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NOAA makes magic solicitation disappear

The General Services Administration's conference spending scandal prompted FCW columnist and blogger Steve Kelman to wonder if the inevitable renewed scrutiny would lead to a clamping down on any kind of creativity in agency spending.

It could be happening already. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has withdrawn a solicitation for a motivational speaker who incorporates magic in his or her presentation.

As described by Charles S. Clark in GovExec, the solicitation asked for a speaker who has “created a unique model of translating magic and principles of the psychology of magic, magic tools, techniques and experiences into a method of teaching leadership.” The speaker was being sought for an upcoming event involving 45 employees.

NOAA issued the solicitation on May 1 and withdrew it two days later, Clark reported.

What do you think about the decision? On the one hand, entertaining presentations can keep the attention of the audience and perhaps leave a longer lasting impression. On the other hand, if a stage magician with a motivational speech costs more than another, more prosaic speaker, it might be “taxpayer abuse, pure and simple,” as Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) described NOAA's idea.

Posted by Michael Hardy on May 04, 2012 at 12:18 PM


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Reader comments

Thu, May 10, 2012

Could we please hire a magician who can make Lubchenko and Sullivan disappear? They have got to be the worst excuses for executives in the entire Federal Government today.

Tue, May 8, 2012 OccupyIT

Why would anyone be surprised? Management is usually by fear - either real or imagined. There are not a lot of managers out there sure enough about thier purpose and mission to do what they believe needs to be done in a thoughtful, well-documented way. Those that do are our heroes and the only reason we should pay taxes and get results. The rest are just spending time.... and our money. If this was an effective presenter that happens to use magic then he should be used - substitute 'magic' for 'PowerPoint' to test this statement. If he is a magician that got squeezed into the empty motivation slot of the agenda then show him the door - or simply ask him to disappear...

Mon, May 7, 2012

The GSA scandal is doing more than just making "creative" conferences and spending disappear. Agencies are cancelling legitimate technical conferences as well. In some cases, efforts to cancel the event or move the event to a local venue cost tax payers more than they save. The reality is that holding an event in a location like Las Vegas can be cheaper than holding it in conference factilities on the east and west coast where room rates and facility costs can be double.

Sun, May 6, 2012 A NOAA Employee

I never thought I'd miss Admiral Lautenbaucher, but after 3 years of Jane Lubchenko I sure wish we had him back.

Fri, May 4, 2012 Stan Buch Washington DC

I certainly understand why NOAA came to the decision they did. However, this is a reaction to "broad brush" characterizations of a one-off incident. The techniques employed in NOAA's leadership training are not unique. I went through an Advanced Leadership Program facilitated by the Center for Creative Leadership out of Greensboro NC many years ago. This program was well respected within the leadership community and leveraged unique techniques and simulations to drive home the principles of effective leadership. The participants left with new skills to employ in their organizations. It was NOT a carnival conducted at taxpayers expense. I imagine however, that many of these creative leadership laboratories will be devoid of public sector participants for a time. I just hope that period of time is short!

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