Editorial: Advocating for change

The past year has been a time of transition in more ways than one.

The approaching change in administration has compelled people to take a fresh look at many policies and strategies and consider new possibilities. What assumptions should we question? What new directions might we take? A new generation of technology — and federal workers — has prompted similar questions.

Throughout the year, Federal Computer Week’s editors have used this page to encourage officials to prepare for change and, if possible, embrace it. As 2008 draws to a close, some of those thoughts seem to be worth further consideration. Here are some excerpts.

“Perhaps we are naïve, but we firmly believe there are real opportunities for candidates who talk about getting results, for candidates who move beyond hyperbole and offer proposals that can be discussed and debated and who then move forward. Feds — and citizens — are tired of bickering. And they are tired of having to be cynical.” [“Let the real debate begin,” Jan. 7.]

“The people involved with Government 2.0 projects share a passion for their work, and they have made remarkable progress in a short time. They have a twinkle in their eyes, and that twinkle is infectious. Success spurs people to try new ways of doing things, and they are breaking down barriers that previously seemed insurmountable.” [“The collaboration era,” March 3.]

“Young people are eager to learn, and they are looking for a challenge. But will the government provide an environment where agencies can tap into new ways of thinking about issues and new ways of doing business, or will agencies stick to the ways the government has always done its work?” [“Millennial makeover,” June 16]

“Many of the concerns about collaboration tools are management issues. And, frankly, they are similar to those we confronted when employees got e-mail accounts and, earlier, telephones. Do we throw out the productivity gains that have come from e-mail because some people misuse that tool?” [“Defending CIO bloggers,” June 23.]

“Government 2.0 initiatives cannot be driven from the top down — those kinds of forced changes generally fall flat. But top leaders have the opportunity to tap into innovation at the grass-roots level, using social-networking technology to find innovators in the federal workforce who are eager to change the way government does business. Connect them to a new generation of public servants and add some top administration leadership, and you have a powerful combination to get some good work done.” [“The importance of IT,” June 30.]

“For career feds, the challenge is to find a way to convince the new team to preserve initiatives that are worth preserving — and to avert policies, such as banning cost-plus contracts, that are based on a superficial understanding of complex issues. The Office of Management and Budget, in fact, might have provided feds with the key: Speak in terms of the business case.” [“The case for the status quo,” Oct. 27.]

“Many people involved in federal IT probably breathed a sigh of relief when, a week before the election, a representative of Barack Obama’s campaign said chief information officers should be career employees, not political appointees. This approach would add a measure of stability to IT operations. Some people believe politically appointed CIOs have more clout with agency leaders, but they are often at a disadvantage when it comes to developing IT policies and strategies and getting buy-in from agency staff members.” [“A new day for CIOs,” Nov. 17.]

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