David Wennergren's reading recommendations

wennergren picks

During tough financial times, people tend to take one of two paths. Some rise to the challenge and use looming financial pressure as a “burning platform” to push for radical change and transformation, while others hunker down in a vain attempt to protect the legacy they know and love. In this drive to hang onto the past, they inevitably end up missing an opportunity to reach out and embrace the future.

As Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, once said, “We’ve got no money, so we’ve got to think!” With that thought in mind, here are some of the books I’m reading. I hope you’ll find one or two that will help you reflect, think differently, be challenged or inspired — or at least help you beat the sequestration blues this summer.

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

We spend too much time describing what we want to do and not enough time explaining why we want to do it. Far too often, we become enamored with the bright, shiny new IT system without understanding why we should be embarking on the effort. Sinek presents a compelling case for why you should focus first on why, followed by how and what. Understanding first and foremost the answers to questions such as “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?” and “Why does something matter?” will change how you manage both your professional and personal lives. If you want a quick sample, check out Sinek’s TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” at

“How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon

Christensen has offered tremendous insights in must-read books such as “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” His latest book is a much more personal reflection. Anyone who reads this book will be changed, and it all starts with understanding what really matters, why it matters and whether you are allocating your time to the things that matter most.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winner in economics, and his book describes how we rely on two thinking “systems”: a fast, intuitive, emotional system and a slower, more deliberate and logical system. He then reveals how to avoid cognitive biases by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions. (If you want to read more about the book and its author, check out Steve Kelman’s column that FCW published in May.)

It strikes me as an important read for those who would champion new technology solutions and approaches. As I have often said, being a successful IT professional in this town demands a fascinating blend of patience and impatience — coupling a bold commitment to moving quickly with the resilience to not be deterred by the inevitable pitfalls along the way.

Lightning-round picks

George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky recently published “Rapid Realignment,” the follow-up to their groundbreaking book of the 1990s, “The Power of Alignment.” Aligning large, disparate groups is still a crucial job skill in today’s environment.

And if you still haven’t read “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey, then you’re way behind in understanding that continuing to work in low-trust environments results in a heavy tax on both time and money — at a moment when we can least afford it.

Moving a little further afield, in “Founding Brothers,” Joseph J. Ellis has written a compelling tale about incredibly gifted but very human individuals confronting incredible challenges. It’s a book of big issues and big personalities. It wasn’t all “sunshine and light” among the Founding Fathers, but oh, what a set of accomplishments in the end.

And, finally, if all this talk about change seems overwhelming, you could always escape to an epic fantasy saga with a twist. In the books in the “Game of Thrones” series, by George R.R. Martin, good guys die and bad people survive. It will make your current fiscal woes seem pale by comparison.


About the Author

Mr. David M. Wennergren is Vice President, Enterprise Technologies and Services, at CACI International Inc. He has over 30 years of leadership experience in information technology and change management and has served in a number of senior positions across the Department of Defense (DoD) and federal government, including DoD Assistant Deputy Chief Management Officer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information Management, Integration and Technology/Deputy Chief Information Officer, Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer and Vice Chair of the U.S. Government’s Federal CIO Council.

In his last assignment, he served as the DoD Assistant Deputy Chief Management Officer, where he was the principal deputy to the DoD Deputy Chief Management Officer and championed efforts to optimize business operations across the entire Department of Defense. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information Management, Integration and Technology/Deputy Chief Information Officer, where he led information technology and information management efforts for the Department of Defense. In addition to these duties, Mr. Wennergren served for five years as Vice Chair of the U.S. Government’s Federal CIO Council, and also served as Chair of the Committee for National Security Systems and Chair of the DoD Identity Protection and Management Senior Coordinating Group, where he championed the successful deployment of the DoD Common Access Card. He also served as the Director of the DoD Business Transformation Agency.

Mr. Wennergren served for four years as the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, during which time he also served as the DON’s Critical Infrastructure Assurance Officer. He also served for four years as the DON Deputy CIO for Enterprise Integration and Security. Past assignments within the DON also included redesigning the navy’s shore installation management structure, the Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) teams for BRAC-93 and BRAC-95, the Commercial Activities (OMB Circular A-76) Program and working as a management analyst at Naval field activities.

He received his B.A. in Communications/Public Relations from Mansfield State University. He was a recipient of a Secretary of the Navy Civilian Fellowship in Financial Management, culminating in a Master of Public Policy (MPP) in Public Sector Financial Management from the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs.

Mr. Wennergren’s awards include the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Department of the Navy Distinguished, Superior and Meritorious Civilian Service Awards, the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Award. Other honors include being selected as the TechAmerica Terman Award 2010 Government Technology Executive of the Year, the Federal CIO Council 2008 Azimuth Award winner, the Government Computer News 2005 Defense Executive of the Year, the 2006 John J. Franke Jr. Award from the American Council for Technology, the Federal Computer Week 2006 Eagle Award (Government Leader of the Year), three Federal Computer Week Fed 100 Awards, the Computerworld Premier 100 Award, and the 2008 General James M. Rockwell AFCEAN of the Year. A huge believer in the “power of team,” he is also honored to have worked in two organizations that were awarded the Department of the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.

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