Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.
ARCHIVES

How Over-Customization Kills Government Technology

Yesterday Scott Burns, the CEO and founder of GovDelivery (disclaimer: not an endorsement) published "The Elephant in the Room...Is Government the Worst Possible Customer?" on LinkedIn.

As someone who has worked for the government for more than a dozen years, and who frequently helps define requirements for government IT projects, I was interested to hear a vendor's idea of the things that are taboo to say.

His list of reasons why venture capitalists shy away from government as a customer include: 1) excessive customization requirements; 2) excessively cost-based decision-making; and 3) excessive paperwork.

Overall I agree with Burns' assessment, and hope that the next administration will take on the challenges he outlines. It will not be an easy undertaking, for the following reasons: 

  • Excessive customization requirements are a mask for self-interest. Frankly, many departments, functions, and jobs are outdated and even superfluous. Commitment to a true commercial-off-the-shelf IT solution, together with the adoption of private-sector best practices, makes that obvious.
  • Excessive cost-based decision making is a mask for self-interest. The government has a notoriously high IT project failure rate for many reasons, chief among which is the ignorance and risk-aversion of those writing contract requirements. If you know...

The Key to High Performance

Research has confirmed that managers have more impact on an organization’s performance than any other factor. Actually it’s their effectiveness in the supervisory role that influences an employee’s performance. A great analogy is the coach of a winning football team. The supervisory role is of course important at all levels of management. 

The role in other sectors is evolving rapidly. Employers increasingly are turning away from the traditional make-employees-do-as-they-are-told approach to focusing on getting the best out of everyone. 

The Spring issue of the Merit Systems Protection Board’s Issues of Merit defines the traditional role well:

“Supervisors and managers play a critical role in ensuring that agencies accomplish their missions and meet the needs of the constituents they serve.  . . .a supervisor’s primary responsibility is to accomplish work through others.  Therefore, leadership skills are critical to a supervisor’s ability to plan work, communicate organizational goals and policies, guide performance, and make difficult decisions about employee recruitment, retention, development and appraisal.”

There is nothing wrong with their description; it fits a traditional organization well. I had a graduate course in organization planning in the 1970s. In class we discussed the importance of job descriptions, span of...

Even Presidential Candidates Need Sleep

The demands of being a presidential candidate take a toll on sleep. And the demands are not likely to lessen for whomever is elected.

President Obama says he schedules six hours of sleep a night but that is not always possible, and Bill Clinton reported getting five to six hours. How much sleep is needed for senior executives such as our president to have optimal function?

This is also an important question to ask as the candidates for president move into full campaign mode. Does sleep affect their functioning? And just how do they keep up their grueling schedules? Can sleep deprivation contribute to some of the mistakes and gaffes?

As a neurologist who has studied sleep for many years, I know that sleep affects our functioning and health. While a very small percentage of people can function with four or five hours of sleep a night, most of us need much more.

Scientific research has yet to lead to a “grand unified theory” for the evolutionary purpose and function of sleep, but studies have shown several important functions sleep has on our body and brain. Based on a meta-analysis of medical research literature, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine...

Politicians and Security Clearances

Think your vote doesn’t matter? In addition to exercising your civic responsibility, you’re also carrying out a security responsibility, as well.

Members of Congress don’t go through the same background investigation process as you or me. The process of election is considered a public seal of access. When you elect a candidate into office – be it Congress or the Presidency – you in some sense grant them access to the classified information required for the position.

According to the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence: “There are no written rules, agreed to by both branches, governing what intelligence will be shared with the Hill or how it will be handled. The current system is entirely the product of experience, shaped by the needs and concerns of both branches over the last 20 years.”

What that means is that if a member of Congress or individual appointed to a government office needs access to classified information, they’re likely to get it.

What About Congressional Staff?

House and Senate staff members do undergo a security clearance background investigation process, as well as signing a non-disclosure agreement. Clearances are only granted to staff requiring access to classified information...

Always Stay For the After Party: Tips from the Negotiation Bible For World Leaders

Negotiating is hard enough when your livelihood is on the line, imagine how difficult it is to negotiate when the future of the world is at stake.

Even top diplomats need guidance. To ensure that agendas are addressed and conflicts resolved, the United Nations has created its own primer for the art of negotiation, called “Intergovernmental Negotiations and Decision Making at the United Nations: A Guide.”

Written in 2003, the official guide offers wisdom on how countries and NGOs can get what they want. Much of the book offers insight into UN bureaucracy, but there is also a more strategic section on how to playdiplomatic power games (pdf, p.47).

The UN is a very big bureaucratic machine, and even the sharpest political acumen at times fails to make it move efficiently. But the UN-approved tactics below—devised to move entire countries—are pointed enough to ensure victory in smaller battlefields: the office, social negotiations, sometimes family.

Here are some of the best, diplomatic tricks for getting what you want from others:

Over-preparedness is a myth:

From a strategic perspective, it is important to determine not only how many representatives can attend the meeting, but who is the best...

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.