Active best practice sharing across government makes things better, faster, and cheaper.

You know the old adage, you learned how to share in kindergarten and this skill should carry you through life. In the context of government efficiency and effectiveness sharing can have significant meaning to allow for faster adoption, cost savings, and a stronger return on investment. Using the simple concept of sharing as a deliberate and conscious act can accelerate, or to use federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent’s words, “turbo boost” the government reform initiative.

Two men sharing an idea

Federal agencies traditionally work in stovepipes, developing their own tools and methods for their benefit. Some innovations—such as the internet, Velcro, and others—leave government labs for private-sector application, a form of sharing. Some sharing takes place when government employees attend conferences to learn about tools and techniques which are presented at a high level and often have limited success as the employees go back to work and are faced with their day-to-day activity.

As the reform takes hold, there is much to learn and share from each other. Knowledge, methods, systems, tools, software licenses, skills, etc. can be shared across government. There are millions of sharing opportunities every day. Here are just a few to get your juices flowing. Imagine adopting or replicating something when an agency:

  • Develops a powerful approach to developing data standards.
  • Develops an enterprise system that can be adopted by others.
  • Cracks the code on reduced hiring time and improved quality of hires.
  • Reduces the time and cost to process security clearances.
  • Develops a lab and process for rapid mobile app development and deployment.
  • Identifies cyber experts and has a very effective certification training program.
  • Creates a way of issuing requests for proposals and awarding contracts in three months.
  • Retains a highly sought-after workforce.
  • Reduces its real property footprint while increasing productivity.
  • Dramatically improves customer services.
  • Reduces regulatory burden while maintaining public safety and reducing cost.
  • Creates a simple to use but highly effective web-application interface for citizens.
  • Has creative ways of telling meaningful stories with data.
  • Reengineers a major program.

Here is a great example. Several years back an agency was about to be given $50 million by Congress to develop an enterprise system.  I happened to know of a system in another agency that was functioning pretty much the same as what they needed. It was up and running, the investment made, the kinks worked out, etc. I took the agency managers from the first agency on a field trip. The second agency graciously welcomed them and over a two-day period walked them through the system and answered all their questions. I then brokered a deal. The second agency offered the first agency the code set, all the documentation, and several staff members for a few months to set up the system and configure it as required. The cost could be reduced from $50 million to $2 million, they would be up and running in several months (not years), risk was dramatically reduced, and the American public would be served much quicker.

Now imagine if we could formalize the sharing process or at least create opportunities for agencies to identify efficient and effective practices. In fact, sharing should be a required part of change management for all reform initiatives. On an informal basis, the CXO Councils can be a conduit for some of this. Agencies can run workshops, speak at conferences, and write articles. Formally, we could create an electronic “proven practices” platform to profile great best practices ready for adoption by others. Agencies could write contracts to allow sharing of things like excess software license across government. They could proactively produce white papers for posting, and oversight agencies could identify a “Chief Sharing Officer.” Okay, so maybe I am taking it too far, but let your ideas run wild on how we can use sharing as a management tool to accelerate and improve reform.

At a minimum, Office of Management and Budget, oversight agencies and agency leaders should be encouraging and creating paths for sharing, and willingly give away knowledge, processes and tools.


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