GSA, CIO Council program produces star students

The first class of students graduated this month from a two-week program designed to train senior federal managers on the nuances of performance and management rather than the nuts and bolts of the contracting process.

"This is clearly a program designed to deliver leaders," said Pat McConnel, one of the first graduates of the Strategic and Tactical Advocates for Results (STAR) program. McConnel is chief of the Internal Revenue Service's investment analysis section within the Office of Technical Contract Management.

The General Services Administration and the CIO Council developed STAR to replace the 11-year-old Trail Boss seminar program, which was focused on managing projects and contracts. STAR provides courses that help managers understand new requirements such as return on investment, capital planning, performance management, and investment review boards that are laid out in laws such as the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.

The idea for STAR began to take shape in January when a group led by Emory Miller, director of information technology professional development at the GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy, pitched the idea to CIOs and focus groups.

"We started looking at what would happen in the future—11 years from now," Miller said. "We were articulating the need for top officials in government to work strategically across organizations."

Federal managers' new challenges range from managing outsourced programs and personnel to achieving results and meeting strict performance measures. No longer are information technology shops separate from the strategic planning and budget process, and managers are faced with managing more than just the contract, Miller said.

"We believe STAR is a good example of the kind of expectations folks will have of future IT professionals [that is] a multi-dimensional [manager who is] not just focused on IT but on professional skills," said Ira Hobbs, deputy CIO at the Agriculture Department and co-chair of the CIO Council's federal IT workforce committee.

McConnel, who graduated Dec. 10 from the first STAR program, said the program is most effective for people "who are seasoned both technically and in working with people."

Students took part in five modules over two weeklong sessions during the first class, which GSA is calling a pilot. The courses covered program and project management, such as how to oversee multiple initiatives; leadership; security, such as how to deal with security threats; technology; and government, including how to work with congressional staff. Industry and academic experts taught the seminars.

STAR is taking a long-term view of how government will operate in the future and what skills will be required, McConnel said. "I'm getting a package that focuses on a combination of skills as well as becoming a better program manager," he said. "Government is trying to be responsive to its citizens. That means rethinking products and services we're delivering and helping citizens see that what we provide is valuable to the community."

STAR participants also worked on a class project relating to delivering electronic services to citizens and are to present their agencies with the results of a practicum they worked on individually during the two weeks.

A spring and a fall program are scheduled in 2000.

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