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Video: The untold story of how the GPO became a model of federal cost savings

Excellence in Government
Stop what you’re doing right now and look down at your HSPD-12 mandated government ID card. Do you know where it came from? A little agency, that’s often out of mind but rarely out of sight, is responsible for not just your government issued ID card, but just about every official document you get from the federal government--including your passport, social security card and even your dreaded tax documents. For all of this, you can thank the Government Printing Office, or GPO.

What you might also not know is that the GPO has become a model for public-private partnerships, cultural innovation and significant cost savings. Back on March 3, 2011, Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania commended the GPO for the Congressional Record (which the GPO also prints), saying “In a day when we are working hard to cut costs and improve services, the GPO provides a model of how an agency with a history of taking advantage of technological change has used that capability to generate lasting savings while expanding services to Congress,Federal agencies, and the public.”

On May 7, 2012, Davita Vance-Cooks, the GPO’s Acting Public Printer, spoke at Excellence in Government about the GPO’s transformation and the lessons others can learn from their historical shift in business practices. An excerpt:

“We changed the way that we thought about ourselves. By updating our mission statement and updating a five year strategic fact, we never had a five year strategic plan. We wrote one. We needed a roadmap for the changes that would be required to transform the GPO. And we needed to communicate that roadmap. We updated our mission statement to reflect the fact that we embrace change. We are not afraid of change. For years our mission statement was to keep America informed, which was great and it was perfect for that time. As you know we’re operating in an environment where change is here, change is coming and if an agency wants to survive it must recognize that it must change to meet employee and customer expectations. Our updated mission  statement is to continue to transform ourselves into a digital information platform and a provider of secure credentials.

I continually emphasize to my staff that this is the touchstone for decision making and everything we do revolves around that. And yes, it is a new way of thinking. We developed a strategic plan for 2011 through 2015 to cover 5 years. Our goal was to determine  where we want to be and how we’re going to get there. But, we decided instead of just putting it in a drawer and forgetting about it...we decided that’s not going to work for us. we decided to aggressively communicate the strategic plan.

We posted it on our website, we highlighted components of the plan on our monitors distributed throughout the building, we put it in the weekly newsletter, we put it in our monthly newsletter, we talked about it in our town hall meetings and at the end of fiscal year ‘11, we issued a document highlighting the accomplishments of our plan. Then, when we closed out fiscal year ‘11 we updated the plan for 2012 so now it’s 2012 - 2017.”

To see video of Vance-Cook’s full talk, and access tons of other informative, high-profile speakers, sign up for the free Excellence in Government Video Library.

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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