It’s Not Rocket Science

Let me start with this: I get it. NASA funding is about so much more than space exploration. It’s about expanding the human experience. It’s also political, strategic and quite expensive. The advantage of spending money to boldly go where no man has gone before is not just about exploiting the great unknown but the advances that those of us held down by gravity can enjoy day to day. What I don’t get is, in a time when budget cuts and waning interest have grounded manned flights into space, how NASA can spend $14 billion dollars on an enterprise-wide procurement system. That’s billion with a ‘b’. Houston, we have another problem. [Continue reading...]

Epic Technology Failures

What do the soda machine of the future, automatic toilet paper, destination elevators, and “smart” garbage cans have to do with government IT projects? They offer a lesson in technology investment (and where it can go horribly wrong). [Continue reading...]

A TV-Inspired New Year’s Resolution for Government Services

Over the weekend, I fed my reality TV addiction with a heavy dose of my latest guilty pleasures, “Hardcore Pawn” and “Pawn Stars.” Both shows cover the operations of pawn shops that either buy items from customers or place them in pawn for a short-term loan. There’s one key difference, though: “Pawn Stars” focuses on the unique objects that come to the store and the characters that bring them in, whereas “Hardcore Pawn” has almost nothing to do with the items coming in and everything to do with the drama created between the pawn shop workers and the people coming in who are in need of quick cash. If you’ve never seen either show, good for you; TV will rot your brain. [Continue reading...]

Fear and Loathing in Chicago

The other night, my 11-year-old asked if we could move to Chicago. Apparently news of the teacher strike had hit his sixth-grade class and he liked the idea of getting a couple days off from school. I asked him if he knew why the teachers were on strike and if he agreed with them. He assumed they wanted more money, which is what we all assume when we hear of a strike. But he was shocked to learn it was partly about student testing and that some people wanted the teachers to be graded based on the grades the students received. In no time, my son reached the same conclusion that Ken had reached last year: “Why wouldn’t they give all the kids A’s and everyone would think they were great teachers?” Bingo. (He has his mom’s smarts.) [Continue reading...]

Management Fads in Government Come and Go

In the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling across the country talking about our need for an Extreme Government Makeover. I’ve come across more than a few people — and received more than a few emails — asking me,”Aren’t you talking about LEAN?” My answer remains the same: No. And yes. And kinda. And it depends. Certainly, we recognize there is potential in Lean to help government. Of course, we also saw potential in Six Sigma, and we saw it in Total Quality Management. There is always potential. Unfortunately, there is not always improvement. [Continue reading...]

Putting Olympic Passion to Work

Every four years, my wife and I gather in front of the TV for the Olympics and find ourselves sucked into watching and cheering for a series of sporting events we would never watch any other time of year. Swimming, track, badminton and synchronized diving are just a few examples of sports that usually are so uninteresting that ESPN would rather show reruns of the 1995 World Series of Poker than put them on the air. But every four years, we light a giant torch and obsess over who will take the gold. [Continue reading...]

Spam and Spam a Lot

My email inbox is an eclectic assortment of work-related correspondence, friendly reminders from Ken that we’re in dire need of a Vegas poker run and miscellaneous jabs from other friends at my inability to win a fantasy football championship. And, of course, spam. A few years ago, I started tracking the spam I was getting (not in some psycho-Excel-spreadsheet kinda way, but in more of “what’s trending now” kind of way). [Continue reading...]

Governments and the Hail Mary Pass

It’s June. I hate June. Hockey just ended and football is still months away. June — ha! — what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. I’m so jonsing for some football I actually wouldn’t mind the sucker punch feeling of a close game lost in the final seconds like the description above. Of course, the game is never truly lost in the final seconds. It’s everything that leads up to that last play that really determines the outcome. I could go on, but this blog isn’t about football. It’s about public service. It’s about the nobility of government and radically changing how we work, not desperate attempts during the last seconds of a game. Yet the hail Mary play (or what my dad always called the “all fast guys go long” play) is exactly what we’re seeing more and more in the public sector. [Continue reading...]

Government Scandals: Why We Shouldn’t Overreact

This hasn’t been a stellar couple months for public servants. We’ve seen three scandals cast us in increasingly unflattering lights: the GSA’s party fund, the Secret Service’s party hotel, and the conviction of ousted ICE leadership caught padding their pockets with fake receipts and big reimbursements. Usually when we see problems in government, you can trust Ken and me to start preaching “pipes over people.” We often say that our problems are not people problems, but issues with how the work gets done. But sometimes? Sometimes, it’s the people. It is people making bad decisions, and in some cases doing some pretty bad stuff. [Continue reading...]

Improving Government Management: Time to Get Radical

Growing up a child of the 80s, the word “radical” was reserved for Valley Girls and Spicoli. Honestly, the word was ruined for me (and many in my generation). Today, I can’t hear it without thinking, “Tubular! Grab some Vans and Aquanet — we’re headed back to prom!” These days, we rarely hear “radical” without the word “extremists” tied to it, which is kind of redundant, isn’t it? [Continue reading...]

‘Bad Idea Jeans’: Why Do Governments Keep Making the Same Management Mistakes?

Do you remember that old Saturday Night Live sketch called “Bad Idea Jeans”? It was a commercial parody that mocked the ’90s retail ideal that we’re defined by the denim brand we choose. In the sketch, a group of middle-aged guys reminisce about decisions they’ve made while wearing their shared brand of popular jeans. Each of their stories involves the same theme: They’ve all had some really bad ideas. That commercial has been replaying in my mind a lot lately. Why? Because, collectively, we may have put on some Bad Idea Jeans this first quarter of 2012. I believe there are many paths to good government. But every morning when I read the latest headlines, I can’t help but see the logo for those jeans: Bad Idea. [Continue reading...]

The ‘Paper Pipe’ and the ‘Practical Pipe’

Let’s pick up where we left off in last week’s Part 1 post, with our tale of Robin, the beleagured social services worker: The pile of cases on Robin’s desk is now larger than it has ever been before. Knowing each day that the hole she’s in continues getting deeper has introduced new stress into an already stressful job. She takes work home at night and on the weekends, but there is only so much time she can dedicate in her off-hours. And without her work computer, there is only so much she can do. [Continue reading...]

The People Aren’t the Problem

Our recent series of posts has been our argument that the problems of government are not people problems. Sure, as a large organization, government certainly has people problems. But at the root of the issues, you won’t find a team of people who have banded together to make sure everything grinds to a halt. [Continue reading...]

Unresolved

Well, we’re officially a week-and-a-half into the new year, and I have officially blown every resolution I set. I was eating much healthier until a trip to Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis, and I haven’t run farther than the distance from the rental car place to the terminal. In addition, I was really hoping to get this article out last week. All resolutions, all toast by January 10th. On January first, this article was actually about setting resolutions. Now that my heart seems to be more set on breaking resolutions than setting them, let’s look at two resolutions we should be breaking in 2012. [Continue reading...]

Events

Transforming Child Welfare Agencies
October 25, 2012 -
Extreme Government Makeover: Part III
November 9, 2011 -

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