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FCW on the radio; Speaking from The Lectern…

FCW on the radio

On Federal Computer Week’s radio show, which airs on Federal News Radio, WFED-AM, in Washington, we talked about the theme of this week’s issue: the age of disruption.

We had a conversation with David Stephenson, principal at Stephenson Strategies. Stephenson, a homeland security consultant, writes a column on that subject in this week’s issue of FCW.

Speaking from The Lectern...

FCW columnist Steve Kelman recently blogged about innovation, risk and failure redux. Here is an edited excerpt.

As part of a research project, I have been interviewing two senior political
executives among 10 nominated by fellows of the National Academy of Public Administration and principals of the Council for Excellence in Government.

These are executives who came into their jobs with a strong vision of how to improve organizations that required significant transformation.

Both noted that innovation involves risk. Both said that they consciously tried to imbue their organizations with the idea that failure was acceptable, or even desirable, as long as it was not based on malfeasance or stupidity.

Both said that if every new thing you try succeeds, you’ve been too cautious.

Both also said their management styles — for which they were nominated by public administration experts as executives worthy of study — ran against the grain of the current political culture.

In that culture, anything that goes wrong quickly produces stories in the news media and demands from Congress, the media and self-appointed watchdog groups for heads to roll.

These two executives were working in areas having little to do with each other and nothing to do with procurement, but their observations sure sounded familiar and will be immediately recognized by anyone familiar with the current procurement landscape, where fear of failure has driven change, innovation and improvement underground.

Their observations also remind us how much we should treasure executives who try to counteract this attitude in the service of better government performance.

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