today. As of this morning, more than 4,400 people have pledged to join Power IT Down Day. To illustrate how important this issue is, keep in mind:

* Last year, over 2,800 individuals signed up for the inaugural Power IT Down Day.
* The 4,400 people who pledged to Power IT Down this year represent over 57,000 kilowatt hours saved. This equates to more than $5,700 dollars saved in just one night.
* Imagine if just these 4,400 individuals powered IT down for a whole year. That’s a savings of more than $2M.
* Now imagine if one percent of the country’s 1.8 million civilian government employees powered it down for one year.

Saving government and environmental resources is not just in the imagination any more. It’s real and it’s concrete and it can be done.

And, to represent how the money saved from powering IT down could be put to good use, the Power IT Down Day partners will donate more than $20,000 to Wounded Warrior Project, a group that represents those brave Americans who sacrificed so much.

You can sign up for Power IT Down Day here.

Other press converge of Power IT Down Day from…

the Wounded Warrior Project

Also from:

Federal Computer Week
Signal magazine
Government Computer News

Written by cdorobek

August 27, 2009 at 12:52 PM

Posted in Green, Policy, Technology

DorobekInsider: Obama’s summer reading list – and autumn’s worthy reads

leave a comment »

As you may know, I love books… and I love reading… so I love seeing what other people are reading.

Along those lines, I’m always fascinated what other people are reading.

I read all sorts of things — I have often joked that I’m one of the few people who read magazines ranging from The New Yorker and The Economist to US Magazine. And my range of books is equally broad — and I’m often reading at least two books at a time. Currently, for example, I’m reading the Twilight vampire books as well as a book recommended by DOD deputy CIO Dave Winnergren and Navy CIO Robert Carey… Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, James O’Toole, and Patricia Ward Biederman. (If I can get Bennis on the air, this might just be a Federal News Radio Book Club book.)

And yes — of course there is a social networking site for books — you can find me on here… and on Shelfari here…

Anyway… John Dickerson has a wonderful story about what’s on President Obama’s reading list. The White House issued the president’s vacation reading… and here it is…

  • The Way Home by George Pelecanos, a crime thriller based in Washington, D.C.;
  • Lush Life by Richard Price, a story of race and class set in New York’s Lower East Side;
  • Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, on the benefits to America of an environmental revolution;
  • John Adams by David McCullough;
  • Plainsong by Kent Haruf, a drama about the life of eight different characters living in a Colorado prairie community.

Dickerson goes on to analyze what this list tells us about the President.

The Obama selection is not overtly controversial. In 2006, Bush’s list included The Great Influenza, about the 1918 flu. If Obama were reading that today while his White House was issuing a new report about the H1N1 virus, he’d start a national panic. But his list is also clearly not poll-tested. Women played a key role in Obama’s victory in 2008. They’re swing voters. And yet all of Obama’s authors are white men. The subject of the longest book, John Adams, is a dead white male. Obama couldn’t get away with that in an election year, and, given his aides’ penchant for cleaning up little things like this, we’ll soon see the president with a copy of Kate Walbert’s A Short History of Women.

Read Dickerson’s full story here.

I can’t imagine having to poll test my reading list, but…

Two books coming out this fall that I’m very much looking forward to:

Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges. I actually was given an early read of this one and McAfee, a associate professor at the Harvard Business School and the man credited with creating the term “enterprise 2.0.” As I mentioned previously, one of the examples discussed in the book is Intellipedia.

The other book that I’m really looking forward to is Deloitte’s William D. Eggers’ If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government. Read more about the book here.

Both books come out in November.

Written by cdorobek

August 26, 2009 at 9:31 PM

DorobekInsider: The GSA Johnson hold update — Bond and Johnson have met

leave a comment »

I mentioned over the weekend that the Kansas City Star had confirmed that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) has the hold on Martha Johnson’s nomination to be the administrator of the General Services Administration.

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller has learned that Bond and Johnson have actually met to try and resolve the issues.

Congressional staffers tell Federal News Radio that the two met in early August before the Senate went on recess.

“While the Senator sat down with the nominee for a face-to-face meeting, he is waiting on additional information on projects important to Kansas City,” senate staffers said.

Bond’s staff, however, would not detail what those projects are. The Kansas City Star’s Kevin Collinson’s story says it is mostly seeking to pressure the government to build a downtown federal office building.

The proposal to consolidate more than 1,200 area federal workers in either a new or existing building downtown was thought to have been cleared by Washington agencies last fall when the GSA and Office of Management and Budget finally forwarded the plan to Congress.

Most of the federal workers are now at the Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City, which is gradually being vacated by its government tenants.

But in June, the Senate Environmental and Public Works Commission asked Anthony Costa, GSA acting commissioner for public buildings, for more financial analysis. Bond suspected the move had been requested by GSA bureaucrats as part of an effort to scuttle the Kansas City plan.

We will continue to watch it.

Written by cdorobek

August 25, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Posted in Congress, GSA, Management

DorobekInsider: Leadership or management — that is the question?

leave a comment »

Does the government need leadership? Or better management? And where should the focus be?

I write a monthly column in AFCEA’s Signal magazine. My column in the August issue is headlined:

Trite But True: It All Comes Down to Leadership
Good leadership is transformational and is different from management

In the column, I note that I did a search for books about leadership, and it probably will not surprise anyone that my search came up with 348,433 hits. So on one level, we understand it—leadership is important. And I went on to tell the story about EPA’s Jeremy Ames, who did the first government open contest — in this case, for people who created a public service announcement around radon gas. (See the videos from here.) And I noted in the column that the great thing about the videos is that then EPA CIO Molly O’Neill and then EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock didn’t know it was going on. My conclusion was that was a demonstration of transformation at EPA — the fact that people felt safe enough to try something out that could change the way the organization does business — it seems very powerful to me.

As I said, you can read the full column here.

Alan Balutis [PDF bio], the director and distinguished fellow for Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, sent me a note soon after that column was published in which he asked if he could take exception to my column. I told him I was thrilled that the column spurred a discussion — and, in fact, we will start that discussion — Allan gets to disagree with me publicly Tuesday at 10a ET on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Government IT Solutions Spotlight… and in the October issue of Signal magazine.

UPDATE: Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Government IT Solutions Spotlight program with Balutis is now posted online. You can hear the conversation here.

His arguement: There is way too much focus on leadership — and not nearly enough focus on management. To that end, Balutis did an search about management and found 105,818 hits – less than a third of those on leadership.

As government programs and agencies today have become more complex, the ability to make them work has diminished. As we review the government landscape today, it is littered with failures: FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina, the Food and Drug Administration’s inability to stop dangerous foods from reaching dining tables, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s not keeping lead-painted toys out of stores, the collapse of financial markets, outrageous Ponzi schemes, and on and on. Are these failures of leadership? There might be an element of that. But, more likely, they are failures of management; they are failures to execute.

We’ll continue this conversation tomorrow morning, and while I don’t think Balutis’s point necessarily distracts from the need for good leadership, it doesn’t mean that management isn’t absoluteely essential — and perhaps way too overlooked.

Written by cdorobek

August 24, 2009 at 1:34 PM