Culture and Organizational Development

Outcomes from Harvard Kennedy School Fellowship, 2018-2019

As my 2018-19 DigitalHKS fellowship with the Harvard Kennedy School focused on the Future of Work comes to a formal close this week I wanted to take a moment to share a consolidated list of the resulting products publicly released to date.

This fellowship has been an incredibly productive and informative chapter in my life, allowing me to spend nearly two years working with amazing thought leaders, a world class fellowship manager (Vanessa Rhinesmith), and my exceptional research assistant (Carlos Teixeira) to experiment with new methods for exploring and developing solutions for the implications of the future of work, workplaces, and workforces on society. Specifically:

  • In collaboration with Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights (Bill Eggers, Amrita Datar), we developed tools and methods to redesign work for the future, with a focus on the public sector, including:

    • A step-by-step guide to optimize human-machine collaboration in the public sector.

    • A collection of hypothetical government jobs of the future, that envision how government work could practically become higher impact by leveraging technology, workforce and workplace trends.

    • A workshop approach that walks public sector organizations through a process to visualize the impact of technology and trends on work to empower organizations, employees, and individuals to create the future of work.

  • In collaboration with the Stanford Cyber Initiative (Dan Correa), IDEO CoLab (Susan O’Malley, Becca Carroll and Joanne Cheung), and non-affiliated thought leaders (Megan Brewster) we developed tools and methods, by applying design thinking and policy entrepreneurship practices, to develop future of work policy solutions. Specifically:

    • Convened a future of work policy and prototyping makeathon to develop interdisciplinary and cross-sector policy solutions to enable Americans to thrive in this emerging, dynamic future work environment. (A JOINT REPORT describing the methods and outcomes is in development and will be released in Fall/Winter 2019)

  • Delivered plenary remarks and keynotes on the future of work across the globe at events including:

    • Boston, MA: MIT’s EmTech NEXT 2018 (Video)

    • Melbourne, Australia: University of Melbourne’s Center for Workplace Leadership’s Future of Work Summit 2018 (Video)

    • Glasgow, Scotland: Venture Fest CanDo Innovation Summit 2019 (November 2019)

This topic has become a passion that I expect to stay engaged in and will increasingly seek opportunities to work more intentionally on. I look forward helping to shape the fourth industrial revolution in a positive direction through investments in new capabilities and marketplaces supporting better work as well as intentional interdisciplinary and cross sector collaborations.

(Note/ Disclaimer: The digitalHKS fellowship items described in this note have been part-time. They have been conducted outside of, and unaffiliated with, my full-time duties at NASA Headquarters which I continued throughout the fellowship period and will continue after the conclusion of this fellowship.)

Eight Common Challenges to Scaling Innovation

Eight Common Challenges to Scaling Innovation

Implementing an innovative approach within the federal government takes relentlessness, stamina, and strategy. It can be incredibly lonely. You are often your own best champion. It can feel impossible-- like being the underdog trying to win a sporting match. But after all the frustrations and setbacks, when you win that first match it is also overwhelmingly satisfying.

But for the change agents in government, winning the first match is not enough. To make innovative approaches more routine, winning one match is just the beginning. The scaling challenge begins when you try to win over and over—and when you try to get more people to join your team.

How should we coach the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists?

This week an undergrad from the University of Florida (my alma mater) reached out to me for some advice on getting into MIT for grad school and working for NASA. In writing the response it got me thinking about how we should be coaching the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists to be preparing for their careers. I’ve copied and pasted the advice I gave to the young student below, based on my personal experience and path. Photo Credit: Vanderbilt

I’m curious what others think though. How would you give a freshman in college advice for prepping for a career at NASA or in any other science and technology job? Do you agree with me? Disagree? What other tactical pieces of advice did I miss? Is this advice universal or are there pieces of advice that should differ depending on geography, background, gender or other considerations?

Freshman Physics Student at UF: "What are some crucial steps to take now if I want to get into a school like MIT or get a job at NASA?"

My Response: “For MIT, keep your grades up and get a sense of what you want to study in grad school. A compelling research proposal is KEY to getting into a grad program at MIT. The dirty little secret though is that you can change your direction once you get in. You just have to write a good one to get in. Use your time in undergrad to explore many different topics and classes. Get to know your professors so you have good recommendations. Don't just rely on grades--actually develop relationships with professors you have classes with or do research with. If you get along with one well, ask them to be your mentor. You are really smart for starting to think about these things as a freshman. You have plenty of time to figure out what intrigues you and develop relationships. Your recommendations, grades, and research statement are critical to getting into MIT based on my experience. Furthermore, once you think you know what topics you want to pursue for grad school, start researching the professors at MIT and their research groups that are involved in those topic areas. Reach out to some of the students in their labs to understand their work better. During your junior year make a trip up to MIT and schedule appointments with the faculty who's work you like and who you might want to do research under in graduate school. Have them know you before you even apply.

On top of grades, recommendations, and research topic, stay well rounded. Take some politics classes or a foreign language class. Stay well rounded outside the classroom. I joined a sorority to keep me social and was involved in student government. I hung out with more than just scientists and engineers. Also, travel if you can. Do a study abroad program and see a different part of the world and experience different cultures. I was never abel to do a study abroad but I did backpack Europe on the cheap for a few months right after graduation. One of the most shaping experiences of my life. Travel, friends outside of your academic area, and making sure to schedule in social activities is key to developing your emotional intelligence and ability to work with many types of people. That will be a critical skill for your future career. It's important to have PEOPLE skills and not just smarts.

And while all this stuff is swimming in your head remember that college is about having fun as much as it is for prepping for your career. Sometimes careers are a combination of hard work, luck and seizing opportunities when they come. Despite your most well laid out plans, the path might look different than you thought. Resiliency, adaptability and curiosity are really critical skills nowadays. College should prepare you to be adaptable, curious, good with people, and intelligent (emotionally and mentally). So don't put too much pressure on yourself. Do your best to study topics you find interesting and learn how to learn. Too often we just study for the test and don't really learn. Learn how to learn. You'll do it for the rest of your career. That's a skill employers and graduate programs will look for.

Also for space specific stuff, you should try to get involved in the NASA Social activities (follow them on twitter) and also if you're not already find the people the participate locally in things like Yuri's Night. Those fellow space nerds are a great network to have and great people to help you get connected to what’s going on in space). Apply to a summer internship or co-op program at one of the centers. Email NASA engineers and researchers at centers and see if they’d be willing to grab coffee with you and talk about their work. And never be afraid to reach out to people doing a job you think you might want to do (like you did with me). Building your network through those types of informational interviews is really smart.

To me, the key really is learning how to learn and growing your network. Experts in particular know what they don’t know and know when to ask someone a question. You shouldn’t strive to be perfectly qualified from the beginning. You can’t possibly be. You should strive to develop the tools you’ll need to be able to grow and effectively implement projects throughout your career. The intangibles are just as important as the tangibles (grades, test scores, etc) but they will be infinitely more critical as a foundation for the rest of your career. And you only live once, so you should make sure to enjoy the ride :)

Good luck, and Go Gators!”

Focusing on WHY to Drive Adoption: iPad is Current, Learning and Productive. What is Government?

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and conferences. I’ve enjoyed several typical byproducts of those types of events (networking, learning, etc…) but also a few things that are much rarer: inspiration and re-energized passion. This is largely thanks to my most recent stop: NASA’s Education Innovation Summit, held in Orlando, FL from October 30-November 1. This event focused on how partnerships and student inspiration can act as catalysts for change, specifically: (1) discussing strategies to inspire students who are capable of academic success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) but lacking in motivation, and (2) contributing to ideas to help strengthen collaboration among industry, non-profit organizations, academia, and government agencies. [1] Steve Ressler from Govloop and Alex Howard from O’Reilly Media attended a different event surrounding the STS-133 shuttle launch held at the same time, the #NASATweetup, but I think I can easily say we all walked about having a paradigm shifting experience. This posting focuses on my major take-aways from this immersive experience at NASA. In Washington, many recent conversations on blogs and in the halls of the federal government have revolved around about how to further open government/ gov 2.0 and whether or not it’s “dead”, how to drive IT innovation, how to improve performance and mission delivery through technology, and how to best leverage partnerships and innovative financing to maximize public value. These are all important questions with complicated answers, but as I sat with educators, NASA scientists and private sector executives in Orlando this week, it hit me that we are largely focusing on the wrong questions. We are focused on WHAT we’re doing as a government and HOW we deliver those services and not WHY we’re doing it. I attribute this synapse fire to the keynote speaker, Simon Sinek, the creator of “the golden circle”.

Simon highlighted Apple as an example of how to properly use the golden circle (“why” first, “how” second and “what” third) to drive adoption. Why is Apple successful as a company and why do they have such phenomenal brand loyalty? According to Simon it’s simple: Apple sells a value system (the WHY) not a product (the WHAT). If you like Apple, you believe in challenging the status quo. You’re hip, different, and innovative. You’re current, educated and playful. You are an early adopter. You’ve got an appetite for risk and like people to know that. They base their whole sales pitch on the notion that there are enough people who share that value system that they’ll be profitable. When you buy an Apple product you’re buying a value system, not necessarily the best product for that purpose. Furthermore, Apple can charge a premium to those folks that have unbalanced loyalty to them as a company because of this value proposition.

But how does this apply to the Open Gov/Gov 2.0 community? Our WHY is NOT transparency, participation and collaboration. If we strive to be open for openness sake alone we’re not driving anything that matters. Open Gov supports the mission. But WHY is the mission important and WHY is open government essential to further it? We’ve been largely focusing on the HOW without a clear WHY. Even Jeffrey Levy’s spot-on “Mission, Tools, Metrics, Teach” approachmisses step one based on this logic. It assumes that the mission is clear and that it will resonate with our customers and the general public. But that’s not always the case. How many of us in government have a hard time communicating to the general public WHY they should care about what we do for them? If we can’t do that, then all the HOWs and WHATs in the world will have a fraction of the impact we desire.

Enter NASA. Here’s a government agency that has no problem being perceived as one of the coolest places in government. They do cool stuff. But it’s not about WHAT they do (shuttle launches, etc..) it’s about WHY they do it that captivates our minds. After this week in Florida, I am more convinced than ever that one of NASA’s greatest roles is to inspire. NASA is about exploration, about pushing the boundaries of the human mind, about driving towards breakthrough discoveries, about looking into the great unknown and humbling us all. NASA scientists and engineers have been instrumental to the communications revolution that we in the gov 2.0 and open gov community have to thank for the tools we now have to drive innovation. In fact, NASA research has lead to thousands of spinoff technologies that drive entire industries unrelated to space. Some of the more interesting and surprising ones include:

  • Communications satellites
  • CAT scans and MRIs
  • Portable x-ray technology for neonatal offices and 3rd world countries
  • ATM technology
  • Pay at the Pump satellite technology
  • Cordless tools
  • Aerial reconnaissance and Earth resources mapping
  • Hazardous gas sensors
  • Precision navigation
  • Secure communications
  • Lightweight breathing system used by firefighters
  • FDA-adopted food safety program that has reduced salmonella cases by a factor of 2
  • Multispectral imaging methods used to read ancient Roman manuscripts buried by Mt. Vesuvius [2]

Lane Wallace describes how NASA consistently stretches the boundaries of technology to drive scientific exploration and inspire breakthroughs. If this following quote from her blog doesn’t inspire us all to go and do some pretty amazing things with the state of technology today, I don’t know what will….

“In the early days, communication systems were also limited and unreliable, requiring cumbersome back-up strategies and an extraordinary level of innovative thinking. On a test flight of the Saturn V vehicle that would launch the Apollo spacecraft, for example, the phone lines to the remote western Australia tracking station of Carnarvon went down. (NASA set up a worldwide network to keep track of the launches and keep in touch with the astronauts at all times.) Undeterred, the Australians sent launch times and data back and forth to the station over more than 1,000 miles of the Outback–using the top wire of cattle ranchers’ fences as a makeshift telegraph wire. As for the high-tech systems that allowed the Apollo astronauts to operate their spacecraft and navigate to the moon and back … the Apollo computer was digital, but it had a whopping 36KB of memory. Think about that. We went to the moon on 36K…Consider the obstacles. Consider the lack of knowledge and technology. Consider all that went wrong along the way. And then listen to the recording, in light of those reference points. And perhaps, if the stars line up just right, you might find yourself feeling the true wonder of it all—either for the first time, or all over again.” [3]

But despite all of these incredible reasons WHY NASA is important, its future is threatened. It’s not a secret that the government is facing significant budget cuts and space launches seem to be, in the scheme of things, one of the programs that could be cut. But NASA is not just about space launches—the WHAT. They are uniquely positioned in government to inspire a whole new generation a STEM leaders that are not only required for scientific advancement in general but to keep the US internationally competitive. They are one of the few government agencies whose basic research has spawned countless industries and jobs in the private sector over the years. They are the American spirit. They keep us dreaming and striving to challenge ourselves. I am convinced that the future of our country will be significantly hindered if we don’t continue to prioritize the work NASA does in annual budgets and presidential priorities.

Thus I ask the open gov/gov 2.0 community, do you think that one role of government at the federal, state and local levels in partnership with the private and non-profit sectors is not only to engage, but also to inspire and to make the mission real for the general public? Who’s responsibility is this important piece? Inspiration does not need to be expensive; it’s largely messaging.

Even Apple calls space “magical” through their “iPad is…” commercials. So where are the “NASA is…” messages? Where are the “Government is…” messages? How do we communicate WHY we do what we do in a way that is meaningful to the public and our congressional appropriators? Who’s responsibility it this in your opinion? I strongly believe that only when the WHY resonates with the public at large will we realize the open gov and gov 2.0 adoption we are all working towards so diligently. I encourage us all to focus much more on a WHY that resonates with a larger audience than the tech community alone in our conversations and less on the WHAT and HOW.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me on twitter at @jenngustetic at any time during this series to continue to conversation.


Originally posted on the Govloop’s Featured Jennovation Blog Series.


[2] Read more at Suite101: Practical Applications of Space Technology: Discoveries and Developments by NASA and Their Benefit to Society


(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog for a special featured Govloop series when I was an employee there.

Open Government is Not Dead: The Conversation is Just Maturing…

This installment was inspired by the recent Open Government Community Summit held at NASA on October 13, 2010 and many recent blog postings discussing variations on the death, sophomore slump and/or decline of Gov 2.0 and Open Gov (including “Sophomore slump for Open Government?”, comment thread of “What Gov 2.0 Needs Now”, “Will Gov 2.0 and Open Gov Die?”). Over the last year my colleagues and I at POCG have been striving to contextualize the Open Government Initiative within a broader innovation vision. This presentation from the Summit introduced some of our thinking to the attendees. This blog posting shares the same thinking. Bottom line: Open Government is not dead. However, Open Government initiatives are only part of what is required to cultivate an innovative agency culture. They are an important part of a much larger innovation ecosystem, but only one part nonetheless. To cultivate a culture of innovation, the broader picture of what “innovation” means to the Federal Government is critical to understand.

True innovation powered by good ideas is a tricky thing. Before you continue reading, I highly recommend you take five minutes to watch this great video “Where good ideas come from” for a walk through one depiction of the evolution of great ideas over history. What Gov 2.0 champions, Open Government Senior Accountable Officials, and the feds and consultants that support them have been trying to do over the last year, under the direction of the Open Government Directive, is complicated and incredibly difficult. Over the last couple years agencies have been experimenting with apps contests, data release and visualization, social media, and other Open Gov related efforts. These are huge efforts within themselves given the technology, policy and cultural barriers to implementation that exist. But to create the lasting change that will truly revolutionize government performance, many of those individuals have realized that establishing a culture of innovation that has permanence, is institutionalized, and directly improves mission delivery is paramount. It’s creating that culture of innovation that seems impossible but is one of the most important outcomes of all this recent Open Gov and Gov 2.0 activity. The jury remains out on how the variety of initiatives we’ve already undertaken will support a culture of innovation.

As Dan Morgan (@dsmorgan77), an Open Gov Associate at POCG, would say “Government can create new spaces where ideas can collide, ecosystems can form, and innovation can be nurtured. It can do this in benevolent fashion, such as with prizes and competitions. It can do this with open data either actively (Community Health Data Initiative) or passively (simply releasing data on It can use these tools internally (DOT’s IdeaHub, etc.) as well as externally (Unemployment Insurance reforms) to improve data quality, drive better data-driven decision making in formulating policy, achieve program performance targets, and ultimately deliver improved outcomes.” But this requires a fundamentally new way of thinking about how the government does business, across the board. It requires a culture of innovation throughout the business—not just in Open Government offices.

Does this vision seem a bit broader than the mandates in the Open Government Directive? It is. This vision is discussed in the President’s Strategy for American Innovation. If you haven’t read that document in full yet, I highly recommend you do. Figure 1 below displays some of the tactics that are mentioned in this Strategy to drive innovation. Within the context of the Strategy, Open Government is a critical enabler in accomplishing all of the key outcomes. Within this context, an Open Government can transform, accelerate, and increase the value of the outcomes of innovations. Open Government is only one enabler for innovation.

Figure 1: Sample Tactics for Promoting American Innovation
So what does this mean to the heroes out there that are struggling to advance the principles of Open Government every day? It means they are not alone. It means there are other tactics that are likely being employed at their agencies that share a common vision for innovation. It means that there is a larger context within which Open Government principles lie. Obviously, some of the puzzle pieces shown in Figure 1 overlap in theory and in practice. Table 1 below highlights some examples where Agencies are taking significant steps towards creating an innovative culture leveraging some of these tactics. Many of these efforts might be unknown in the current Open Gov context because of how we’ve framed the discussion around Open Government and Innovation.


Table 1: Examples of Agency Innovation Efforts (full disclosure: DOT is a client)
So for all you Open Gov practitioners, advocates, and heroes out there, what does this re-framing mean to you? It should help you further your objectives with new tools in your tool belt.
  • Identify other innovation leaders in you agency. Bring those innovation leaders to cross-agency events and get them familiar with the Open Government Initiative. Become familiar with their programs and goals. You can be each other’s greatest allies.
  • If your managers are resistant to Open Gov, try broadening the conversation to one of Innovation. It’s hard to argue with pursuing innovation to improve mission performance.
  • Leverage Open Gov initiatives and pilots as success stories for innovation.
I’ve blogged before on many of the other puzzle pieces (including prizes and competitons,partnerships for sustainabilitypartnerships to create secondary markets to fill funding gaps, andpartnerships to develop infrastructure) and will make an effort to focus on some of the others in future blog postings. What are some other great examples of Agency innovation that are benefiting from the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration that you know of? What do you think about elevating the conversation from one of furthering “open government” to furthering “innovation”? What are the unintended consequences of such a scoping?
As always, please feel free to reach out to me on twitter at @jenngustetic at any time during this series to continue to conversation.
(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog for a special featured Govloop series when I was an employee there.

Open Government is Change Management… On Steroids

Giovanni Carnaroli, the associate CIO for IT policy oversight at the Department of Transportation, and Jenn Gustetic from Phase One Consulting Group presented at the Open Government: Strategies and Tactics from the Play Book event last week. For those of you that couldn’t make it, we are introducing our thoughts about how to approach Open Government to you on the blogosphere with this posting:

  • Open Government planning is about more than tools and technology. It is about the “trinity” of Technology, Policy and Culture.
  • Developing and using a comprehensive Open Government framework is possible and it can help you stay on track throughout the program lifecycle.
  • Engaging an interdisciplinary leadership and planning team from the beginning is crucial to tap into tacit knowledge and mitigate risks.

We feel that Open Government is ultimately about driving innovation through collaboration. We are heading towards that goal by getting the right people at the leadership table from the beginning and by following a framework that is focused, comprehensive and flexible in an attempt to avoid as many downstream issues as possible. We have incorporated the technology, policy and cultural elements that are essential to understand in any Open Government effort into a framework that will enable Agencies to meet their strategic objectives, mitigate risks, and improve performance through their Open Government Plan. This framework will help you answer two questions: “how should I approach managing the change required for a more Open Government?” and “who should I involve in Open Government?”

We hope that this framework will serve as the starting point for an Open Government best practice methodology (similar to FSAM), developed through a multi-agency effort.

How should I approach managing the change required for a more Open Government?

Bottom line, the Open Gov initiative represents a shift in the way we engage with the public and innovate. This is change management…on steroids.

And how do you traditionally manage change and business transformation? Through a pretty basic lifecycle management approach; assess, plan, implement, measure, and improve. But how do you assess your current state? How do you plan for your desired state? That’s where the “wheel” you see on the graphic below comes in. The wheel acknowledges that the technology, policy and culture components at your organization are all critical to understand before moving into planning. Some people see these areas as hurdles they must overcome, and others see them as resources. We see them each as unique and crucial areas for transformation throughout the Open Gov lifecycle.

POCG is proud to have supported DOT in the development of this framework

For technology, we suggest the critical areas include security, infrastructure, tools and current pilots and programs. For policy we suggest the areas are strategic planning, performance, legal and internal directives. And finally for culture we suggest the critical areas are employee readiness, communication channels, agency stakeholders, and those areas where the agency is already participating with the public, albeit not through Gov 2.0 tools. We will be releasing another blog series soon that will run through each of these areas in detail.

Note that each critical area and the corresponding activities in the five lifecycle phases can be thought of as a “cake slice”. There are distinct activities associated with the assess, plan, implement, measure, and improve phases of the each of the key areas that the appropriate office should be heavily involved in.

Who should be involved in Open Gov strategy and planning at your organization? On the framework graphic, there is a grey ring around the color wheel that contains various offices within the organization. This ring highlights what office tends to be the subject matter expert in each of these crucial areas. Walking around the circle, this framework shows that the chief information officer, project managers for key mission areas, public affairs, human resources, chief financial officer, general counsel, and policy development offices should all be engaged in the leadership and planning of an Open Gov effort. If you want more detail about what each of these offices tend to care about in the Open Gov space, check out the “Open Gov leadership team” blog series we released in October.

Bottom line: It’s important to involve folks from each of these critical areas at the beginning of the effort in order to tap into their tacit knowledge and ensure downstream challenges are mitigated.

Open Government strategy and planning is not about picking one tool and running with it. It is about fundamentally changing the way the Federal government interacts with citizens and its employees to reduce costs, improve decision making, mitigate risks, and stimulate innovation. That is a huge endeavor but this framework organizes the chaos and may enable you to more effectively tie agency strategic goals and performance targets to Open Government transformation efforts.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Gov Partner Approach: Office of Human Resources (HR)

Motivations: The Office of Human Resources (HR) is responsible for managing the staffing function of the organization, administering employee benefits, evaluating performance of employees, assessing employee satisfaction, providing dispute resolution and mediation services, and driving towards a model workplace. HR shops value the consistent and fair treatment of all employees. They ensure employees are fulfilled, developed, and supported in their workplace, and that a safe and confidential space for employees to resolve disputes is provided. HR shops adhere to the needs of the employees and work alongside internal operations teams, so tend to have less interaction with the public than the other Open Gov involved offices, except for recruitment efforts. Thus, HR shops have a unique pulse on the nature of an organization’s workforce: their technological maturity, their adaptability, their satisfaction, and their skills sets. Open Gov Programs can ultimately help HR shops achieve better results. One Open Gov program that has reached HR and improved employee satisfaction, is the TSA Ideafactory. This internal tool creates a means for thousands of TSA employees to submit ideas for how to advance the organization and improve morale that are then rated and ranked by their peers, evaluated by TSA HQ, and implemented as appropriate. This tool has been wildly successful at TSA and many HR departments are interested in adopting this program (including DHS).

Social media also offers an opportunity for organizations to recruit differently than they have ever before. In addition to the popular job boards (monster, hotjobs, careerbuilder, indeed, etc.), several federal agencies are now posting open positions on twitter, facebook, craigslist, doostang, linkedin and many other networking or social sites—enabling a more diverse and larger population to be targeted for federal jobs.

Approach: Since HR shops understand employees needs uniquely, they require a seat at the Open Gov table. When creating an Open Gov strategy, HR shops will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • How can gov 2.0 tools create an organizational culture that empowers employees and allows them to better collaborate with one another?
  • Will employee codes of conduct need to be modified at all to account for social media use? How will use of social media be regulated?
  • Prior to implementation, what legal considerations are important to review? How will these rules and regulations be communicated to employees/users?
  • How will Open Gov programs affect employee satisfaction? How will satisfaction be measured?
  • How will Open Gov change the way we recruit new employees?
  • How “ready” are employees for new ways of collaborating and participating with web-based technologies? How do we encourage employees to use these tools and transform the culture?

Partner’s Bottom Line: HR shops may be an unexpected partner at the Open Gov table. However, their role is critical in transforming the culture of the organization. HR shops should keep in mind the following when participating in Open Gov efforts:

  • Catalyze culture change within the organization. Open Gov will only work if new habits are encouraged from the inside out, and the principles of transparency, collaboration and participation are institutionalized. Help other Open Gov partners determine the tools they have to institutionalize these principles.
  • Be open. There will be risks with any new Open Gov program and it will be difficult, to predict how employees will receive new programs. But risks should be managed, not be the impetus for the status quo.
  • Be realistic. Open Gov programs, like IdeaFactory can achieve significant internal value for organizations in terms of employee satisfaction and cultivating a culture of openness and collaboration. However, these changes are not felt overnight—be patient but realistic in goals for metrics.

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Gov Partner Approach: Office of the Chief Financial Officer

Motivations: There are several drivers for Agencies and their OCFO shops to focus on performance management—and many of them are directly related to compliance activities. The following is by no means exhaustive, but demonstrates a few of the Agency performance and budgeting requirements that motivate OCFO’s to be engaged in any business transformation efforts that occur as a result of embracing Open Government principles:

  • The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) shifts “the focus of government decision making, management, and accountability from activities and processes to the results and outcomes achieved by Federal programs.” Under GPRA, annual performance plans must be submitted that outline performance goals, measurement approaches, and the strategies to achieve those goals. (Source: GAO Report)
  • Executive Order 13450 – Improving Government Program Performance is the official policy of the Federal Government to spend taxpayer dollars more effectively each year. Agency Performance Improvement Officers (PIOs) must develop and improve the agency’s strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports and assist the head of the agency in the development and use within the agency of performance measures in personnel performance appraisals, particularly those of program managers.
  • The Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) was “developed to assess and improve program performance so that the Federal government can achieve better results. A PART review helps identify a program’s strengths and weaknesses to inform funding and management decisions aimed at making the program more effective”. (Source: OMB Website) A Federal website,, displays performance information online for the public.

Approach: OCFO’s must balance a myriad of pressures and priorities when developing the annual budget including performance management and strategic goals alignment. OCFO shops will be concerned with metrics, strategic alignment and the costs associated with any Open Government effort. When standing up an Open Government program, OCFO’s will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • Do Open Government philosophies and programs enhance an Agency’s focus on their mission?
  • Do the efforts support annual performance goals?
  • Will senior managers be able to use the performance and financial data that is created through Open Government to manage their programs?
  • How do we link agency employees’ appraisals to the agency missions, goals, and outcomes associated with Open Government?
  • How will we apply program evaluations (PART) to assess the effectiveness of Open Gov programs?
  • What is the full cost of achieving the performance goals associate with Open Government?
  • What is the marginal cost of changing performance goals due to Open Government?
  • Will budget requests need to be altered as a result of Open Government efforts?
  • How do we measure baseline performance targets associated with the Open Government?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an Open Government program that considers the answers to each of these questions, OCFO’s should:

  • Integrate the Federal-wide goals of transparency, participation and collaboration into strategic planning and performance management for the Agency.
  • Work alongside and appreciate the importance of “techies” to understand the scope and possibilities for the effort. This will enable them to understand how technology has evolved and will evolve to assist agencies in meeting the Federal-wide goals of transparency, participation and collaboration.
  • Be open. What is defined as “success” and a performance target should be evolving as technology moves forward. We should not continue to pursue outdated targets as possibilities change with technology.

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Gov Partner Approach: Office of General Counsel

Motivations: OGC’s primary mission is to provide legal opinions, advice, and services with respect to all agency and departmental programs and activities. OGC’s are charged with ensuring compliance with all federal laws, statutes, and OMB guidance in all Agency activities. They keep the rest of us out of trouble and handle disputes with agency decisions as they emerge. Approach: OGC’s must survey and interpret a host of different information sources to develop a legal opinion on any new government effort, including open government programs. Legal Counsel will review Agency statutes, federal laws, OMB guidance and directives, OMB circulars, and internal Agency policies to advise the client on actions that are legal, illegal, and those that may need slight modification to transfer between the two. This activity can be quite time consuming, especially in areas where substantial case law does not exist (i.e. the questions being asked are new).

When standing up an open government tool, OGC’s will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • What is your authority for creating this tool or program?
  • Are there any statutory constraints or enablers that impact the Agency’s use of open government tools, including security protections?
  • Will the tool be collecting information from the public, and if so, will it violate the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)?
  • Are you seeking consensus advice from the public, and if so, will it trigger the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)?
  • Are your tools 508 compliant and do they meet the requirements of all accessibility laws?
  • Is the Agency okay with the tools “terms of service”, if it is an established tool?
  • Does the program meet all privacy regulations and is a privacy impact assessment (PIA) required?
  • If an interaction tool is desired, what should the comment policy say? (This policy details the legal protections for the service provider (aka federal government) with regards to the user generated content.)
  • If access is restricted, what is the basis for restricting access and should there be an access policy?
  • Is the content on the tool considered a “federal record” and if so, should a disposition schedule be developed?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an open government tool that considers the answers to each of these questions, OGC’s should:

  • Work alongside the strategists and program developers to understand the purpose of the effort. This will enable them to advise the effort in real-time and prevent most legal issues from emerging down the line, which could slow or completely halt all efforts.
  • Be open. Open Government is a new application of several outdated laws (NARA, PRA, FACA, etc…) and OGC’s across the federal government are sharing legal opinions that are flexible but still operate within the boundaries of the law.
  • “Approach the tools and issues with an eye to analyzing and managing the actual risk. Too many projects get stalled on unlikely what-if scenarios. Ask, what is the real risk? What is the likelihood of it occurring? Recognizing that some risks may not be tenable, the benefit of openness needs to be prominent in the equation.” (Thanks to Gwynne for contributing)

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.


Open Gov Partner Approach: Program Offices

Motivations: Program Offices are often those folks that are motivated by outputs and outcomes that most directly relate to the bottom line mission areas of an Agency. They are charged with implementing programs that tie into the strategic goals of the organization and are often the closest to the stakeholders. These folks are closest to the pain points in Agency processes and statutory limitations. They know what they need to be successful but often times face barriers in implementation with the integrating offices (OCIO, OPA, OGC, etc…) so they often “go it alone” and do what works for them in order to meet their mission, not focusing on integrating their efforts with the needs of the entire organization. In a perfect world, they would have access to customizable solutions to help them meet their business needs that have already taken into account the hard legal, policy, technical and performance questions. Approach: Program offices identify a business need, and will fill that gap with the solution that best balances their time, resource, cost and technology limitations. To create these solutions, program offices tend to follow some form of a project management process to design, implement, maintain and improve upon their initiatives, consulting other offices when appropriate.

This approach is no different when programs decide to utilize open government tools. Building a blog, a wiki, or a specialized participation tool requires a project management approach to stand it up, and then program management to maintain and improve upon it. When standing up an open government tool, program offices will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • What type of information sharing with the stakeholders will help me to achieve my strategic goals more effectively? Will open government tools help my bottom line by making public engagement easier?
  • What type of outreach reaches my stakeholders the most effectively? Do those stakeholders have the technological maturity to transition to a primarily online collaboration environment?
  • What type of program is realistic to maintain given my personnel, budget and time constraints?
  • What tools are available for me to use? Are those tools adequately vetted from a security, privacy and utility perspective?
  • How much ability do I have to execute creative license over the tool to customize it for my needs?
  • Is there any reason why I can’t do what I want to do (internal policy, statute, the law, etc…)?
  • Has an effort like this worked any where else outside my organization or within it?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an open government tool that considers the answers to each of these questions, program offices should:

  • Work closely with a team of the legal, technical, policy, and performance subject matter experts;
  • Follow project management discipline in order to manage risks, costs, schedules and resources; and
  • Be provided with a source where Agency best practices and resources can be shared so each program office is not forced to ask these same difficult questions each time a new business need emerges.

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.