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Open Government in Action

July 19, 2010

This is a bit of a teaser post – because who doesn’t like a good tease, after all? I’m speaking at the Excellence in Government Conference today about “Leading the Culture Shift.” It’s a great topic and one I’m really proud to speak on, especially considering how much of my efforts at the Army were dedicated to training and education. The entire conference is focused on a hot topic in government information management circles – open government.

I’ll be honest. The term open government means very little to me. And while I’m open to being wrong on this, my feeling is that the term doesn’t mean a whole lot to most federal managers out there, either.

I appreciate the initiative and they do have a pretty jazzy open government site with blog posts and agency updates, but at the end of the day I have to ask what makes the open government initiative different from all of the other task forces and flow charts and initiatives working their way through Washington, D.C.

How can a bureaucracy tackle a movement that should turn the typical way government works on its head?

In my opinion, open government is an attitude. And that’s why I think changing the way the average federal employee approaches his or her job and their role in the bureaucratic system we call government is critical. Creating open government won’t happen with a committee or a list of requirements. It will happen when we educate and innovate across our federal government personnel (and I don’t mean through something like DoD’s failed NSPS system), and start to think of government as a service-based industry.

How many federal employees walk into work thinking about how they can serve the American taxpayer that day? How many agencies put a focus on serving constituencies rather than just completing processes?

Open government, in my mind, should be about opening the door of government to the American people, not just through technology or posting lines of data on public websites, but by fostering real dialogue, engagement, and get this – customer service.

My belief is that good social media is tied to organizational processes. Which means that if someone provides you feedback on a social media site you should be tracking, and acting upon the needs you see from your community. So social tools will definitely help to drive open government, but until we get the people within the system willing and empowered to respond, we’ll just have a hallow movement and another jazzy government website.

I’m sure to talk more about the topic of this whole “open” government initiative, and will also provide my thoughts following today’s conference. In the meantime, I’d really like to know what YOU think? Does it mean anything outside of the beltway? And if it has value, how long will it take for us to see the results?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Elise Van Pool permalink
    July 20, 2010 7:49 pm

    I would love to see a greater commitment to customer service in the government. Too many government workers forget that service part of civil servant.

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