Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't Make Your New Bosses Do All the Thinking

You’ve read their intentions, on their campaign websites. You’ve speculated and pondered what they may want to do, as far as the internet is concerned. But here’s the question: what should they do?

You’re the pros. You’ve been running government websites for a long time now. You know where the candidates are being idealistic and where they’re being practical. You know what policy issues will have to be addressed to make their promises come true. More important, you know what else needs to be done, to improve the way the government serves citizens. So what advice will you give them?

I’ve read a couple of interesting articles recently. Both got me thinking. The first was an article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Next American Frontier,” by Michael S. Malone. Malone talks about the change in America – especially in the behavior and expectations of young people. He describes many of them as “entrepreneurial” – wanting to work for themselves, do their own thing. How can we help our new bosses respond to this new generation of citizens? How can we help them use the internet to attract those young people to government service? Certainly work-at-home situations and virtual teams could help. What else could we suggest?

The second article was on…an article called “HisSpace,” by Marc Ambinder. It’s specifically about Barak Obama and his intentions to seize the power of the internet to involve the public in government. But the author wonders if Obama can succeed, if he’s elected. Can he meet the expectations of the public?

Read both of these articles. Share them with your web friends. Talk about them. Look for more “think piece” articles. Throw what you read into the mix, along with your experience and knowledge; and really think seriously about what we can do to help our new President (whoever he or she is) succeed. What can we propose to our new bosses to help them (and us) move toward the future?

Don’t make your new bosses do all the thinking. All three of the Presidential candidates are outsiders – they haven’t worked in the Executive Branch (OK – you might say that Hillary has been close…but she hasn’t been where you are). Give them a break. Do the right thing. Give them some meaty proposals - some really forward-thinking ideas that are based in the reality you know - that could really improve the way the government serves citizens.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Good Things Do Happen to Good People

I was absolutely delighted to see Sheila Campbell chosen one of the top 10 innovators in government information technology this week, with the presentation of the 2008 Technology Leadership Awards. Bravo, Government Computer News! You got it right.

Being a web innovator is a thankless job. It’s tilting at windmills, rolling the stone uphill, and all those other old (but accurate) clichés. I don’t know anyone who has worked more tirelessly to make government websites meaningful to citizens than Sheila.

I first met Sheila as she was coming off maternity leave, in 2004. We were designated co-chairs of a cross-agency working group charged with developing policy recommendations for OMB, in compliance with the E-Gov Act of 2002, Section 207. Sheila was on the FirstGov (now staff and was not especially well-known in the web manager community. But she dug into that task like the dedicated pro she is.

We had a tight deadline (mandated by the legislation); and we had a geographic challenge – I was in Tucson, and Sheila was in DC. That meant that she had to do all the legwork in Washington. Sheila earned her place in the web manager community – and my trust and respect – by going way beyond the call of duty. She’s a born leader, and she was a great partner on a pivotal project.

Since then, Sheila created a website for government web managers (, shepherded a new training academy for government web managers (Web Manager University), and – at the same time – served as a leader of the Web Managers Forum and Web Managers Council. Those are great credentials. But that’s not what makes Sheila such a deserving honoree, in my book. It’s her sincere passion for using the web to serve citizens that puts her on one of my pedestals. It’s how she puts her heart and soul into that goal. It’s how she worries about doing the right thing and how she pushes the web manager community toward better service. Sheila is a true “public servant.” She never loses sight of her raison d'être. She never gives up. She’s a true leader.

Way to go, Sheila! You definitely earned this affirmation.

Friday, May 02, 2008

When Web Managers Gather...

On Monday and Tuesday, some 450 government web managers from across the country will gather in Washington to hear new ideas, network, and - this year - build energy toward that action-packed time of change that comes with electing a new President. This annual meeting of the web manager community is perhaps the best use of their time all year, as far as the public is concerned, because – for a few hours – they are “government” web managers – not HUD web managers or State Department Web Managers or Indiana web managers or Chicago web managers. And when web managers start thinking and acting collectively, their power – and their results – increases exponentially.

For those couple of days, they raise their heads and look around at all that they have in common. They share ideas. They nod at common problems and common goals. They make notes about new ideas they want to try. They seek out one another at lunch or after a session to talk more about pet peeves or get more “how to’s.” They form alliances and talk about working together to make all government websites better. They take time to think about those they serve: the public. They get re-charged…they get excited. That’s a good thing for you and me, Citizen.

If you’re one of those smart web managers going to the Web Managers conference, have a great time! Soak it all up. Meet your colleagues. Seek collaboration. Get on board with the community’s plans for transition. Go home inspired!

(Oh – and if you aren’t going this year, be sure to sign up early next year. This is a “don’t miss” opportunity! It’s good for you. It’s good for those you serve.)