The Circuit

Suggestions for Change

This year's Interagency Resources Management Conference (IRMCO), in Hershey, Pa., brought insights from Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Quoting from her book, "Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow," Kanter detailed four key elements of this "e-culture" that can help agencies succeed: collaboration, innovation, community and people.

Kanter suggests that agencies should move away from thinking about planning as script-driven and instead consider it as improvisational theater. Interaction with the audience will change an organization's ultimate strategy, she said. Get something "pretty good and improve on it."

"Turf is the enemy of change," Kanter said, encouraging the audience to use relationships and partnerships to develop new ways of doing things. "Build on what someone else is doing. Explore new possibilities through collaboration."

There is no place for bureaucracies, Kanter added. Organizations acting as communities with shared values and broad goals will succeed. Of course, an organization is only as good as its people and their willingness to collaborate with others and their ability to innovate. "You can't do any of this without the best and the brightest," Kanter said.

To prove that even she herself can adapt to change, the middle-aged Kanter closed with a rap song that summarized her speech.

You go, girl!

Honeymoon in Hershey

You've heard of honeymoon in Vegas, now we've got honeymoon in Hershey. Jim Flyzik, former chief information officer at the Treasury Department and now on detail to the Office of Homeland Security, and Candace Hardesty, director of acquisition and contract performance in the Office of Student Financial Assistance Programs at the Education Department, tied the knot Aug. 31 and spent their honeymoon in Hershey, Pa. — with hundreds of other government and industry information technology folks.

The newlyweds were at the IRMCO conference two days after their wedding, and Hardesty even participated on a panel discussing performance-based contracting — something else that is near and dear to her heart. Now that's dedication.

IRMCO Recognizes its Own

Speaking of dedication, officials at IRMCO gave out two awards this year for innovative thinking in the federal workplace. The first award went to the Air Force's Janice Haith for staying under her $63 million budget and developing the Joint Personnel Adjudication System, an integrated system that provides adjudicators and security managers with timely and accurate personnel security records.

The second award was given to the Social Security Administration's First Responder Team, which was located a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Using the Social Security database, they helped develop investigative leads on the Sept. 11 terrorists and ensured that victims and survivors received their Social Security benefits in a timely fashion.

Fixing the System

President Bush's request to have the proposed Homeland Security Department function outside the normal regulations of the civil service system is one of the most divisive issues in the debate about the department's creation. White House officials said the president would veto the Senate homeland security bill if it doesn't give him what he wants.

It should be no surprise that the administration is asking for management flexibility, because many scholars, experts and officials agree that the civil service system does not work, said Richard Falkenrath, senior director for policy and plans at the Office of Homeland Security, at a Brookings Institution forum Sept 4.

The Bush administration believes that the proposed department will not succeed without these changes, so it is essential for the Senate to provide the flexibility now and continue to focus on revamping the entire civil service, Falkenrath said.

Homeland Security Focus

More than 80 percent of state and local government officials said one of their major technology initiatives for next year would be homeland security, according to an analyst from market research firm Gartner Inc. But many don't know what that emphasis will entail, he added.

"That's a huge percentage," said Rishi Sood, research director at Gartner, which recently completed a national survey. "That percentage obviously is biased by the fact that [Sept. 11] just occurred and our focus on homeland security. But if you look under the cover of that data point, state and local government organizations don't really understand what they need to do with respect to homeland security today...and they don't have the funding to deploy those."

Sood spoke at the 2002 Innovative Government Forum, sponsored by Hansen Information Technologies, in Sacramento, Calif.

Fifty-five percent of the chief information officers and other technology and business officials surveyed said they would spend funds on an e-government initiative.

"One of the reasons we're seeing that there is obviously the impact of homeland security, but also e-government is starting to look and act differently," Sood said.

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