Philip McKinney: Leading by going against the grain

The challenge for McKinney was persuading 94 highly independent courts to jettison an antiquated system and embrace change.

When Philip McKinney arrived at the federal judiciary system from the Interior Department in 1995, it was as if he had stepped back in time. The way the federal system’s 94 courts accounted for money, it might as well have been 1795. And for the most part, people accepted the anachronism.“It was all manual,” said George Schafer, chief financial officer at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, referring to financial systems that reflected 200 years of judiciary tradition and policies.The challenge for McKinney, the judiciary system’s chief accounting officer, was persuading 94 highly independent courts to jettison an antiquated system and embrace change. A dozen years later, the judiciary’s financial-management system has been modernized, standardized and automated. McKinney succeeded in areas in which others had failed, in large part because he established a process for changing a culture that had been stubbornly resisting change.On his arrival, McKinney found that financial-management practices varied widely in the federal judiciary. One large court was using a typewriter to issue as many as 300 checks daily that were worth millions of dollars. Elsewhere, money collected at an intake counter was placed in a cigar box. Another large court had developed a financial-management system by color-coding spreadsheets with Magic Markers.However, the courts weren’t eager to do things differently, and McKinney had no authority to compel them to change. He could only persuade them. “The judges run the judiciary. They don’t have to do what they don’t think is necessary,” said McKinney, whose task was made more difficult by a series of failed attempts to overhaul the courts’ financial management. “This was the last effort that was going to be tolerated.”The system’s modernization, McKinney determined, would have to be an inside job.“It was important that I learn the culture and hierarchy and the formal lines of authority and the informal lines,” McKinney said. “I sought out key respected staff in the judiciary…and worked with them and their financial people to paint the vision.” A critical part of that vision was to adopt commercial applications and forgo developing customized software, an approach that had failed in the past. Involving key staff members in that decision helped McKinney secure an endorsement of his plan from the primary policy-making body of the U.S. Courts, the Judicial Conference.“Getting that endorsement brought a lot of credibility to the project,” he said.McKinney had a methodology for smoothing the courts’ transition to the new financial-management system. Critical staff members at each court attended a mandatory weeklong class to review the implementation process, technology issues and change management. After returning home, participants assessed the readiness of their courts, which had to be certified for transition before implementation could begin.The initiative came to be known as the Financial Accounting System for Tomorrow, or FAST. However, the implementation was anything but, skeptics said.To further facilitate the transition, McKinney created a mentoring program. Courts that had adopted the new system helped other courts get up to speed. Establishing such a peer network brought instant credibility that McKinney said he lacked. “Nobody trusts anybody from Washington,” D.C., he said.
























Pulley is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.
X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.