Lisagor: Seizing the future

The question posed at the final session of this year's E-Gov Institute's conference was: Is e-government dead?

It seemed that none of the senior executives€ responses were a hearty endorsement for a long e-government life. So, if the primary energy source of government improvement is no longer electronic, then what? Could the missing government transformation element be you and me? Were we that important all along? Are we-Gov?

During a recent speech at the Building a Culture of Peace for the Children of the World exhibit in the Rayburn House Office Building, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) encouraged staffers to be more than just members of a group but instead to live and work with a sense of mission. When I heard this, I couldn't help but reflect on how relevant this was to the role of a manager in government or industry.

Real leaders, I have been taught, should play to win and not just to finish. Yet how many workers put in the minimum required effort with the expectation that life doesn't begin until they leave work? How much richer would our lives be if we worked together with a sense of mission, a realization that what we do each day makes a difference in the world and to the future?

If we don't transcend technology with a strong sense of purpose, who will? We each have a choice. We can reluctantly work on tax modernization or fingerprint identification or e-government portals with the feeling that we are just another cog in a technology wheel.

But what would happen if even one manager

became determined to create harmony on a project team? If he or she saw the positive potential in each team member? Helped someone uncover her unique contribution to system success? Replaced blame and judgment with hope and initiative? Chose a mission that went beyond just financial or career advancement?

We're all born members of one giant club: the human race. Eventually, we find ourselves constituents of many other smaller groups. The most important choice we make every morning is whether we transcend being passive members and rise up and take leadership roles. We've learned that technology by itself can't make the world a better place. But committed managers can.

This means not giving up when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Budget reductions, abusive bosses, organizational bureaucracy -- all these things can easily reduce us to blithering masses of emotional jelly. So what can we latch onto in these dark moments?

Lee had it right -- it's the realization that we have a mission in this world. Our children are counting on us to get it right. Let's give we-government a chance. It may be our only hope.

Lisagor is program co-chairman for the November 2004 E-Gov Program Management Summit. He founded Celerity Works LLC, a consulting company, in 1999. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at

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