Future STARs

While many agencies are talking about a new era of customer-centric government,

the Treas- ury Department is using a governmentwide training program to

make sure that its staff can deliver that vision to fellow employees and

citizens.

The department has been moving from its old network, the Treasury Communications

System, to a new departmentwide network called the Treasury Communication

Enterprise (TCE). The technical changes are fairly easy to make; however,

significant problems stem from the cultural changes necessary to get bureaus

as different as the Internal Revenue Service and the Customs Service to

work together.

"Even if you get the technology online, if you don't have a true team

working together to run the network, then it's all useless," said Ed Kinney,

assistant director of program management and strategic planning at Treasury.

While Treasury looked for a way to form its cross-bureau team, the General

Services Administration introduced its Strategic and Tactical Advocates

for Results program. STAR is designed to provide a comprehensive course

for federal program and project managers, who work in an environment in

which they need to know the latest technology, how to work with Congress,

and basic project management and people skills.

The people skills dimension was not the initial focus of the program,

but such skills are instilled in program participants from the moment they

start.

And building people skills is the reason why Treasury chief information

officer Jim Flyzik has decided to send a group of bureau managers to every

STAR class, according to Kinney.

"We are now 15 people who communicate like members of the same group,"

he said. "When you start working together and realize that you aren't all

that different from each other, then you become a team automatically. If

we treat each other in parallel rather than as a hierarchy, you can really

get things done."

So while most agencies have sent only one or two people to the two STAR

sessions that GSA has conducted so far, Treasury is using the program to

build teams of people who will work together for the good of the department,

rather than for the good of individual bureaus.

"This creates a team that maybe goes beyond this specific practicum

of TCE," Kinney said. "Maybe it can create a group of people who can go

in and work on any future Treasurywide issues."

But even a single graduate from the program can effect change in their

organization after they return. The program starts off with the premise

that participants are "change agents" — people who can help create the government

of the future.

"That's all I am at Fedsim now," said Ronnie Palmer, customer support

director for environment at GSA's Federal Systems Integration and Management

Center. "I came back to Fedsim not with the idea of making major changes

but inserting one change at a time."

Palmer attended the first STAR class last year, and he found that the

team-building aspects of the program were so much in line with the office's

new focus on customer service that Fedsim is now committed to sending a

manager to every class.

"It was so group-focused, no one person got to shine," Palmer said.

"Everything within the government is moving towards being better people,

thus being better [at] project management and bringing business to us."

Within Treasury, the building of this team has been key to the continued

success of the new network, according to Kinney.

"It accelerates our process and even enables our process," he said.

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