Friday, November 14, 2008

Transition Tests Leadership

Ah – I remember it well…during the last transition, new requirements for our website were coming from all directions. Web managers and team members all over the Department were being urged by the new political team to do this, that, and the other. Many of the new political staff didn’t give a hoot that the Department had policies and procedures for what goes on the website and how it gets there, nor did they care about making sure we retained our goal to look like “one HUD.” It was every branch/division/office for itself.

Transition was a great opportunity for rogue web team members, itching to do their own thing, to go off in their own direction. All they needed was the ear of a new political aide (who probably was unaware of Department web policies), and they had their sanction. Indeed, we eventually saw a major section of the Department break off and create its own website. That we were able to retain as much stability and make as much progress as we did was a minor miracle. And HUD wasn't the only government agency facing this phenomenon.

The last transition was a huge challenge to the leadership abilities of government web managers. This transition will be no different.

How do you keep a web organization together and on track, when you have no legitimate (delegated) authority over all the players? How do you show the incoming political executives and aides the value of a unified strategy across the agency and across government, to improve government websites? How do you keep all you’ve accomplished from falling apart? You have to lead!

It’s as simple (and challenging!) as this: you have to get in to see the new team; and you have to articulate what you want to do and where you’re headed, in terms that this political audience understands. You have to persuade them that it’s the right thing to do for the American people. You have to show your passion for, and conviction in, the strategic direction of the web manager community. You have to know your message and stick to it. You have to repeat it over and over, like a broken record. And you have to make sure that your entire web team can articulate the same principles and direction.

You must be a strong leader to be successful in managing government websites - always. But your leadership abilities have never been more critical than they are now. Hold your team together through your leadership. Inspire them – and your new bosses – to work together across the agency and across government to create websites that provide first-class service to the public. Speaking as a citizen, we are counting on you to do that. Lead!

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