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Got government “stuff?”

July 20, 2010

I really enjoyed my time presenting at the Excellence in Government Conference on Open Government. It was an interesting topic and definitely an interesting conversation between myself and the fellow panelists. I have two basic rules for conference presentations and public speaking in general: 1. Provide value and 2. Entertain as I inform. I suppose I’m biased in making these priorities, because these are the things that I want when I’m attending a conference or presentation.

I tried to infuse enthusiasm into my remarks at the Excellence in Government conference while being as candid as possible with the attendees. Because if you’re paying good money to attend a conference, you don’t just want to hear the speakers tow the agency or organization line, do you? We had a fairly good debate at yesterday’s conference, focusing the topics of education and how transparency and social media tie into an organization’s mission.

In light of yesterday’s Washington Post investigative piece concerning America’s epic intelligence build-up, I couldn’t help but comment on the bloated nature of our bureaucracy. Government Executive even eloquently quoted me as saying “This city is entrenched in a lot of stuff.” Which is true. From agencies to committees and initiatives, it sometimes seems like our processes are designed to be as complex as possible. Our government is big, and seemingly only getting bigger. In light of that, it will be increasingly difficult, yet increasingly necessary to our democracy, for federal managers to promote transparency and engage in open lines of communication with the American public.

As a former government employee I feel strongly that we have to look critically on our government systems and processes in order do well – and this is as true of outsiders analyzing our programs as it is of government employees themselves. If you can’t look on your organization or your own performance with a critical eye, how can you succeed? That’s why you’ll never hear me stand up in front of a panel and tell folks only about the good things. I like to highlight the strengths of government – or of any program – when I see them. But if you’re not also acknowledging your areas of improvement, how do you ever really expect to get ahead?

The best compliment I received at yesterday’s conference was the gentleman who said my remarks alone were worth the price of conference admission. I’d like to think he thought so because he was both the value, and actually enjoyed listening, to what I had to say. If you were at the conference (particularly my loyal band of tweeps), I do hope you’ll continue the conversation. What are you doing to lead the cultural shift within your organization, and what steps do you think the federal government can, or is, taking to improve?

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 11:28 pm

    I completely agree. We have allowed (and perhaps encouraged) the government to become the bloated behemoth it is today. Many have this mentality of not just entitlement, but special interests among us. For example, farmers may complain about foreign subsidies or mandatory health care while accepting and demanding more farm subsidies.

    On my trip to work the other day, I tried to point out everything the government is involved in. It started when I woke up and turned on my energy efficient light bulbs. As I brushed my teeth, I realized that there are government standards for purity of water. The land I woke up on is taxed. My cell phone, which I use as an alarm, has about $20 worth of taxes on it each month. Safety features are built into the car I drive that are mandated by the government and the fuel MUST have a certain amount of inefficient ethanol in it.

    The highway I take to work is paid through federal taxes. The speed limits, signs, lane widths, and commercial vehicles traveling next to me are regulated.

    Ok, I’m already bored, but you get the idea.

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