systems

 

systems

Coordinating for Results: Lessons from a Case Study of Interagency Coordination in Afghanistan

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - 12:51
agencies have the funding, expertise, or influence to achieve their goals single-handedly. Moreover, complex problems require interdisciplinary—and hence interagency—solutions. To succeed, public executives and managers must leverage the financial, human, and organizational resources of multiple agencies. This requires coordination.

Four Elements That Promote Effective Coordination

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 - 9:45
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 09:40
“Interagency coordination is an essential ele­ment of effective public leadership,” writes Dr. Andrea Strimling Yodsampa in a new report for the IBM Center on effective practices for interagency coordination, using U.S. civil-military coordination efforts in Afghanistan between 2001- 2009 as a case study.

Coordinating for Results: Lessons from a Case Study of Interagency Coordination in Afghanistan

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 - 11:29
This report focuses on interagency coordination and thus differs from many earlier IBM Center reports that have examined the use of collaboration.  Dr. Strimling Yodsampa notes that, when agencies collaborate, they work side by side toward a shared goal. When they coordinate, they still maintain their organizational autonomy and independence of action, but they deliberately align resources, capabilities, strategies, and implementation in support of shared goals.

What We Know Now: A Look into Lessons Learned Implementing Federal Financial Systems Projects

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 - 16:16
While the financial management community has made significant progress over the years, it continues to face challenges in meeting some of the basic standards for accounting and reporting. Many agencies currently use outdated financial systems that do not support their efforts to improve financial performance and accountability. Efforts made to improve financial systems through upgrades or replacement of current financial systems must be undertaken with planning and care.

Jerry Friedman interview

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 - 20:00
Phrase: 
Jerry Friedman is the Executive Director of the American Public Human Services Association
Radio show date: 
Wed, 02/03/2010
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking...
Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast December 8, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

In many respects, we are a nation at a crossroads. In the delivery of critical human service programs, policymakers and managers must consider issues such as fundamental reform, funding and financing, and program flexibility to focus on outcome measures and not just the process. In the end, the success of human service programs is measured by the health and well-being of this country's citizens.

As part of a series of discussions on managing human service programs, we have broadened our reach in this space and are honored to welcome our special guest this morning, Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association.

Good morning, Jerry.

Mr. Friedman: Good morning, Albert. It's a real pleasure to be here.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Nicole Gardner, vice president and partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

Good morning, Nicole.

Ms. Gardner: Good morning, Al. Good morning, Jerry.

Mr. Friedman: Good morning.

 

Mr. Morales: Jerry, let's start off by learning a bit more about your organization. Perhaps you can give us an overview of the mission, the history, and the activities of the American Public Human Services Association.

Mr. Friedman: Well, thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. We always look forward to venues in the public arena where we can talk about human services. The American Public Human Services Association is a 77-year-old organization that started around the same time as the Social Security Act. It was really founded by a group of very visionary administrators who were concerned about what back then they called the distribution of relief. They wanted to have a voice in policy in Washington, D.C., and they wanted to look at best practice. And essentially, that is what our organization has stood for for the past 77 years.

We've undergone several changes. We used to be called the American Public Welfare Association, focusing in on those types of programs. But we've actually broadened our horizon, recognizing that there is a realm of human service programs that need the kind of attention that a national association can give it.

Essentially, our mission is strengthening America through excellence in public human services. I think a lot of people don't realize just how large human services is, and the presence that it has in our society. We are generally one-third to one-half of most state and local budgets, and consequently, we have a large business to run and an obligation to run it effectively. But it also is a compassionate business, so we have kind of this desire to make sure that we're maximizing our resources, but doing it in a kind and compassionate way.

Basically, our association does three things. We work for good public policy. Good public policy meaning that there are adequate resources, that there's flexibility to run the programs, that we can actually look at outcomes and invest in clients rather than in the bureaucracy.

We then work with our members to help them implement that policy in the correct way. We do this through training and research and consulting.

And then the final area that we do is we really work on our public image. I think we can be successful mainly to the extent that the public has confidence in our ability to manage our programs efficiently and effectively. And we do that through radio shows, we do that through our website, through our magazines, publications, newsletters, informing the public as well as the profession is a key component of APHSA.

Mr. Morales: Could you give us a sense then of the scale of the operations at your organization and its affiliates? Can you tell us a little bit about who are some of its members and the size perhaps of your budget and the number of employees?

Mr. Friedman: Sure. In many ways, we serve like the National Governors Association does for governors. We perform the same function for the governors' appointed heads of health and human services programs, the state CEOs.

Our core group really are the states. And I've been very pleased that for the past four years, every state and a number of the territories have been full members of APHSA. That's very important to us, because when we go to Congress and we go to testify to say that we represent states, we truly do. Every state is a member.

We then have several hundred local members, counties, areas as large as New York City and Los Angeles to Tioga County, Pennsylvania, that likes to pride itself in being an area that doesn't have any traffic lights or parking meters, so we have that range. And then we have several thousand individual members.

We're a moderate-sized association. We rely a lot on our membership to provide the kind of support to enhance the field of human services. We have approximately 50 employees; sometimes there are more when we get special grants and projects. And we have an operating budget of around $5 million.

Ms. Gardner: So Jerry, now we understand a little bit more about APHSA. You're the executive director. Can you tell us what you do in your job? What does it entail?

Mr. Friedman: I would say that there are probably three major activities that I'm involved in. The first really is association management. We're unique, I think, in that we have to be very sensitive to the fact that our members operate public entities. We treat every dollar that comes into APHSA as if it was a tax dollar, because in many instances, it is. And so we've very sensitive to making sure that we provide the kind of return on the dollar. So just running the association, our own computer systems, our own budgeting processes, our own personnel, occupies a portion of my time.

Probably the largest portion of it is involving member services: meeting with our members, trying to get a sense of areas that they need us to focus in on; sharing best practice.

And then, of course, there's the work that we do on Capitol Hill and with the administration as well as other associations, partnering with them in trying to obtain good policy, good effective resources in the work that we do in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Gardner: In the context of all that, what are maybe the top three challenges that you face? And what kind of things are you doing to address those challenges?

Mr. Friedman: We certainly have the vast array of human services challenges that all of our members face. Internally, you know, we also have challenges in managing during difficult economic times. When states have downturns, when the revenues decline, that also affects our revenues, so that we've had -- from time to time, had to manage during difficult times.

Staff retention is a big issue for us. We're very fortunate in that being in business for so long and having a reputation, which I think is excellent in this city, we're able to attract very, very talented individuals. They gain national exposure. They get to meet with every state CEO. They get to meet with members of Congress. They get to hang out with other associations. And very often, they get recruited because they are talented. So we probably have a higher -- just by circumstances, a higher ratio of turnover than many other organizations.

And, you know, one of the difficult things for me is that most of our core membership is appointed by governors. When their terms expire, they move on to different things. And we develop these relationships, and it's very difficult sometimes to deal with a lot of turnover within the states.

But I think the main challenge in human services, and I think it's also true for our association and all of its components, is truly our public image. The ability to tell our story not only just in Congress, but to the general public I think is critical. We face very unique challenges in human services. We're one of the few industries that is literally working to put itself out of business. We strive for a better society. We strive to alleviate poverty. We strive to eliminate child abuse. And if we're truly successful, there wouldn't be a need for us.

On the other hand, our failures are very visible. We can be successful in dealing with thousands of children. And when we have that unfortunate situation where a child gets lost, of course the public rightfully is outraged as we are, and that draws attention to us. We conduct our business in the open. We're the American Public Human Services Association, and that means if we make a mistake, you're going to read about in the front pages of the newspaper. And often, corporate America and the business community and even the other nonprofit organizations don't have that kind of exposure. So we have unique problems, but we also have unique opportunities, and I think all of this makes us stronger.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, with that type of a mission, I'm curious, how did you get started in this field? What prompted you to get into this?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I was very fortunate in that I started my career as a probation officer. That may sound like a very strange answer, but when you think about it, what a probation officer does, there's a law enforcement aspect to it, but then on the other hand, there's kind of a case management function. You know, when somebody's coming out of prison, they need a job, they need housing, they need treatment, they may be addicted to drugs and alcohol and you have to work with that. And what I learned from that experience was that very often, the human services system broke down for people, and it was mainly because of the way that we were structured within a categorical system. And that really shaped a lot of my early thinking about how we could provide services in a different way, how we could have a more coordinated strategy for dealing with the multiple problems that people were facing. And so I had this exposure to the broad array of human services through that experience.

I then was fortunate enough to kind of have a career progression that led me to be a county human services administrator in two different counties in Pennsylvania. And then I became a state director of public welfare in Pennsylvania. Later, in Washington state, I was in charge of the Economic Services Administration. And before my job at APHSA, I was the executive deputy commissioner for the Texas Department of Human Services.

What that gave me, I think, was good, practical experience in actually providing the services at the county level, but then having the state experience. And through that, I touched various systems, everything from health care to child welfare to mental health, drug and alcohol programs. And so when the association was recruiting for a new executive director, I think that they wanted somebody with both state and local experience, and having that kind of broader perspective of having administered a wide array of programs.

Mr. Morales: So as you reflect back on your career, is there one aspect of that that you feel has really shaped your current leadership role and perhaps informed your current style?

Mr. Friedman: Albert, the one asset that I think that I bring to APHSA is a 25-year history of being a member. This association was my safety net. When I absolutely needed information and needed it quickly, I had them on my speed dial. When we had public policy that we needed changed -- I can give you a very good example -- and that was with welfare reform when there was a provision that legal immigrants were not entitled to food stamps. Our state legislature and our governor, I was in Washington state at the time, said this is unacceptable, find a way to make a change. It was APHSA, our association, that led the change in Congress that allowed states to purchase food stamp coupons for this population. So I came in with a great deal of passion about the association and the work that the association does as a consumer and as a member.

So what I bring to the association is I have such talented co-workers, oh, they're working on their Ph.D.s and their law degrees and they're just extraordinary, but I can look at something that crossed my desk and say if I was a member, would this make sense to me? And so as long as I think I can keep that member perspective, I'll be able to enrich the association to some degree.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What are some of the lessons learned from welfare reform efforts? We will ask Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Nicole Gardner.

Jerry, we've used the term "public human services." Can you elaborate exactly what that means?

Mr. Friedman: Well, there's a debate actually on what public human services are. At one point, it was human services that were provided by government employees, but I think that that's changed a great deal with privatization efforts, with partnerships, with contracting. So now we define it more as services provided under the public aegis, where government dollars are used and there's a level of accountability, but it could be provided by a number of different associations, organizations, companies, both private and not-for-profit.

Mr. Morales: Let me go back in time a little bit. In the 1990s, government had made a statement to end welfare as we know it back then, which launched a series of welfare reform initiatives. Could you remind us of some of the key elements of this welfare reform, and from your perspective, how significant a social policy change does this welfare reform effort represent?

Mr. Friedman: If I look back on events that happened in my career, I think welfare reform was probably the most significant change in social policy in my lifetime. And what it did basically was that it ended individual entitlements for people and gave states block grants with considerable flexibility for states and local governments to design programs that made sense to them. Included were some provisions, like time limits, lifetime time limits, work requirements, just a vast array of significant changes to the way that we looked at what had been a dependency program to one that became a program of self-sufficiency.

In many ways, I think some of the lessons that were learned through welfare reform are really beginning to permeate some of the other human services systems as well. But all in all, I think welfare could be considered a successful program in the United States that brought about significant change.

Ms. Gardner: So Jerry, in that context, tell us a little bit about some of the key lessons we learned in welfare reform.

Mr. Friedman: Well, first, if I could just talk a little bit about some of the successes. And you have to realize that the AFDC program had been in existence for many, many years. It was a well-entrenched program basically operated through federal rules. And so when the new law came into effect and states were empowered to develop their own and design their own programs, there was a great deal of both apprehension as well as a great deal of high expectations for welfare administrators who had really wanted to do something different with the program for a considerable period of time.

It's important to note that welfare reform didn't actually start with the new law. There were over 40 states who had gone to the federal government to seek waivers to say we think that we have a better solution to helping people become self-sufficient. And what the federal legislation really was were some of those common threads through all of those various waiver programs.

But when you look at what happened over the course of a decade, there was a 60 percent decline in welfare caseloads in this country. Child support collections for non-custodial parents doubled. Over 1.5 million welfare recipients who had previously never been attached to the workforce had gainful employment and were no longer reliant on the public welfare system to support them. We implemented a national electronic benefits transfer program, a large computerized effort that actually eliminated food stamp coupons in this country. We created hundreds of thousands of child care slots. We invested in prevention programs that resulted in a decline in teen pregnancy among welfare mothers of one-third. And for the first time, reversing a two-decade trend, we actually had a decline in child poverty rates in this country. So by all accounts, you would consider that a success.

Well, there were many lessons to be learned through that. First, there was a really compelling case for change. Welfare dependency was a bad investment strategy, basically supporting somebody. It didn't help grow our society or our economy or the self-image of those who were receiving those benefits. So that we learned that there was kind of both an economic and a moral imperative for change. Yes, indeed, we are a compassionate society. We are our brother's keeper. But on the other hand, we had an obligation to help people maximize their own personal potential and develop their own capacity.

We learned that personal responsibility can be very effective public policy; that in life, there is a quid pro quo; that reciprocity is just the way that we live as Americans, and that its public policy should reflect that. We learned that people can rise to the occasion, that when they were afforded the opportunity, people became job-ready. They invested when there were both incentives positive and negative. People reacted in that they did want better things for their families. We learned, I think, that the best service delivery was designed at the local level. Welfare reform was not a national strategy. It was saying here's the money, here are the resources, develop a local strategy, and that resulted in those successful efforts.

We learned that we had to rely on partnerships, that welfare in this country couldn't be fixed by government. It required corporate America, the business community, the nonprofit world, the faith-based world, education, all coming together in kind of a uniform strategy to help address this. We learned the importance of services coordination and integrating services. What happened with lifetime time limits was that the bar was raised. We had a finite period of time to have people become job-ready or they would lose this safety net. We know that people don't come to welfare offices simply because they have empty wallets and empty pocketbooks, that there's often just a myriad of other problems that exist, and that we needed to address those. And that required the agencies that provided those services to get together in some kind of coordinated strategy. We also learned that there were other multiple strategies that we needed to look at: asset building, predatory lending. You know, there's a whole industry that thrives just because people are living in poverty.

I think the most important lesson, though, was, you know, for years people railed about the public welfare system, and I was one of them, to be honest with you, that it was a failed system. Well, what we learned was it was failed policy. When people are penalized, when their family condition or economic conditions are worse off because they're trying to better themselves and become employed, when they actually lose money, when the most responsible thing that they can do financially for their family is to stay on welfare rather than try to get to work because they'll be worse off, that's failed policy.

When that changed, we demonstrated it was not a failed workforce. The welfare system, this huge entity in this country, literally turned on a dime. Welfare offices almost overnight were transformed from "welfare offices" to "work centers." You know, the message was clear: What can I do to help you get a job today? This magnificent welfare workforce absolutely transformed themselves because they wanted to. They saw firsthand every day how just handing somebody a check and food stamps and hoping that every problem went away was foolish policy. And when that changed and they could make a real difference, they really rose to the occasion.

Ms. Gardner: That's quite a story. So you mentioned a few minutes ago reauthorization. So where are we with the reauthorization of TANF, and kind of what's the status? Where are we going?

Mr. Friedman: TANF was reauthorized after about 12 or 13 continuing resolutions. We just couldn't seem to get congressional attention because of all of the other priorities. And at the very end of the legislative session last year, as part of the Deficit Reduction Act, TANF reauthorization was passed. As an association, we are very concerned about the kind of micromanagement that's been built back into the welfare system. We think that the broad strategy of providing goals for states to reach, and empowering communities to reach those, worked. Clearly demonstrated that. And so we're concerned that we've taken a huge step backwards when it comes to welfare reform. And administrators, rather than talking about how can we get people into gainful employment, how can we help them get better jobs, how can we improve their economic conditions, they're talking about how we can have something count as a work participation credit because of the penalties that they're going to be facing. We're working very hard to minimize any damage as we see it to this program. To continue to empower states, we strive for maximum flexibility, but we're going to have an uphill battle.

Mr. Morales: Now, Jerry, you mentioned earlier that welfare reform really began at the state and local level. And I believe today, we again are seeing state agencies developing innovative public policy agendas to shape the next decade of service to low-income families. Could you elaborate on some of these innovative state programs? What are some of the strengths that you're seeing in some of these programs?

Mr. Friedman: Well, again, I think drawing off some of the success that we had with welfare reform and just looking at public policy that empowers communities, we're seeing this play out in child welfare programs, we're seeing this played out in health care programs. If you went to a Medicaid director 20 years ago and you said what is your job, they would say my job is to pay bills timely, accurately, and efficiently, and basically they did that. If you ask a Medicaid director today what is your job, well, they're part of a governor's health cabinet. They're looking at universal coverage. They're looking at strategies to cover the uninsured. They are looking beyond just paying bills to what are the best treatments and interventions that we can provide? Where do we get a return on the investment? How can we engage consumers? Now can we embrace prevention and wellness programs?

It's an exciting time right now because of a lot of flexibility that's been given to states around health care design. And I would contend that the real leadership for this is not happening within the confines of Washington, D.C., but it's happening in the statehouses throughout the country.

I think the same is true with public child welfare. Welfare administrators are saying, you know, if I could take the resources that it takes to buy foster care and invest in strategies to build stronger families in the beginning, investing in prevention, investing in interventions that help people become better parents up front, then we could save all this money on the back end. But more importantly, children thrive better in families than they do in foster care. It's more than intuitive. It's supported by all the research and by all the evaluations that happen. So what I see happening now are administrators throughout this country, states approaching the federal government just like they did with welfare reform, saying we think we have a better solution based on our local conditions, by the assets and the resources within our community, and our ability to mobilize them.

The other thing that we didn't have 25 years ago, when I was running programs, is we have more supportive technology. It used to be very hard to keep track of all of the records that you needed and the requirements and the rules and regulations when you had six or seven or eight different categorical programs with rules and different requirements. But with computer systems now and the ability to process information, it is much easier, I think, to manage those programs within the compliance rules of the federal government.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, it sounds like, you know, really workforce strategies are really sort of the key to success here in helping families manage this transition that you describe. But can you give us perhaps some specific examples of programs that are out there that you think are really innovative and are working well?

Mr. Friedman: Well, there are thousands of them. And I think, again, the key was that public administrators were set free to go out and to develop strategies that worked.

You know, one of the things that we used to do, I used to do this when I ran welfare programs, was to go to corporate America and to business and say wouldn't it be nice if you hired somebody off the welfare rolls? You know, it helps the community and it's the right thing to do. Now we can go to corporate America and the business community and say we can help you build your business. We can help your bottom line. We can help your profit. We can do that through tax credits. We can do that through customized job training. We can do that through extended medical assistance coverage and child care subsidies. We can do that through working with new employees to help train them through orientation. So people see this as a better business strategy than they used to as just a social service.

Mr. Morales: So it's about collaboration.

Mr. Friedman: It's about collaboration. It's about partnership. But it's also -- it's about investment. Good public policy, good social policy, good human services policy and making profit don't have to be mutually exclusive principles.

Mr. Morales: That's a very good point.

What emerging technologies hold the most promise for improving human services delivery? We will ask Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association. Also joining us in our conversation is Nicole Gardner, vice president and partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

Jerry, the goal of working with families in a holistic manner to achieve better outcomes has been around for some time. The change to cross-agency program policy and cross-agency funding streams to support that goal have been somewhat elusive at both the federal and the state levels. Whenever an issue bounces around an industry for so many years and doesn't appear to gain traction, one of two things is usually happening: either, one, the topic is of interest, but there's no real intrinsic value, but the parties sort of enjoy talking about it; or more is happening than we all realize. In your opinion, what's happening here?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think there's a little bit of both to your question, and we're still kind of defining ourselves in human services in our public policy. Very often we find conflicting things with categorical rules that tend to get in the way of integrated strategies. But again, I tend to be optimistic, partially because of the technology, partially because of welfare reform, and to a great extent through the leadership that's coming through human services that are looking at different and more coordinated strategies. The way that we have partnered with the business community, many states now are actually privatizing casework services, something that just didn't exist before. But they're doing it thoughtfully and rationally and in a way that's devised to get better outcomes. I think that it is still a work in progress, but I think more and more, there is a realization that if we are truly to be investing our human resources wisely, this one-half to one-third of local and state budgets, that we need to have the ability to move beyond all of our individual rules and all of our individual program perspective.

There are huge challenges. First off, if you look at the history of human services, it wasn't like it was formed through some kind of great planning strategy. It seemed like Congress would discover a problem, throw some money at it, and hope that it went away. And the residual effect were all these categorical agencies often competing with each other. They had their own infrastructure. They had their own computer systems. They had their own rules and their own regulations. When you couple that with an advocacy community that's pretty singularly focused, we have advocates around hunger, around developmental disabilities, around mental illness, we don't have advocates for services integration. And yet every one of those programs are adversely affected because there's not a single solution or a single cause of many of these maladies that we have in our society. We've begun to rely a little bit better on technology to get us data and to get us information that tells us where we can invest our resources most effectively.

In the health care arena, there's a lot of work that's going on on electronic medical records. In the course of doing that, I think there's a potential to lay a foundation for further integration of human services in this country. In many areas, there are great demonstrations, but we still as a matter of public policy have not embraced this as the way that we should be doing our thinking and investing.

Ms. Gardner: So in the context, Jerry, of the fact that we're looking at a family as a whole in a holistic way, you mentioned the electronic health record, what are some of the other innovations from a technology perspective that help to break down some of those barriers that exist between the competing organizations and the way that the regulations and the laws have developed?

Mr. Friedman: Well, certainly Internet strategies, looking at ways that people can apply for benefits through the Internet, ways that data can be refreshed, where redundancies can be eliminated, I think have great potential. Many states are developing things like kiosks and automated call centers where they can call in and see whether they're eligible. They can do tests, they can do income tests. All of that is still evolving and still growing, but I think is becoming more and more the industry norm.

There are tools that caseworkers are using that I think are pretty exciting that afford not only greater efficiency, but also greater protections. The state of Alabama has just equipped their child welfare workers with electronic notebooks that do amazing things. Caseworkers can do case notes, they can take photos. They can take photos of children that may have scars and abuses that they can forward to their supervisor to say do we go further with this case? They have GPS so that they know where they're at. They can have a level of safety the caseworkers didn't have before.

Also, you know, for many of the challenges that our clients face, technology is a level playing field. When I was working in Austin, Texas, we had a special project where we refurbished computers. We worked with many of the large computer firms, and we provided these to low-income families that otherwise would not be able to have a computer, and it was just amazing to see what children can do when they're set free in this learning environment through the Internet. Again, it's kind of optimistic. I personally am just still learning how to figure out e-mail, but I've got staff that just do amazing things with computers, and they're always trying to educate me.

There also are ways, I think, that we're being able to process information differently. With the old legacy systems and COBOL language and the way that we had to program, literally taking large business applications and trying to retrofit through different algorithms our human services business, often those things got lost in translation. You know, with decision trees and artificial intelligence and more agile and nimble applications, the potential is there. Looking at outcomes, there are a number of different outcome result systems that are being grown by small companies that are approaching human services, and so I think there's vast potential there.

Ms. Gardner: So any time there's an infusion of technology into an environment that has previously not been able to really do much with it, there are usually barriers and challenges that pop up. So what are some of the big challenges to really taking advantage of emerging technologies in your field?

Mr. Friedman: Well, the biggest one for me, and it's kind of a pet rant, is the process that the federal government has for procuring computer equipment. It's called the APD or the advance planning document process. This is a bureaucratic nightmare that's 40 years old, no longer necessary in my estimation. It was created at a time when I think it was appropriate, when computers and computer applications were relatively exotic, they were relatively new. And the federal government was saying, well, listen, why invest in all of these things? Let's look at have some kind of uniform process and see how we can transfer information back and forth. Also to provide a level of fairness in the competitive bid process.

Well, states now have very robust procurement requirements, every bit as robust as anything that the federal government could do. It stalls the procurement of computer equipment. Because it involves, in many instances, multiple federal agencies, each one can trump the other one in terms of the process. It can take two to three years to get approvals. And in some cases, it's just simply the criteria that they have doesn't make sense. I'll give you one example.

There's a dollar limit that if you exceed -- I think it's $5 million; the dollar amount may have changed because I don't do this every day, but it used to be $5 million -- you had to seek the approval of the federal government. Well, I was in Texas, and I was responsible for a 15,000-person workforce. For me to just routinely replace desktop computers after the depreciation life is gone, I had to go and get approval to do that. Now, ironically, if I wanted to hire 100,000 staff, all I had to do was to put in a state plan amendment. Years ago, the Department of Labor did away with this same process because they realized that it was just antiquated. And I think in many ways, by the time they get the approval, the technology's obsolete.

This is something that we have been striving for for at least the past 15 years, to have this reformed or ended or changed. And I think it's just -- you know, if there's anything that the next administration can do to make life easier for state human services administrators, and especially their chief information officers, it's to absolutely reform this system and to have confidence that states make good, thoughtful business decisions about procuring computer equipment.

Ms. Gardner: So let's talk about something that your organization has been working on specifically, something called the "Organizational Effectiveness Institute, Building the 21st Century Workforce." You started this last May, so can you tell us a little bit about this effort? What was it aimed at and what's happening with it?

Mr. Friedman: We have a training/research/consulting practice at APHSA. In many ways, we needed to be clear about our core competencies and to match that with our members' needs. You know, there are dozens of very, very good consulting firms that do training and consulting in this country. We think that we have a unique niche in that we really understand the business of human services. So we began to do a whole series of evaluation of our own programs, asking our members what their needs were. And essentially they're saying that we need help in looking at organizational effectiveness and then developing good leaders.

And the other thing that has always troubled me as a consumer of consulting services and training was that very often we go to a training program and something nice happens, we put it on a shelf, and we get back and our desk is piled high and we kind of forget what we learned through that session. So we're very much into looking at actual products, being able to take something away from this experience. And so we created this concept of having an institute where our members, our states, and in some cases local organizations, would participate not for a one-shot training session, but through a process that would lead to a product.

Now, the workforce institute was particularly interesting because when we meet with our CEOs and we ask them what are your greatest needs, the issue of staff recruitment, retention, early retirements, building a bench for new leadership, I mean, many of my colleagues are my age, you know, baby boomers that are of retirement age, and we stand to lose a significant amount of institutional knowledge as well as leadership if we don't find some way to address that. Well, what we learned through our needs assessment was that very often human resources personnel offices weren't necessarily being seen as a solution, that personnel rules weren't seen as an asset that can help enable addressing that issue.

And so what we did was that we created this institute, and it lasted for a year. There were four group meetings of all of the participants, but then there was a lot of individual consulting and peer consulting, which was very important, that happened in between those meetings. And the end result was that the human resources directors walked away with a product which was a workforce plan that they could take to their governor's office. We actually field tested this by bringing in a number of retired commissioners, secretaries, and directors of human services and saying to them basically if your human resources director submitted this plan to you, is this something that you would support?

And so the end result of this one year was an actual working workforce plan that drilled down beyond, you know, I need 20 caseworkers because my caseloads are going to get this high, but looking at skill sets. Where do you find them? How do you work with the universities? How do you work with the training centers? How do you help grow internally your own training capacity to have this happen? What kind of array of benefits and training opportunities do we create for our workforce? How do we embed quality improvement in the way that we do business? And so it was beyond just how you do a workforce plan. It was how you actually make a more effective organization.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, along these lines, to be a bit more specific, what are some of the workforce capacity building challenges faced by public human service agencies, and how does the institute seek to assist participants in strengthening agencies' workforces and human resource capacities?

Mr. Friedman: Well, what we're trying to do is to embed a strategic process in looking at our workforce needs. And that, I think, has been a missing element. I think we've done traditional recruiting and we've gotten people that have credentials. But when we look at the broader strategy of who's coming into human services today and making it a career, quite frankly, I'm a little troubled.

I'm at the tail-end of my career. I'm in my sixties. I was a product of the 1960s and the 1950s, and I was drawn to public service. It wasn't part of my family tradition. I was drawn to public service by the leadership of this country who talked about human services and public service being an honorable thing that should attract the best and the brightest. You know, we had leaders in this country who were great role models, and it troubles me today that we don't kind of have that sense of government as being such an instrument of good. Not to be critical, but when you turn on the radio programs around the country, all you hear is that government wastes this and government does that. I really take exception to that.

I have worked both in corporate America and I have worked in the public sector, and there are challenges in both and there is competence in both, and unfortunately, there's incompetence sometimes in both. But the public business is a little bit unique because it is in the open. And so I think all of that has created an environment where people just aren't as attracted to public service as they used to be. And so what we're trying to do is to rebuild that through reshaping our public image, getting back to the notion that human services is honorable.

We have always known, those of us who got into this, we didn't get into human services for the money. If we did, we made a very dumb decision. We were driven by a different kind of mission, a desire to make a difference in a different kind of way and contribute in a different way. You know, that spirit I think is something that we want to kind of recapture.

Mr. Morales: What about the future of public human services delivery?

We will ask Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association. Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Nicole Gardner.

Jerry, perhaps you could elaborate on the types of public-private partnerships that your members and affiliates engage in to improve operations or outcomes. And in what areas do you think you would like to enhance or expand these types of collaborations?

Mr. Friedman: Well, that's a very good question. In reality, there has always been, I think, a level of partnership between at least public human services and the private sector. Many of the actual services are provided under contract. Many of the charitable faith-based organizations have been dealing with people with needs, material needs, basic needs, other human services needs for years. So when you look at the array of vast human services networks that are out there, very often, the majority of the programs are actually provided within the private sector. However, recently, there has been more and more of a movement towards privatizing some of the core functions that had traditionally been part of government.

I think what we try to do best as a national association is to work with our members to make sure that they have weighed all of the factors they could consider into whether this is a good decision or not. I think the issue isn't the whos. It's more the issue of the whats, and being clear about what the core competencies are. If government entities are going to be contracting, then I think they need different skill sets, or need to emphasize skill sets a little differently. And I think we have a good example.

Twenty years ago, states ran huge data centers with state employees. In many areas, these are now run by corporate America under contract. What happened, though, in the state information technology world was that the core competencies changed. They changed to project management, contract management, automation planning, quality control. And I think the same needs to happen as we start to look at actual service delivery. But if we're going to be farming these activities out to for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, we need to be real clear about what the expectations are: managing those contracts and those projects effectively. And so I think that's the critical issue. It's not who's doing it, it's what's being done, and is it done with the eye of actually providing an improved service delivery system rather than because it seems to be the local trend.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, obviously you just opened the door for a discussion on the future. What do you see as some of the emerging trends in social welfare policy over, say, the next 5, 6, 7, 10 years?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think we're at a very exciting time. Again, I think the lessons that were learned from welfare reform, the demonstration that state and local governments really can manage programs effectively, is continuing to evolve and continuing to grow.

I see a number of different trends. I think the movement towards services integration clearly is happening in a lot of different areas. I think categorical agencies are beginning to realize that it takes a holistic approach in order to address the needs of families. I think more and more, state and local governments are looking how to return on investment. You know, is this the best result that we can get for the amount of money that we are investing? And I think it kind of goes beyond just looking at a program from a cost perspective. I think we need to look at it from an outcome perspective.

The continued advancement in technology throughout the entire human services system, from consumers to clients to the way that we process mega data in this country, I think is continuing to evolve. And what I see happening is that major corporations are now investing specifically in human services applications rather than retrofitting business applications to human services.

I think that there's going to be a continued movement towards consumerism. You know, there should be nothing about me without me. More and more clients are saying and progressive human services professionals are saying I need to involve a client in this decision in order to have the best outcome. And so there is more of a kind of openness and a willingness to do this.

And I think in many ways it could also be a cost driver, particularly in the health care arena. We need to have the costs of what it takes in medical care to be transparent. We need to know what they are. Consumerism can do a great deal to drive down costs. I heard Speaker Newt Gingrich talk about the airline industry, and he was talking about the combination of deregulation and the Internet and things like Expedia and Priceline and all those different things have driven down the cost of air miles from 29 cents a mile down to 10. It's just a stunning thing what competition can do and we need to start having that application in human services. I think continued partnerships and having strategic approaches and better use of data will continue to be a part of it.

And obviously volunteerism. We need to rely on a community not only for the services that they provide, but for the engagement. My experience is that when people become exposed to what happens in a human services agency or in a human services program or even in an institution, they become advocates for it when they begin to see what it's like. So I think that those are some of the major trends. I think the bottom line, though, to all of these things is what it has always been, and that's we have to keep the clients first. We can't lose sight of our purpose and our reason for being in the human services business in the first place. And that's because people that are at our desks are there with multitude of problems. They're in pain, they're in need. And so we can set up these elaborate systems, but we can't lose our heart. And I think that that's a lesson that's always with us, and to always acknowledge the awesome responsibility that we have in human services.

I used to tell my co-workers you know that a keystroke on a computer can make the critical difference as to whether a child goes to bed hungry or nourished, and that's just an awesome responsibility that plays out a million times a day in this country, and we don't take credit for it. We don't talk about how often the systems work. We focus in on the failures rather than our successes. And if we're going to really change the human services industry and have it grow and thrive as a viable part of our society, we need to change the public image. We need to be able to tell that story better.

Ms. Gardner: So continuing our theme of looking into the future, Jerry, from a policy perspective on some of the specific programs, you know, what's coming up for Medicaid, for TANF, for child welfare? What's going to happen over the next year or two?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I wish I had a crystal ball that I could say that, because we're caught in competing dynamics. You know, I think that there's a growing awareness among people who pay taxes that they want to see a return on their investment. And I think there's also a real acknowledgement that people do have human needs, and I think we're going to continue to strive for that perfect balance. But again, you know, I keep going back to the lessons that we learned through welfare reform about personal responsibility, about work opportunities, about empowering communities to make a difference. I think that those will continue to grow.

The health care area I think is fascinating because we really are, I think, in the early stages of a transformation. I see it happening again with the Medicaid directors in this country and the role that they're playing and looking at prevention and wellness programs, and I think that that'll continue to be a part of it.

I know the direction I would like to see Congress in the next administration go, and that again is always to empower states, to give them flexibility, to have administrative simplicity, to keep client needs at the forefront. And I think if we do that, we can continue to have a stronger society.

Again, the return on investment I think is really important. We as a human services industry need to talk about the return on investment that society does get. You know, when we think about the food stamp program, we don't think about what it infuses into an economy. It's not just that the people who are low wage are able to have better nutrition, but what does it mean for the grocers and the growers and those that transport food and how it contributes to a stronger society?

Think of a society without human services, what kind of world we would have. And so we're getting a little better at telling our story. And I truly appreciate the opportunity to be on a show like this to talk to your listeners and to tell the human services story, to share our challenges as well as some of the opportunities. And I'm just very, very grateful for this experience.

Ms. Gardner: Well, we're honored to have you. In the context of the story you just told about the profound good that can be done, children being nourished, families being helped, if you were to get your aspiration realized that Congress would be proactive and positive in its treatment of human services policy and legislation going forward, how would you challenge your members to then take those things and move forward to really meet the challenge of improving service delivery and living up to the picture that you've painted so articulately?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think two things: to think holistically, how the various parts fit together to a system of care; and secondly, keep the clients first, keep the needs of the children in this country and the families who are struggling in this country. Unfortunately, I can walk out of this nice building in downtown Washington, D.C., and before I hit the next corner, I will be able to see the failures of our society, where people who have been left out and left behind, the homeless population, who aren't afforded, for whatever reasons, the opportunity to participate in the wealth of this great country. You know, we'll always have our work to do. So those are the things, the messages that I would give.

Mr. Morales: Jerry, it's hard not to be moved by your passion and dedication to public human services, so I'm curious, what advice could you give to someone out there who perhaps is thinking about starting a career in public service and perhaps in particular interested in working in the area of public human services?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think that the best experience really is hands-on. I always encourage people to volunteer, to spend time in public facilities, nursing homes, to talk to people who have needs to see where their strengths and where they can contribute. I think that that's the greatest thing is through the exposure. You know, we appreciate all of the courses in social work and public policy that happen, but I think it's that hands-on experience, that personal passion that somebody can have, and the exhilaration of actually seeing somebody who has improved the quality of their lives because you've been there, because you've been working with them, because you've tutored somebody who was illiterate and now they're job-ready. I mean, I just can't tell you. It's like maybe the equivalent, the public human services equivalent, of hitting a grand-slam home run in a World Series.

One of the greatest things that I get to do sometimes is to go to graduation classes of public welfare agencies, where they've taken people who had not been job-ready and they're out and they're ready to join the workforce or perhaps they're already working, to see the transformation in their lives. They have a client come back to them and say thank you, you made a difference.

Just one quick story. When I was a probation officer, I had a huge caseload. I didn't always I mean, you had to kind of triage. And years after I had left this job, I received a call one night at my house and it was from a man and I could tell he was obviously very emotional. And he asked if I was the probation officer that had his case, you know, 5, 10 years earlier. And I had to really search my memory banks, and indeed, it was and I did remember that. And what he wanted to tell me was that he was in the hospital, his wife had just given birth to his first child, a son, and that he wanted me to know I was the second call that he made -- the first was to his parents -- that he would not have had that thrilling opportunity to be a parent had I not intervened in his life in an early stage when he was struggling with substance abuse. Now, I barely remembered the case and I didn't do great casework. I gave him a choice: you're going to rehab or you go to jail, you know. But obviously it made an impact on this person. I hadn't thought of that case in years, but to get that phone call is something that just stayed with me for the rest of my life.

We don't always know that we make a difference. And so that's what I would tell people, that if they want a career where they can have those kind of rewards and benefits, then human services is a place that they ought to look.

Mr. Morales: That's absolutely wonderful. Jerry, unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Nicole and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service across the many years and roles that you've had in the area of public human services.

Mr. Friedman: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. If people want to find more about the American Public Human Services Association I urge them to take a look at our website. It has up-to-date information on all of the legislative proposals that are happening in Congress. It's a wealth of information, and it's at www.aphsa.org.

Mr. Morales: Great, thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association.

My co-host has been Nicole Gardner, vice president and partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Rochelle Granat interview

Friday, December 26th, 2008 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We need to develop our human capital practitioners as strategic business partners. We need to move away from the focus on transactional processing -- technology is increasingly making that easier, but we're moving to shared services for those types of functions."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/27/2008
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Rochelle Granat
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast September 13, 2008

Washington, D.C.

Announcer: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury acts as steward of the U.S. economic and financial systems, including the role of the U.S. as an influential participant in the international economy. Treasury also performs a critical and far-reaching role in national security, coordinating financial intelligence, targeting and imposing sanctions on supporters of terrorism, and improving the safeguard of our financial system. Managing these complex tasks requires expanded capabilities in the pursuit of an effective resource management and workforce strategy.

With us this morning to discuss her efforts in this area is our very special guest, Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Good morning, Rochelle.

Ms. Granat: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our studio is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

Good to see you again, Solly.

Mr. Thomas: Good morning, Al. And good to see you again, Rochelle.

Mr. Morales: Rochelle, many of our listeners will be familiar with the Treasury, but let's start by taking a moment to provide them just a quick overview. Could you tell us a bit about Treasury's history and its mission today?

Ms. Granat: Sure. I actually enjoy talking about Treasury's history, because Treasury was one of the first four original departments of the Executive Branch of government. And looking at Treasury's history is really an opportunity to look at how the growth of the domestic functions of government developed over the years, because many of the functions that today are in other agencies actually grew out of Treasury. Treasury's mission has always been around the public purse: managing the money resources in the United States as its primary function. And all of the functions it has today in some way tie to government finances and the economy.

The basic functions of Treasury -- you recited some of them, but it's managing federal financing; collecting the taxes and duties and monies paid to the United States; paying all the bills of the United States; producing currency and coinage; managing the government accounts and the public debt, supervising national banks and thrift institutions; and advising and establishing domestic and international financial policies and economic and trade and tax policy. So that's quite a hefty mission and a varied mission, and involves many different job skills and job sets, from manufacturing to accountants to tax attorneys and attorneys in many different functions.

An interesting point in the history, of course, is fairly recent, and that was that the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 resulted in Treasury losing four of its enforcement bureaus. Treasury did have four bureaus that originated in Treasury: Customs, Secret Service, ATF, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. There actually is a money resource aspect to all of those that some people forget. The U.S. Secret Service was actually established to deal with counterfeiting and to protect our currency and coinage. And Customs, of course, was collection of duties, as was ATF, was revenue-raising.

But with that change, that was a significant change for Treasury, a new enforcement responsibility grew and developed, and that was around terrorist financing and financial intelligence.

Mr. Morales: So it sounds like the mission continues to broaden at Treasury. So Rochelle, just to put a finer point on the scale of this broad mission, could you provide us some specifics in terms of how Treasury is organized, the size of the budget, and number of full-time employees of the Department?

Ms. Granat: The Department has over 100,000 employees. The bulk of them are the Internal Revenue Service employees. We have among the permanent staff 114,000 employees. And they're working across the United States, and we also have folks posted in 16 countries and in 3 U.S. territories, so we really do have an involvement throughout the world.

The budget is, combined, roughly $16 billion. A major portion of that is the Internal Revenue Service, which is about $11 billion. The $16 billion figure includes our bureaus that are non-appropriated bureaus: the Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency fund their operations through revenue-raising. The bureaus of the Treasury operate independently, with Headquarters exercising oversight and policy over the bureaus. And they are organized around their functions. We do have -- a piece of the former ATF is now the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax, and Trade Bureau. It's one of our smallest bureaus.

We, of course, have the manufacturing bureaus: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Mint. We also have two fiscal service bureaus. The Financial Management Service, they pay our bills, issue our checks. When we get a paper check, it's from the Financial Management Service. When we get an electronic payment or Social Security payments or tax refunds, those are from the Financial Management Service. The Bureau of the Public Debt is the second fiscal service bureau, and they track the public debt, they issue and do transactions in government securities which represent the debt.

We have the two banking regulators: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Mr. Thomas: So with that overview of the Department, Rochelle, could you tell us more about your role as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and as the Chief Human Capital Officer at Treasury? What are your specific responsibilities and duties? And how does your program support the overall mission of the Department?

Ms. Granat: Well, my responsibilities have different aspects. One major aspect is Department-wide policy and oversight around human capital programs, to include EEO and diversity. When I talk about human capital programs, I'm also talking about the EEO and diversity programs as well. Each of our bureaus have human capital offices and EEO offices that operate independently, but through our policy and oversight. There are certain functions that do have to come up to the departmental level, and they would come up to my office.

In addition, I have a responsibility that's a little bit anomalous or unusual, and that's oversight of the D.C. Pensions Program, which administers the Department's responsibilities for certain pension programs of the District of Columbia for teachers, police, firefighters, and judges.

I exercise that responsibility through a collaborative effort with the human capital officers at the bureaus. I chair a Human Capital Advisory Council that involves the leadership of those offices, the EEO office and the HR offices at the bureaus.

Mr. Thomas: Rochelle, regarding your responsibilities and duties, what are the top challenges that you face in your position, and how have you addressed these challenges?

Ms. Granat: Well, I'd say the top challenges are ones that I think most agencies share. Certainly recruiting and retaining the talent we need to accomplish our mission is huge, especially in the face of the changing demographics and the realities of an aging workforce. In that light, succession planning and knowledge transfer are also very significant challenges.

And I'd say the third challenge influences both of those, and that's really a challenge of resource limitations. We are all operating under very tight budget constraints and the challenges are significant, and we really need to be creative in leveraging across the Department our efforts to develop new initiatives to tackle some of these challenges.

Mr. Morales: Now, Rochelle, I understand that your history at Treasury goes back to about 1985. I believe you started at the Bureau of Public Debt. Could you tell us a little bit about your career path? How did you get started in public service?

Ms. Granat: Well, I actually started while I was in law school, and I do have a little less traditional path to a human capital occupation. In law school, I was a law clerk, working part-time. One of the reasons why coming to law school in Washington was attractive to me was that I was interested in public service. I was interested in public policy. And soon after finishing law school, I did move from the Department of Labor to the Bureau of the Public Debt, which is, as I mentioned earlier, a bureau of the Department of the Treasury.

And over time, I developed a concentration, and my work was largely around personnel and labor relations, EEO, all those areas of the law, as well as other sort of mission support, general law functions.

I really developed an interest in not just the legal issues, but really the policy issues. And the nature of the way in which one works as what I would call in-house counsel in an agency is really a collaborative relationship with your clients and working together to resolve problems, to avoid problems.

I actually spent a little bit of time -- 2-1/2 years -- at the creation of the Transportation Security Administration. I went over in the Chief Counsel's Office. And one of the attractions in taking that opportunity was what it stood to offer in terms of starting an organization from the ground up and working to develop a new organization, develop policies.

But I always wanted to look for and did look for an opportunity to step outside of the legal office and work on the management side, in June of '04, when the director of the D.C. Pensions Program was contemplating retirement and encouraged me to come back and become the director of that program. As I was back at Treasury, I was being increasingly brought into things within management but outside of the Office of D.C. Pensions. And when the Chief Human Capital Officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary position was vacant, I was asked to step in in an acting capacity, and did that and realized that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Mr. Morales: Great, great. So as you sort of reflect on all of these experiences going back to your clerkship, what has shaped your leadership style and perhaps influenced your management approach today?

Ms. Granat: Well, I would say that the role I played in a significant aspect of what I did as counsel was really an advisory, collaborative member of a team with non-attorneys, with the client and with program managers. And I think that really fostered an appreciation and a management style and a leadership style that really was collaborative. And I see that as a strong aspect of my leadership style, that I really believe strongly that we solve problems best when we recognize and respect the expertise that a diversity of people bring, and that we work together to solve problems. I'm very much not a command-and-control leader, and I think that much of what I learned and what I think of being good counsel shaped that leadership style in a different role.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What is Treasury's human resource strategy? We will ask Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Solly Thomas.

Rochelle, I want to spend some time talking about Treasury's human capital strategy. Can you tell us a bit about your four human capital strategic goals, and how does this strategy align with and support Treasury's broader mission, goals, and objectives?

Ms. Granat: Well, we're actually at a transition phase. Our human capital strategic plan covers the period 2005 to the end of this year. We actually are in the process of issuing our new human capital strategic plan that is a follow-on to the new department strategic plan, which was issued last year.

And there were four key goals: organizational effectiveness, recruitment and diversity, employee retention and employee satisfaction, and technical skills. And what we're talking about with respect to technical skills is enhancing workforce capabilities to support the use of current, new, and evolving technology. So we're really talking about making sure our organization is aligns its human capital plans with the strategies and systems to achieve organizational effectiveness in the mission of the agency.

And a key aspect of that is obviously being able to recruit the right people at the right time with the right skills, and at the same time, employee retention and employee satisfaction is critical. It's great if we can recruit the people and get them in the door, but if we are not growing and developing them and doing those things to ensure engagement and satisfaction, we're not going to keep them. And that would also make it more difficult for us to recruit new employees, because our best recruiters are our current workforce who say this is a great place to work.

Mr. Morales: Sure.

Ms. Granat: Last year, the Department issued its new departmental strategic plan, and a major goal in that plan is management and organizational excellence. Human capital is a major, major player in that goal. And without fulfilling that goal, we can't accomplish the key aspects of the strategic plan, which are all mission -- those remaining three aspects are mission-driven.

In developing our revised human capital strategic plan, which would run from this year to 2013, goals slightly revised, but not dramatically. One is broaden and diversify the talent pool. And we're talking there about creating effective recruitment strategies and utilizing all available flexibilities to attract a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates. Again, developing and retaining the workforce; it's going to be a constant. Making sure that we're effectively managing and utilizing human capital. Again, that's really focused on organizational effectiveness, through enhanced employee engagement and supporting and leveraging the Department's workforce.

And then the one goal that is new and actually grew out of efforts in the last year around our human capital operating plan, which we will -- as of this fiscal year, our intention is every year to have an annual operating plan that is based on the strategic plan. And in that operating plan for Fiscal Year '08, we had a goal and strategy around it to really transform the human capital occupation. We need to develop our human capital practitioners as strategic business partners. We need to move away from the focus on transactional processing, and you always have to do that. Hopefully, technology is increasingly making that easier, but we're moving to shared services for those types of functions.

And what's really critical if human capital is going to be at the table with the leadership of the agency in ensuring that our human capital strategies are aligned with our mission and our goals, we really need to be business partners and be able to converse and strategize and come up with solutions as real business partners.

Mr. Morales: Great. Now, I also understand that you've defined some human capital and business drivers that will shape the future. Could you tell us a bit about these drivers? And to what extent does cross-bureau coordination play into your plan going forward?

Ms. Granat: Well, the drivers are really probably the drivers that are facing most agencies. One key one is modernization. It's the recognition that we are dealing with increased use of constantly changing and evolving technology, and to really look at revising our business practices and obtain the necessary skill sets to deal with the benefits of this new technology.

Another business driver is the critical importance of customer service expectations and public scrutiny. Thirdly, it's the need for efficiency and accountability. And accountability for results has been a major driver in the last many years, most prominently under the President's Management Agenda. The PART exercises. So it's really driving a focus on results and performance, changing to a performance culture.

And then finally, it's dealing with continuous change. Every day, we face changes in our business requirements because, simply, as we know today, market changes and world events that affect what we need to do and the skill sets we need.

Mr. Morales: So given the complexities of the Treasury Department, which we talked about in the first segment, how does your organization evaluate the HR field performance and drive best practices across the entire HR community? And specifically, what steps are you taking to ensure that policies and procedures are implemented and monitored across such a vast and complex organization?

Ms. Granat: There are several ways in which we evaluate how our human capital programs are operating and how they operate within the bureaus. And as I think I've alluded, each of the bureaus is its own organization and its own culture and have their unique needs given the nature of the particular missions of those bureaus. So there's not a one-size-fits-all answer to a lot of things. But that said, we do evaluate bureau performance and effectiveness in human capital areas in several ways.

We do have a series of metrics that are developed based on the human capital strategic plan, an outgrowth of the President's Management Agenda, as well as our human capital system for accountability that was tied to our human capital strategic plan. And also, the Federal Human Capital Survey. The metrics that are involved there are -- measuring the closing of skills gaps in mission-critical occupations, gaps in leadership positions. We look at closing resource gaps. We look at assessing employee satisfaction through the Federal Human Capital Survey and other tools. We measure the time to hire, et cetera.

In addition, there are any number of ad hoc ways that we get a handle on how well our programs are running at the bureaus. And that's because of the relationship we have on a day-to-day basis with those offices, they look to us for policy guidance. They will call us for help in resolving unusual issues in problem cases. There's certain things that need to come to us for approval, some things that need to come to us before we go to OPM. And that gives us significant insight into how those programs are running.

There are some very formal ways in which we are able to measure the effectiveness of these programs, and one of those is our accountability program. We are now conducting independent audits of the programs at the bureaus, a few each year. We're measuring against the human capital accountability and assessment framework. And there are a series of areas in which we are measuring program effectiveness based on OPM standards in that area. We've completed several of those audits, and we will be expanding those audits in the future to also include the EEO programs.

Mr. Thomas: Now I want to switch gears for a minute to have you talk about workforce planning. Could you tell us about your efforts to enhance and institutionalize workforce planning within Treasury? And could you also elaborate on your workforce plans and how Treasury has addressed closing skills gaps in the mission-critical occupations?

Ms. Granat: Well, workforce planning is an extremely broad term. It can be done in many different ways, and certainly in a combination of ways. It certainly involves an understanding of what the workforce requirements are. It involves assessing your current workforce and where their competency gaps are, where basic resource gaps are. We have a workforce analytics tool that has been able to give us exact numbers on employees in mission-critical occupations, forecast attrition, and that allows us to strategize on how and where to find new employees and how to focus our efforts around which mission-critical occupations at which levels. And also, it focuses us on what internal training or re-training we need to do with our existing workforce.

It also informs what tools we might need in that workforce planning effort, such as strategic use of voluntary early retirement authority and incentive payments, where we see that the workforce restructuring really requires the elimination of certain positions. And we always are looking to avoid a reduction in force, and so we really need to use those authorities strategically and reduce involuntary separation actions.

We also need to, in workforce planning, strategically use some of the flexibilities that are available in recruitment. A lot of those flexibilities involve monetary resources, and they may not necessarily be able to be used across the board.

In closing skills gaps, we've focused significantly on mission-support occupations. Those exist in all of our bureaus. They're the common areas, especially around IT and procurement specialists. But then some of our bureaus have their bureau-unique, mission-critical occupations that have significant challenges. In IRS, we're talking about tax resolution representatives, for example.

Mr. Thomas: Rochelle, a recent global human capital study conducted by IBM showed that over 75 percent of the human resource executives interviewed believed that they are having difficulty developing future leaders. Can you talk about some of the efforts of Treasury to ensure continuity of leadership through succession planning and executive development?

Ms. Granat: Sure. One of the major focuses of our -- as I mentioned, we have an annual human capital operating plan. And one of those goals is developing talent. And a major aspect of that is around leadership skills and leadership development, and ensuring that we have brought up through the organization future leaders. And one of the things we've learned is we don't reach down early enough in employees' careers to develop those leadership skills. It shouldn't be the case that someone's going to their first significant leadership development program when they are in their 25th year of service, especially given the current demographics and the realities of our aging workforce.

So we do have an effort underway to develop a department-wide leadership development model that would have core aspects to it, and then obviously each bureau has its own unique needs that would go around that. A number of the bureaus have candidate development programs. The IRS has a robust leadership development program that has many different levels starting much earlier in folks' careers, and they have a very important candidate development program. And much of that is driven by its size and its critical needs. We really want to use the measuring of leadership skills gaps to drive the development of new efforts around leadership programs to ensure that we're able to close these gaps.

Mr. Morales: Great. What about Treasury's best place to work initiative? We will ask Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer, to share with us when we return to the conversation on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Solly Thomas.

Rochelle, as you know, employee feedback can be a very valuable tool for understanding the work environment. Could you elaborate a bit on the Best Places to Work Initiative and the annual employee survey? How have you implemented any of the insights that you've gathered from this survey?

Ms. Granat: It was really driven in part by the recognition that if we are going to attract and retain the talent we need to accomplish our mission, we really need to focus on employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Treasury really needs to be one of the best places to work, and that is a huge selling point for agencies who rank high on the Partnership for Public Service's best places to work rankings.

Based on the 2006 survey, Federal Human Capital Survey upon which the rankings are based, in the 2007 rankings, we were 14 out of 30, and we want to get into the top 10. The Partnership for Public Service was very interested in helping agencies make improvements, and Treasury's quite eager to work with the Partnership. And the Partnership did an analysis of the results of our 2006 survey.

And they assessed where did we score well and continue to score well on, build on those strengths; and where was the area on the survey where if we could improve in our scores in those areas, we would make a significant difference in our overall score. And what they concluded was the area we had some weakness was the area that's referred to as "leadership effectiveness." And that doesn't mean that our leaders aren't effective. But what it means is in those questions around the survey that go to issues around how do employees perceive the way in which their senior leaders -- not their immediate supervisors, but their senior leaders -- communicate with them, share information, value their input, and things like that, we didn't score quite as well as we might. And so we developed a work group that involved folks from across the Department, especially those bureaus that scored perhaps not as well as other bureaus, and engaged this task force in developing a plan around the best places to work, and focusing largely, not exclusively, but largely around those leadership effectiveness issues.

There were some key aspects to the program. One was the workforce needs to know that we take these surveys seriously, and that we learn from the information they provide, and we work to improve in those areas where we need improvement and build on the positive aspects. And each bureau developed action plans around those areas that needed particular work. And we also convened focus groups of managers and focus groups of line employees. And there were facilitated discussions around key questions that sort of drove at the root causes for the perceptions around leadership effectiveness.

One of the areas around leadership effectiveness that's key is that things get communicated to the workforce, that lines of communication throughout the organization, at all levels of the organization, are sound.

So some of what the work groups are doing is developing tools around that, including work on a video, on new orientation materials that really focus on the organization mission. We've done that a lot in our performance management system in ensuring that they understand how what they do supports the mission. It's helpful for them to understand and appreciate what others in the organization are doing.

We also held a Best Places to Work Symposium, which was attended by the senior leadership across the Department. It was also simulcast and videotaped so that employees could see it and they could see it on their desktop computers. Secretary Paulson spoke around employee engagement, employee satisfaction, to share those best practices. And we also brought in senior leadership, largely the Chief Human Capital Officers, of several agencies that scored very well in the Federal Human Capital Survey or had marked improvement, and they shared their best practices.

That was a very well-received symposium that was at the end of March, and I think it reflected senior leadership commitment to these issues.

Mr. Morales: That's great. So I wish you success in getting into the top 10, as you mentioned.

So along similar lines, given the high rate of federal employees who may be eligible for retirement in the upcoming years, this certainly is going to create a loss of a lot of the institutional expertise and memory. And as you mentioned, I believe in our first segment, that becomes a challenge for the organization. Could you tell us how you're mitigating the pending retirement wave within Treasury?

Ms. Granat: Well, I should give you a sense of what we're facing. It's not dramatically different than a lot of other agencies of our size. The average Treasury employee is 48 years old and has over 16 years of experience. Based on recent running of our data, 21 percent of our employees will be eligible to retire this fiscal year. And in 2010, that number will increase to 29 percent, and then increase to 39 percent in Fiscal Year 2012. Now, of course, that's based on our current data, so obviously new folks are going to be coming in, so these are somewhat shifting stats, but it still is a daunting number.

It's especially daunting because there was a period of I'd say significant attrition and little hiring in the '90s, so that we really do have people in the beginning of their careers in somewhat large numbers. We do have a bit of a gap around those midlevel folks who would go into key leadership positions. And that certainly factors into our analysis of our leadership gaps and our succession planning.

One of the key things that we are doing to meet that challenge is, first of all, we're recognizing that we very much need to enhance our ability, the tools we use to recruit talent. That includes a Department-wide marketing strategy to build on the great marketing efforts that come of the bureaus have been able to develop, with the recognition that we really need to be recruiting at all levels. We're not just recruiting entry level.

We've recognized that we really should tap into second career folks, who would come in mid-level and even senior level. And one of the interesting things we're doing in that regard is the Experience Project with IBM and the Partnership for Public Service, where we're tapping into the folks who are retiring from the private sector. And as a pilot, we're focusing on IBM and we're focusing largely on those mission-support occupations, where folks who have had careers in the private sector in skills and areas that are relevant to our work, they want to make a contribution, they want to continue working, and they're looking for new challenges, and we really need to tap that resource.

So we have a series of things we're doing. And of course, one of the things that we need to do in the hiring arena is not just marketing, but it's really improving the way in which we recruit and hire. Simplifying the hiring process. Just simplifying vacancy announcements and having model vacancy announcements that are used across the board around those occupations that are mission-critical occupations for which we are doing recruitment across the Department. So those are just a few examples.

Mr. Thomas: Now, Rochelle, along the lines of potential retirements, what can you tell us about Treasury's knowledge management strategies to retain that knowledge?

Ms. Granat: All the Treasury bureaus have their own internal leadership development programs, which, if done well, are a critical way and an excellent way to ensure that we transfer institutional knowledge. If we use mentoring programs well, if we use developmental assignments well so that as we're developing people, they get experience within their organization and outside their organization, we are doing a good job about transferring institutional knowledge.

We've deployed automated tools around training. And our learning management system is one way in which we do that. That system allows us to do training across the Department in key areas. It allows us to both input our own type of training, but also make accessible to employees very easily other automated online training. And it also allows us to track development programs and track training efforts on an individual level to ensure that employees who we anticipate or want to groom to move to different positions are getting the training and knowledge that they need to move into those positions in the future.

We're ensuring that we're doing that knowledge transfer. Of course, we use what flexibilities we have to incentivize folks not to leave. That has limited success, and some of the constraints there revolve around the current retirement rules and systems. And there are some changes that we are seeking that OPM, the administration has been seeking, but those have not yet been enacted.

Mr. Thomas: Now, Rochelle, given the expanded complexity of your office workload, could you tell us more about Treasury's efforts to analyze workload requirements?

Ms. Granat: Within our office itself, we are constantly struggling with changing workload requirements and significant resource limitations. And one of the ways in which we've tackled that, sort of I would almost say in extremis, is really leveraging the expertise of folks across the Department, and some re-training efforts around our existing staff.

A good example, however, around changing workload requirements really comes from our business areas. And I think the best example is at the Internal Revenue Service, where we've had an evolving and significant shift in some workload demands as a result of the increased effort to encourage taxpayers to file electronically. And it's something that Congress has mandated. It's something that is beneficial to the government to encourage as many taxpayers to file electronically as possible. That, of course, results in a significant reduction in the need for employees to handle the paper processing of tax returns.

Mr. Morales: Rochelle, I want to go back to the topic of retention for a moment. Could you tell us about Treasury's efforts to develop and implement an agency-wide performance management system? Specifically, what have you done to link pay with performance as a means to enhance your ability to compete and retain a highly effective executive group?

Ms. Granat: Why don't I discuss that in two parts, because it's a different experience and implementation on the executive level from the non-executive level.

As you may know, in 2004, a new pay system, a pay-for-performance system, was implemented government-wide for the Senior Executive Service. And at Treasury, like all agencies, we took shifting to that system very seriously, and really changed the way in which our performance management was done department-wide.

Where previously each bureau had its own executive performance plan and system, we developed, through -- again, a collaborative effort across the Department -- a single SES performance plan that had three standard competency-based responsibilities, and provided for five to eight results-based performance commitments which are unique to each executive, which must be tied to organizational performance and the strategic plan. That was a shift in culture, a need to educate executives on what that meant to be measured that way and what that meant to measure their subordinate executives that way, and really developing and enhancing a performance culture that was measured in a way that hadn't quite been measured before.

But that said, it did change the way in which pay decisions were made. They had to be linked to performance. They needed to take into account not only individual performance, but organizational performance, and it was very focused on results. And we developed tools to assess organizational performance. We developed a tool that was used by each bureau that sort of rolled up data from across the fiscal year around performance measures, even including things around the Federal Human Capital Survey, PART scores and things like that, and a bureau head assessment of the bureau as a whole's accomplishments during the course of that fiscal year. And that information is shared with the performance review boards, et cetera.

One of the challenges here to making significant change with respect to incentivizing performance with the pay as a carrot is the reality of pay compression in the SES. You can have the most outstanding performer in your bureau who delivered the most significant results, and the pay increase that you can give is rather insignificant because of pay compression.

And so of course, that then shifts the focus to the bonus system. We have developed a system where we have standards for what ratings drive certain levels of flexibility around performance bonuses. And the performance review boards are very much a part of assessing that across their organizations. And senior leadership at the Department, at the Deputy Secretary level, has a role in ensuring that the ratings and pay adjustments and bonuses are consistent with organizational performance.

We have greater flexibility at the GS level. We do have some bureaus that have exception from the GS scale and do have pay-for-performance systems similar to the SES. But more importantly, even within the GS system, we have really driven a shift at the bureaus to ensure that their performance management systems, which are unique to each bureau but are focused on results and a results-based performance culture, and have systems that are able to tie to the strategic plan so employees understand where they are in helping the agency meet the strategic plan and strategic goals and organizational goals, but also that they understand that their performance rating and performance awards, whether they're cash awards or other types of incentives, time-off awards, that it is very much driven by performance and by delivering results.

Mr. Morales: Great. What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of Treasury?

We will ask Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer, to share with us when we return to the conversation on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to our final segment of The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury

Joining us in our studio from IBM is Solly Thomas.

Rochelle, I understand Treasury is trying to create a results-oriented performance culture. Could you tell us a little bit about some of the bureau's success stories in forging this type of a performance culture?

Ms. Granat: I think the model that we created for the SES in developing the assessment tool that integrates a series of program measures into a snapshot of organizational performance and feeds that into the assessment of individual performance was a great vehicle to really communicate how critically important organizational performance is, and therefore, performance culture, is to an executive's performance. If our leadership is effective in communicating the importance of organizational performance, I think that will go a long way in driving that as we improve upon our performance management systems for our non-executive employees.

IRS at the moment is very focused and is working with a contractor to assist them in developing a new and more effective results-focused performance management program for their approximately 92,000 non-supervisory employees. And you can imagine that's a daunting task. So I think that's really the major successes in really ensuring that we filter down that focus on results throughout the workforce.

Mr. Thomas: Now, Rochelle, you also sit on the Chief Human Capital Officer Council, chaired by the Office of Personnel Management director. Can you tell us about your roles on the Council and the subcommittees?

Ms. Granat: Sure. The Council meetings as a whole are really an excellent opportunity to really exchange information and keep the Chief Human Capital Officers informed of where OPM and the administration is on any number of issues.

There's a sort of different level of communication and activity at the subcommittee level. Treasury sits on the Subcommittee on Hiring and Succession Planning and the Subcommittee on Performance Management. Those subcommittees have largely focused on sharing best practices in those two areas, in working with OPM staff as they develop or implement new initiatives, giving them feedback, perhaps challenging them on the design and implementation of moving some initiatives forward. It's really the most direct opportunity we have to influence initiatives that are going to be government-wide.

For example, in the Subcommittee on Performance Management, we had an influence on the SES survey that was sent to all executives in the last fiscal year, and the results came out recently. And we've been working with OPM on the evaluation of the SES performance management system through the assessment tool for the SES. In hiring and succession planning, we've been trying to drive some efforts to improve the hiring process and to advocate for some changes in some of the flexibilities that are available to agencies.

Mr. Thomas: Now, Rochelle, there's much talk about commercial best practices in the federal government, particularly in the service areas, such as human resources. What emerging technologies do you see holding the most promise for improving the federal management of human resources?

Ms. Granat: I alluded just in the last question to the fact that Treasury is actually in the HR line of business through our HR Connect automated personnel system. We are always actively engaged in assessing that system and improving and enhancing that system.

One of the things that's a particularly exciting initiative that we are developing right now is to really harness technology to improve the entrance on duty process, the on-boarding process. We recognize that this is a process which gives new employees, prospective employees entering the agency their first impression of what -- and in some cases, this is their first federal job, their first exposure to federal employment. And we realize that that's really both for our own efficiencies, but also for the experience that the employee has coming on duty, is really critical that we maximize the tools that technology can give us.

We've developed a strategy to develop an on-boarding system that really is a bit of a paradigm shift. It moves from paper-intensive forms to information-based processes -- as we do our electronic filing of our tax returns, we're providing data that gets populated into forms, we're not filling out the form. It looks at reducing our dependency on HR specialists to doing web-based self-service. Moving from disparate points of entry, looking at single points of entry and one-stop shopping.

And most importantly, it moves from what's now a day one paper-intensive processing experience to day one focused on learning about the agency and learning about their new job and having the tools in place when they come to their office. And we think that this will also be the foundation to using that system for agency branding.

Mr. Morales: So, Rochelle, continuing to look towards the future, how do you envision Treasury's human capital needs evolving in the next two to three years? And how do you envision your office will need to evolve over that same period of time?

Ms. Granat: The challenges that I articulated that we face are only going to increase in terms of what's at stake if we are not able to simplify the hiring process and improve our marketing of Treasury as an employer, and ensuring that we're tapping the right resources from which to recruit. We are going to need to do that at an increasingly intensive level. It really means transforming the human capital occupation to be more focused on this business partner strategizer and develop those skills that are needed to do that. So we need to identify those sources and really maximize wherever we can the benefits of technology, but also make sure that that technology is not off-putting to our potential candidates.

I really think it's important that as a new administration comes on board, that they really focus on the fact that in order to accomplish all those mission-related initiatives and address all the challenges, that they also focus on the infrastructure. And I'm not just talking about human capital, but of course, the human capital piece is especially important to me. But we really need to make sure that our institution has the infrastructure that it needs in order to help the new administration accomplish all its goals.

Mr. Morales: That's a great perspective. Now, at the beginning of the hour, you told us just a wonderful story of how you got started in public service. So I'm curious, what advice might you give someone who's out there thinking about coming to public service or perhaps to the federal government?

Ms. Granat: Well, I think the most important message to say to folks is a combination of this is an opportunity to do interesting and challenging work that's important to the public. It should be important to them personally, and it's important to the nation as a whole. I hope that most folks coming into the workforce or thinking about a change in their career are thinking about I want to do something that's making a contribution. I want to do something that's challenging to me, in which I will learn something, that I have an opportunity to have responsibility and do good work. And I think the government really does offer so many different opportunities that you come in the government and you are doing one thing, as in my career, and you wind up evolving over time and, you know, taking opportunities that lead you in another direction or in a complementary direction, I would say.

And I really think that one of the things that government service offers, and sometimes it takes finding the right position or finding the thing that works best for you, but we really do some fascinating things. Many of us pick up the paper in the morning and that tells us what might happen to our day because what we do is on the front page of the paper. And I think that that has got to be -- should be exciting and interesting to folks entering the workforce.

Mr. Morales: That's a great perspective. Thank you

Rochelle, we, unfortunately, have reached the end of our time together. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your schedule, but more importantly, Solly and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across your many roles at Treasury.

Ms. Granat: Well, thank you. I enjoyed this. And I think the important thing to say is no one, especially no leader, in government does anything by themselves, and what they do is really representative of what their organization does. And I have a great staff. And the human capital professionals across the Department are part of everything we do to make Treasury a best place to work and to move forward to tackle the challenges we have. And I think it's a great team and I want to thank them.

I want to encourage folks to look at the Treasury website and see all the interesting things Treasury does. It's http://treasury.gov, and through that, you can look at Treasury careers, opportunities at all the bureaus, and, of course, there's always the USH Ops website.

Mr. Morales: Great, fantastic. Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Rochelle Granat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources, and Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

My co host has been Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. And visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs, and get a transcript of today's conversation. Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Jerry Friedman interview

Friday, April 18th, 2008 - 20:00
Phrase: 
Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking...
Radio show date: 
Sat, 04/19/2008
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking...
Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast December 8, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

In many respects, we are a nation at a crossroads. In the delivery of critical human service programs, policymakers and managers must consider issues such as fundamental reform, funding and financing, and program flexibility to focus on outcome measures and not just the process. In the end, the success of human service programs is measured by the health and well-being of this country's citizens.

As part of a series of discussions on managing human service programs, we have broadened our reach in this space and are honored to welcome our special guest this morning, Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association.

Good morning, Jerry.

Mr. Friedman: Good morning, Albert. It's a real pleasure to be here.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Nicole Gardner, vice president and partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

Good morning, Nicole.

Ms. Gardner: Good morning, Al. Good morning, Jerry.

Mr. Friedman: Good morning.

 

Mr. Morales: Jerry, let's start off by learning a bit more about your organization. Perhaps you can give us an overview of the mission, the history, and the activities of the American Public Human Services Association.

Mr. Friedman: Well, thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. We always look forward to venues in the public arena where we can talk about human services. The American Public Human Services Association is a 77-year-old organization that started around the same time as the Social Security Act. It was really founded by a group of very visionary administrators who were concerned about what back then they called the distribution of relief. They wanted to have a voice in policy in Washington, D.C., and they wanted to look at best practice. And essentially, that is what our organization has stood for for the past 77 years.

We've undergone several changes. We used to be called the American Public Welfare Association, focusing in on those types of programs. But we've actually broadened our horizon, recognizing that there is a realm of human service programs that need the kind of attention that a national association can give it.

Essentially, our mission is strengthening America through excellence in public human services. I think a lot of people don't realize just how large human services is, and the presence that it has in our society. We are generally one-third to one-half of most state and local budgets, and consequently, we have a large business to run and an obligation to run it effectively. But it also is a compassionate business, so we have kind of this desire to make sure that we're maximizing our resources, but doing it in a kind and compassionate way.

Basically, our association does three things. We work for good public policy. Good public policy meaning that there are adequate resources, that there's flexibility to run the programs, that we can actually look at outcomes and invest in clients rather than in the bureaucracy.

We then work with our members to help them implement that policy in the correct way. We do this through training and research and consulting.

And then the final area that we do is we really work on our public image. I think we can be successful mainly to the extent that the public has confidence in our ability to manage our programs efficiently and effectively. And we do that through radio shows, we do that through our website, through our magazines, publications, newsletters, informing the public as well as the profession is a key component of APHSA.

Mr. Morales: Could you give us a sense then of the scale of the operations at your organization and its affiliates? Can you tell us a little bit about who are some of its members and the size perhaps of your budget and the number of employees?

Mr. Friedman: Sure. In many ways, we serve like the National Governors Association does for governors. We perform the same function for the governors' appointed heads of health and human services programs, the state CEOs.

Our core group really are the states. And I've been very pleased that for the past four years, every state and a number of the territories have been full members of APHSA. That's very important to us, because when we go to Congress and we go to testify to say that we represent states, we truly do. Every state is a member.

We then have several hundred local members, counties, areas as large as New York City and Los Angeles to Tioga County, Pennsylvania, that likes to pride itself in being an area that doesn't have any traffic lights or parking meters, so we have that range. And then we have several thousand individual members.

We're a moderate-sized association. We rely a lot on our membership to provide the kind of support to enhance the field of human services. We have approximately 50 employees; sometimes there are more when we get special grants and projects. And we have an operating budget of around $5 million.

Ms. Gardner: So Jerry, now we understand a little bit more about APHSA. You're the executive director. Can you tell us what you do in your job? What does it entail?

Mr. Friedman: I would say that there are probably three major activities that I'm involved in. The first really is association management. We're unique, I think, in that we have to be very sensitive to the fact that our members operate public entities. We treat every dollar that comes into APHSA as if it was a tax dollar, because in many instances, it is. And so we've very sensitive to making sure that we provide the kind of return on the dollar. So just running the association, our own computer systems, our own budgeting processes, our own personnel, occupies a portion of my time.

Probably the largest portion of it is involving member services: meeting with our members, trying to get a sense of areas that they need us to focus in on; sharing best practice.

And then, of course, there's the work that we do on Capitol Hill and with the administration as well as other associations, partnering with them in trying to obtain good policy, good effective resources in the work that we do in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Gardner: In the context of all that, what are maybe the top three challenges that you face? And what kind of things are you doing to address those challenges?

Mr. Friedman: We certainly have the vast array of human services challenges that all of our members face. Internally, you know, we also have challenges in managing during difficult economic times. When states have downturns, when the revenues decline, that also affects our revenues, so that we've had -- from time to time, had to manage during difficult times.

Staff retention is a big issue for us. We're very fortunate in that being in business for so long and having a reputation, which I think is excellent in this city, we're able to attract very, very talented individuals. They gain national exposure. They get to meet with every state CEO. They get to meet with members of Congress. They get to hang out with other associations. And very often, they get recruited because they are talented. So we probably have a higher -- just by circumstances, a higher ratio of turnover than many other organizations.

And, you know, one of the difficult things for me is that most of our core membership is appointed by governors. When their terms expire, they move on to different things. And we develop these relationships, and it's very difficult sometimes to deal with a lot of turnover within the states.

But I think the main challenge in human services, and I think it's also true for our association and all of its components, is truly our public image. The ability to tell our story not only just in Congress, but to the general public I think is critical. We face very unique challenges in human services. We're one of the few industries that is literally working to put itself out of business. We strive for a better society. We strive to alleviate poverty. We strive to eliminate child abuse. And if we're truly successful, there wouldn't be a need for us.

On the other hand, our failures are very visible. We can be successful in dealing with thousands of children. And when we have that unfortunate situation where a child gets lost, of course the public rightfully is outraged as we are, and that draws attention to us. We conduct our business in the open. We're the American Public Human Services Association, and that means if we make a mistake, you're going to read about in the front pages of the newspaper. And often, corporate America and the business community and even the other nonprofit organizations don't have that kind of exposure. So we have unique problems, but we also have unique opportunities, and I think all of this makes us stronger.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, with that type of a mission, I'm curious, how did you get started in this field? What prompted you to get into this?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I was very fortunate in that I started my career as a probation officer. That may sound like a very strange answer, but when you think about it, what a probation officer does, there's a law enforcement aspect to it, but then on the other hand, there's kind of a case management function. You know, when somebody's coming out of prison, they need a job, they need housing, they need treatment, they may be addicted to drugs and alcohol and you have to work with that. And what I learned from that experience was that very often, the human services system broke down for people, and it was mainly because of the way that we were structured within a categorical system. And that really shaped a lot of my early thinking about how we could provide services in a different way, how we could have a more coordinated strategy for dealing with the multiple problems that people were facing. And so I had this exposure to the broad array of human services through that experience.

I then was fortunate enough to kind of have a career progression that led me to be a county human services administrator in two different counties in Pennsylvania. And then I became a state director of public welfare in Pennsylvania. Later, in Washington state, I was in charge of the Economic Services Administration. And before my job at APHSA, I was the executive deputy commissioner for the Texas Department of Human Services.

What that gave me, I think, was good, practical experience in actually providing the services at the county level, but then having the state experience. And through that, I touched various systems, everything from health care to child welfare to mental health, drug and alcohol programs. And so when the association was recruiting for a new executive director, I think that they wanted somebody with both state and local experience, and having that kind of broader perspective of having administered a wide array of programs.

Mr. Morales: So as you reflect back on your career, is there one aspect of that that you feel has really shaped your current leadership role and perhaps informed your current style?

Mr. Friedman: Albert, the one asset that I think that I bring to APHSA is a 25-year history of being a member. This association was my safety net. When I absolutely needed information and needed it quickly, I had them on my speed dial. When we had public policy that we needed changed -- I can give you a very good example -- and that was with welfare reform when there was a provision that legal immigrants were not entitled to food stamps. Our state legislature and our governor, I was in Washington state at the time, said this is unacceptable, find a way to make a change. It was APHSA, our association, that led the change in Congress that allowed states to purchase food stamp coupons for this population. So I came in with a great deal of passion about the association and the work that the association does as a consumer and as a member.

So what I bring to the association is I have such talented co-workers, oh, they're working on their Ph.D.s and their law degrees and they're just extraordinary, but I can look at something that crossed my desk and say if I was a member, would this make sense to me? And so as long as I think I can keep that member perspective, I'll be able to enrich the association to some degree.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What are some of the lessons learned from welfare reform efforts? We will ask Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Nicole Gardner.

Jerry, we've used the term "public human services." Can you elaborate exactly what that means?

Mr. Friedman: Well, there's a debate actually on what public human services are. At one point, it was human services that were provided by government employees, but I think that that's changed a great deal with privatization efforts, with partnerships, with contracting. So now we define it more as services provided under the public aegis, where government dollars are used and there's a level of accountability, but it could be provided by a number of different associations, organizations, companies, both private and not-for-profit.

Mr. Morales: Let me go back in time a little bit. In the 1990s, government had made a statement to end welfare as we know it back then, which launched a series of welfare reform initiatives. Could you remind us of some of the key elements of this welfare reform, and from your perspective, how significant a social policy change does this welfare reform effort represent?

Mr. Friedman: If I look back on events that happened in my career, I think welfare reform was probably the most significant change in social policy in my lifetime. And what it did basically was that it ended individual entitlements for people and gave states block grants with considerable flexibility for states and local governments to design programs that made sense to them. Included were some provisions, like time limits, lifetime time limits, work requirements, just a vast array of significant changes to the way that we looked at what had been a dependency program to one that became a program of self-sufficiency.

In many ways, I think some of the lessons that were learned through welfare reform are really beginning to permeate some of the other human services systems as well. But all in all, I think welfare could be considered a successful program in the United States that brought about significant change.

Ms. Gardner: So Jerry, in that context, tell us a little bit about some of the key lessons we learned in welfare reform.

Mr. Friedman: Well, first, if I could just talk a little bit about some of the successes. And you have to realize that the AFDC program had been in existence for many, many years. It was a well-entrenched program basically operated through federal rules. And so when the new law came into effect and states were empowered to develop their own and design their own programs, there was a great deal of both apprehension as well as a great deal of high expectations for welfare administrators who had really wanted to do something different with the program for a considerable period of time.

It's important to note that welfare reform didn't actually start with the new law. There were over 40 states who had gone to the federal government to seek waivers to say we think that we have a better solution to helping people become self-sufficient. And what the federal legislation really was were some of those common threads through all of those various waiver programs.

But when you look at what happened over the course of a decade, there was a 60 percent decline in welfare caseloads in this country. Child support collections for non-custodial parents doubled. Over 1.5 million welfare recipients who had previously never been attached to the workforce had gainful employment and were no longer reliant on the public welfare system to support them. We implemented a national electronic benefits transfer program, a large computerized effort that actually eliminated food stamp coupons in this country. We created hundreds of thousands of child care slots. We invested in prevention programs that resulted in a decline in teen pregnancy among welfare mothers of one-third. And for the first time, reversing a two-decade trend, we actually had a decline in child poverty rates in this country. So by all accounts, you would consider that a success.

Well, there were many lessons to be learned through that. First, there was a really compelling case for change. Welfare dependency was a bad investment strategy, basically supporting somebody. It didn't help grow our society or our economy or the self-image of those who were receiving those benefits. So that we learned that there was kind of both an economic and a moral imperative for change. Yes, indeed, we are a compassionate society. We are our brother's keeper. But on the other hand, we had an obligation to help people maximize their own personal potential and develop their own capacity.

We learned that personal responsibility can be very effective public policy; that in life, there is a quid pro quo; that reciprocity is just the way that we live as Americans, and that its public policy should reflect that. We learned that people can rise to the occasion, that when they were afforded the opportunity, people became job-ready. They invested when there were both incentives positive and negative. People reacted in that they did want better things for their families. We learned, I think, that the best service delivery was designed at the local level. Welfare reform was not a national strategy. It was saying here's the money, here are the resources, develop a local strategy, and that resulted in those successful efforts.

We learned that we had to rely on partnerships, that welfare in this country couldn't be fixed by government. It required corporate America, the business community, the nonprofit world, the faith-based world, education, all coming together in kind of a uniform strategy to help address this. We learned the importance of services coordination and integrating services. What happened with lifetime time limits was that the bar was raised. We had a finite period of time to have people become job-ready or they would lose this safety net. We know that people don't come to welfare offices simply because they have empty wallets and empty pocketbooks, that there's often just a myriad of other problems that exist, and that we needed to address those. And that required the agencies that provided those services to get together in some kind of coordinated strategy. We also learned that there were other multiple strategies that we needed to look at: asset building, predatory lending. You know, there's a whole industry that thrives just because people are living in poverty.

I think the most important lesson, though, was, you know, for years people railed about the public welfare system, and I was one of them, to be honest with you, that it was a failed system. Well, what we learned was it was failed policy. When people are penalized, when their family condition or economic conditions are worse off because they're trying to better themselves and become employed, when they actually lose money, when the most responsible thing that they can do financially for their family is to stay on welfare rather than try to get to work because they'll be worse off, that's failed policy.

When that changed, we demonstrated it was not a failed workforce. The welfare system, this huge entity in this country, literally turned on a dime. Welfare offices almost overnight were transformed from "welfare offices" to "work centers." You know, the message was clear: What can I do to help you get a job today? This magnificent welfare workforce absolutely transformed themselves because they wanted to. They saw firsthand every day how just handing somebody a check and food stamps and hoping that every problem went away was foolish policy. And when that changed and they could make a real difference, they really rose to the occasion.

Ms. Gardner: That's quite a story. So you mentioned a few minutes ago reauthorization. So where are we with the reauthorization of TANF, and kind of what's the status? Where are we going?

Mr. Friedman: TANF was reauthorized after about 12 or 13 continuing resolutions. We just couldn't seem to get congressional attention because of all of the other priorities. And at the very end of the legislative session last year, as part of the Deficit Reduction Act, TANF reauthorization was passed. As an association, we are very concerned about the kind of micromanagement that's been built back into the welfare system. We think that the broad strategy of providing goals for states to reach, and empowering communities to reach those, worked. Clearly demonstrated that. And so we're concerned that we've taken a huge step backwards when it comes to welfare reform. And administrators, rather than talking about how can we get people into gainful employment, how can we help them get better jobs, how can we improve their economic conditions, they're talking about how we can have something count as a work participation credit because of the penalties that they're going to be facing. We're working very hard to minimize any damage as we see it to this program. To continue to empower states, we strive for maximum flexibility, but we're going to have an uphill battle.

Mr. Morales: Now, Jerry, you mentioned earlier that welfare reform really began at the state and local level. And I believe today, we again are seeing state agencies developing innovative public policy agendas to shape the next decade of service to low-income families. Could you elaborate on some of these innovative state programs? What are some of the strengths that you're seeing in some of these programs?

Mr. Friedman: Well, again, I think drawing off some of the success that we had with welfare reform and just looking at public policy that empowers communities, we're seeing this play out in child welfare programs, we're seeing this played out in health care programs. If you went to a Medicaid director 20 years ago and you said what is your job, they would say my job is to pay bills timely, accurately, and efficiently, and basically they did that. If you ask a Medicaid director today what is your job, well, they're part of a governor's health cabinet. They're looking at universal coverage. They're looking at strategies to cover the uninsured. They are looking beyond just paying bills to what are the best treatments and interventions that we can provide? Where do we get a return on the investment? How can we engage consumers? Now can we embrace prevention and wellness programs?

It's an exciting time right now because of a lot of flexibility that's been given to states around health care design. And I would contend that the real leadership for this is not happening within the confines of Washington, D.C., but it's happening in the statehouses throughout the country.

I think the same is true with public child welfare. Welfare administrators are saying, you know, if I could take the resources that it takes to buy foster care and invest in strategies to build stronger families in the beginning, investing in prevention, investing in interventions that help people become better parents up front, then we could save all this money on the back end. But more importantly, children thrive better in families than they do in foster care. It's more than intuitive. It's supported by all the research and by all the evaluations that happen. So what I see happening now are administrators throughout this country, states approaching the federal government just like they did with welfare reform, saying we think we have a better solution based on our local conditions, by the assets and the resources within our community, and our ability to mobilize them.

The other thing that we didn't have 25 years ago, when I was running programs, is we have more supportive technology. It used to be very hard to keep track of all of the records that you needed and the requirements and the rules and regulations when you had six or seven or eight different categorical programs with rules and different requirements. But with computer systems now and the ability to process information, it is much easier, I think, to manage those programs within the compliance rules of the federal government.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, it sounds like, you know, really workforce strategies are really sort of the key to success here in helping families manage this transition that you describe. But can you give us perhaps some specific examples of programs that are out there that you think are really innovative and are working well?

Mr. Friedman: Well, there are thousands of them. And I think, again, the key was that public administrators were set free to go out and to develop strategies that worked.

You know, one of the things that we used to do, I used to do this when I ran welfare programs, was to go to corporate America and to business and say wouldn't it be nice if you hired somebody off the welfare rolls? You know, it helps the community and it's the right thing to do. Now we can go to corporate America and the business community and say we can help you build your business. We can help your bottom line. We can help your profit. We can do that through tax credits. We can do that through customized job training. We can do that through extended medical assistance coverage and child care subsidies. We can do that through working with new employees to help train them through orientation. So people see this as a better business strategy than they used to as just a social service.

Mr. Morales: So it's about collaboration.

Mr. Friedman: It's about collaboration. It's about partnership. But it's also -- it's about investment. Good public policy, good social policy, good human services policy and making profit don't have to be mutually exclusive principles.

Mr. Morales: That's a very good point.

What emerging technologies hold the most promise for improving human services delivery? We will ask Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association. Also joining us in our conversation is Nicole Gardner, vice president and partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

Jerry, the goal of working with families in a holistic manner to achieve better outcomes has been around for some time. The change to cross-agency program policy and cross-agency funding streams to support that goal have been somewhat elusive at both the federal and the state levels. Whenever an issue bounces around an industry for so many years and doesn't appear to gain traction, one of two things is usually happening: either, one, the topic is of interest, but there's no real intrinsic value, but the parties sort of enjoy talking about it; or more is happening than we all realize. In your opinion, what's happening here?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think there's a little bit of both to your question, and we're still kind of defining ourselves in human services in our public policy. Very often we find conflicting things with categorical rules that tend to get in the way of integrated strategies. But again, I tend to be optimistic, partially because of the technology, partially because of welfare reform, and to a great extent through the leadership that's coming through human services that are looking at different and more coordinated strategies. The way that we have partnered with the business community, many states now are actually privatizing casework services, something that just didn't exist before. But they're doing it thoughtfully and rationally and in a way that's devised to get better outcomes. I think that it is still a work in progress, but I think more and more, there is a realization that if we are truly to be investing our human resources wisely, this one-half to one-third of local and state budgets, that we need to have the ability to move beyond all of our individual rules and all of our individual program perspective.

There are huge challenges. First off, if you look at the history of human services, it wasn't like it was formed through some kind of great planning strategy. It seemed like Congress would discover a problem, throw some money at it, and hope that it went away. And the residual effect were all these categorical agencies often competing with each other. They had their own infrastructure. They had their own computer systems. They had their own rules and their own regulations. When you couple that with an advocacy community that's pretty singularly focused, we have advocates around hunger, around developmental disabilities, around mental illness, we don't have advocates for services integration. And yet every one of those programs are adversely affected because there's not a single solution or a single cause of many of these maladies that we have in our society. We've begun to rely a little bit better on technology to get us data and to get us information that tells us where we can invest our resources most effectively.

In the health care arena, there's a lot of work that's going on on electronic medical records. In the course of doing that, I think there's a potential to lay a foundation for further integration of human services in this country. In many areas, there are great demonstrations, but we still as a matter of public policy have not embraced this as the way that we should be doing our thinking and investing.

Ms. Gardner: So in the context, Jerry, of the fact that we're looking at a family as a whole in a holistic way, you mentioned the electronic health record, what are some of the other innovations from a technology perspective that help to break down some of those barriers that exist between the competing organizations and the way that the regulations and the laws have developed?

Mr. Friedman: Well, certainly Internet strategies, looking at ways that people can apply for benefits through the Internet, ways that data can be refreshed, where redundancies can be eliminated, I think have great potential. Many states are developing things like kiosks and automated call centers where they can call in and see whether they're eligible. They can do tests, they can do income tests. All of that is still evolving and still growing, but I think is becoming more and more the industry norm.

There are tools that caseworkers are using that I think are pretty exciting that afford not only greater efficiency, but also greater protections. The state of Alabama has just equipped their child welfare workers with electronic notebooks that do amazing things. Caseworkers can do case notes, they can take photos. They can take photos of children that may have scars and abuses that they can forward to their supervisor to say do we go further with this case? They have GPS so that they know where they're at. They can have a level of safety the caseworkers didn't have before.

Also, you know, for many of the challenges that our clients face, technology is a level playing field. When I was working in Austin, Texas, we had a special project where we refurbished computers. We worked with many of the large computer firms, and we provided these to low-income families that otherwise would not be able to have a computer, and it was just amazing to see what children can do when they're set free in this learning environment through the Internet. Again, it's kind of optimistic. I personally am just still learning how to figure out e-mail, but I've got staff that just do amazing things with computers, and they're always trying to educate me.

There also are ways, I think, that we're being able to process information differently. With the old legacy systems and COBOL language and the way that we had to program, literally taking large business applications and trying to retrofit through different algorithms our human services business, often those things got lost in translation. You know, with decision trees and artificial intelligence and more agile and nimble applications, the potential is there. Looking at outcomes, there are a number of different outcome result systems that are being grown by small companies that are approaching human services, and so I think there's vast potential there.

Ms. Gardner: So any time there's an infusion of technology into an environment that has previously not been able to really do much with it, there are usually barriers and challenges that pop up. So what are some of the big challenges to really taking advantage of emerging technologies in your field?

Mr. Friedman: Well, the biggest one for me, and it's kind of a pet rant, is the process that the federal government has for procuring computer equipment. It's called the APD or the advance planning document process. This is a bureaucratic nightmare that's 40 years old, no longer necessary in my estimation. It was created at a time when I think it was appropriate, when computers and computer applications were relatively exotic, they were relatively new. And the federal government was saying, well, listen, why invest in all of these things? Let's look at have some kind of uniform process and see how we can transfer information back and forth. Also to provide a level of fairness in the competitive bid process.

Well, states now have very robust procurement requirements, every bit as robust as anything that the federal government could do. It stalls the procurement of computer equipment. Because it involves, in many instances, multiple federal agencies, each one can trump the other one in terms of the process. It can take two to three years to get approvals. And in some cases, it's just simply the criteria that they have doesn't make sense. I'll give you one example.

There's a dollar limit that if you exceed -- I think it's $5 million; the dollar amount may have changed because I don't do this every day, but it used to be $5 million -- you had to seek the approval of the federal government. Well, I was in Texas, and I was responsible for a 15,000-person workforce. For me to just routinely replace desktop computers after the depreciation life is gone, I had to go and get approval to do that. Now, ironically, if I wanted to hire 100,000 staff, all I had to do was to put in a state plan amendment. Years ago, the Department of Labor did away with this same process because they realized that it was just antiquated. And I think in many ways, by the time they get the approval, the technology's obsolete.

This is something that we have been striving for for at least the past 15 years, to have this reformed or ended or changed. And I think it's just -- you know, if there's anything that the next administration can do to make life easier for state human services administrators, and especially their chief information officers, it's to absolutely reform this system and to have confidence that states make good, thoughtful business decisions about procuring computer equipment.

Ms. Gardner: So let's talk about something that your organization has been working on specifically, something called the "Organizational Effectiveness Institute, Building the 21st Century Workforce." You started this last May, so can you tell us a little bit about this effort? What was it aimed at and what's happening with it?

Mr. Friedman: We have a training/research/consulting practice at APHSA. In many ways, we needed to be clear about our core competencies and to match that with our members' needs. You know, there are dozens of very, very good consulting firms that do training and consulting in this country. We think that we have a unique niche in that we really understand the business of human services. So we began to do a whole series of evaluation of our own programs, asking our members what their needs were. And essentially they're saying that we need help in looking at organizational effectiveness and then developing good leaders.

And the other thing that has always troubled me as a consumer of consulting services and training was that very often we go to a training program and something nice happens, we put it on a shelf, and we get back and our desk is piled high and we kind of forget what we learned through that session. So we're very much into looking at actual products, being able to take something away from this experience. And so we created this concept of having an institute where our members, our states, and in some cases local organizations, would participate not for a one-shot training session, but through a process that would lead to a product.

Now, the workforce institute was particularly interesting because when we meet with our CEOs and we ask them what are your greatest needs, the issue of staff recruitment, retention, early retirements, building a bench for new leadership, I mean, many of my colleagues are my age, you know, baby boomers that are of retirement age, and we stand to lose a significant amount of institutional knowledge as well as leadership if we don't find some way to address that. Well, what we learned through our needs assessment was that very often human resources personnel offices weren't necessarily being seen as a solution, that personnel rules weren't seen as an asset that can help enable addressing that issue.

And so what we did was that we created this institute, and it lasted for a year. There were four group meetings of all of the participants, but then there was a lot of individual consulting and peer consulting, which was very important, that happened in between those meetings. And the end result was that the human resources directors walked away with a product which was a workforce plan that they could take to their governor's office. We actually field tested this by bringing in a number of retired commissioners, secretaries, and directors of human services and saying to them basically if your human resources director submitted this plan to you, is this something that you would support?

And so the end result of this one year was an actual working workforce plan that drilled down beyond, you know, I need 20 caseworkers because my caseloads are going to get this high, but looking at skill sets. Where do you find them? How do you work with the universities? How do you work with the training centers? How do you help grow internally your own training capacity to have this happen? What kind of array of benefits and training opportunities do we create for our workforce? How do we embed quality improvement in the way that we do business? And so it was beyond just how you do a workforce plan. It was how you actually make a more effective organization.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, along these lines, to be a bit more specific, what are some of the workforce capacity building challenges faced by public human service agencies, and how does the institute seek to assist participants in strengthening agencies' workforces and human resource capacities?

Mr. Friedman: Well, what we're trying to do is to embed a strategic process in looking at our workforce needs. And that, I think, has been a missing element. I think we've done traditional recruiting and we've gotten people that have credentials. But when we look at the broader strategy of who's coming into human services today and making it a career, quite frankly, I'm a little troubled.

I'm at the tail-end of my career. I'm in my sixties. I was a product of the 1960s and the 1950s, and I was drawn to public service. It wasn't part of my family tradition. I was drawn to public service by the leadership of this country who talked about human services and public service being an honorable thing that should attract the best and the brightest. You know, we had leaders in this country who were great role models, and it troubles me today that we don't kind of have that sense of government as being such an instrument of good. Not to be critical, but when you turn on the radio programs around the country, all you hear is that government wastes this and government does that. I really take exception to that.

I have worked both in corporate America and I have worked in the public sector, and there are challenges in both and there is competence in both, and unfortunately, there's incompetence sometimes in both. But the public business is a little bit unique because it is in the open. And so I think all of that has created an environment where people just aren't as attracted to public service as they used to be. And so what we're trying to do is to rebuild that through reshaping our public image, getting back to the notion that human services is honorable.

We have always known, those of us who got into this, we didn't get into human services for the money. If we did, we made a very dumb decision. We were driven by a different kind of mission, a desire to make a difference in a different kind of way and contribute in a different way. You know, that spirit I think is something that we want to kind of recapture.

Mr. Morales: What about the future of public human services delivery?

We will ask Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association. Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Nicole Gardner.

Jerry, perhaps you could elaborate on the types of public-private partnerships that your members and affiliates engage in to improve operations or outcomes. And in what areas do you think you would like to enhance or expand these types of collaborations?

Mr. Friedman: Well, that's a very good question. In reality, there has always been, I think, a level of partnership between at least public human services and the private sector. Many of the actual services are provided under contract. Many of the charitable faith-based organizations have been dealing with people with needs, material needs, basic needs, other human services needs for years. So when you look at the array of vast human services networks that are out there, very often, the majority of the programs are actually provided within the private sector. However, recently, there has been more and more of a movement towards privatizing some of the core functions that had traditionally been part of government.

I think what we try to do best as a national association is to work with our members to make sure that they have weighed all of the factors they could consider into whether this is a good decision or not. I think the issue isn't the whos. It's more the issue of the whats, and being clear about what the core competencies are. If government entities are going to be contracting, then I think they need different skill sets, or need to emphasize skill sets a little differently. And I think we have a good example.

Twenty years ago, states ran huge data centers with state employees. In many areas, these are now run by corporate America under contract. What happened, though, in the state information technology world was that the core competencies changed. They changed to project management, contract management, automation planning, quality control. And I think the same needs to happen as we start to look at actual service delivery. But if we're going to be farming these activities out to for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, we need to be real clear about what the expectations are: managing those contracts and those projects effectively. And so I think that's the critical issue. It's not who's doing it, it's what's being done, and is it done with the eye of actually providing an improved service delivery system rather than because it seems to be the local trend.

Mr. Morales: So Jerry, obviously you just opened the door for a discussion on the future. What do you see as some of the emerging trends in social welfare policy over, say, the next 5, 6, 7, 10 years?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think we're at a very exciting time. Again, I think the lessons that were learned from welfare reform, the demonstration that state and local governments really can manage programs effectively, is continuing to evolve and continuing to grow.

I see a number of different trends. I think the movement towards services integration clearly is happening in a lot of different areas. I think categorical agencies are beginning to realize that it takes a holistic approach in order to address the needs of families. I think more and more, state and local governments are looking how to return on investment. You know, is this the best result that we can get for the amount of money that we are investing? And I think it kind of goes beyond just looking at a program from a cost perspective. I think we need to look at it from an outcome perspective.

The continued advancement in technology throughout the entire human services system, from consumers to clients to the way that we process mega data in this country, I think is continuing to evolve. And what I see happening is that major corporations are now investing specifically in human services applications rather than retrofitting business applications to human services.

I think that there's going to be a continued movement towards consumerism. You know, there should be nothing about me without me. More and more clients are saying and progressive human services professionals are saying I need to involve a client in this decision in order to have the best outcome. And so there is more of a kind of openness and a willingness to do this.

And I think in many ways it could also be a cost driver, particularly in the health care arena. We need to have the costs of what it takes in medical care to be transparent. We need to know what they are. Consumerism can do a great deal to drive down costs. I heard Speaker Newt Gingrich talk about the airline industry, and he was talking about the combination of deregulation and the Internet and things like Expedia and Priceline and all those different things have driven down the cost of air miles from 29 cents a mile down to 10. It's just a stunning thing what competition can do and we need to start having that application in human services. I think continued partnerships and having strategic approaches and better use of data will continue to be a part of it.

And obviously volunteerism. We need to rely on a community not only for the services that they provide, but for the engagement. My experience is that when people become exposed to what happens in a human services agency or in a human services program or even in an institution, they become advocates for it when they begin to see what it's like. So I think that those are some of the major trends. I think the bottom line, though, to all of these things is what it has always been, and that's we have to keep the clients first. We can't lose sight of our purpose and our reason for being in the human services business in the first place. And that's because people that are at our desks are there with multitude of problems. They're in pain, they're in need. And so we can set up these elaborate systems, but we can't lose our heart. And I think that that's a lesson that's always with us, and to always acknowledge the awesome responsibility that we have in human services.

I used to tell my co-workers you know that a keystroke on a computer can make the critical difference as to whether a child goes to bed hungry or nourished, and that's just an awesome responsibility that plays out a million times a day in this country, and we don't take credit for it. We don't talk about how often the systems work. We focus in on the failures rather than our successes. And if we're going to really change the human services industry and have it grow and thrive as a viable part of our society, we need to change the public image. We need to be able to tell that story better.

Ms. Gardner: So continuing our theme of looking into the future, Jerry, from a policy perspective on some of the specific programs, you know, what's coming up for Medicaid, for TANF, for child welfare? What's going to happen over the next year or two?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I wish I had a crystal ball that I could say that, because we're caught in competing dynamics. You know, I think that there's a growing awareness among people who pay taxes that they want to see a return on their investment. And I think there's also a real acknowledgement that people do have human needs, and I think we're going to continue to strive for that perfect balance. But again, you know, I keep going back to the lessons that we learned through welfare reform about personal responsibility, about work opportunities, about empowering communities to make a difference. I think that those will continue to grow.

The health care area I think is fascinating because we really are, I think, in the early stages of a transformation. I see it happening again with the Medicaid directors in this country and the role that they're playing and looking at prevention and wellness programs, and I think that that'll continue to be a part of it.

I know the direction I would like to see Congress in the next administration go, and that again is always to empower states, to give them flexibility, to have administrative simplicity, to keep client needs at the forefront. And I think if we do that, we can continue to have a stronger society.

Again, the return on investment I think is really important. We as a human services industry need to talk about the return on investment that society does get. You know, when we think about the food stamp program, we don't think about what it infuses into an economy. It's not just that the people who are low wage are able to have better nutrition, but what does it mean for the grocers and the growers and those that transport food and how it contributes to a stronger society?

Think of a society without human services, what kind of world we would have. And so we're getting a little better at telling our story. And I truly appreciate the opportunity to be on a show like this to talk to your listeners and to tell the human services story, to share our challenges as well as some of the opportunities. And I'm just very, very grateful for this experience.

Ms. Gardner: Well, we're honored to have you. In the context of the story you just told about the profound good that can be done, children being nourished, families being helped, if you were to get your aspiration realized that Congress would be proactive and positive in its treatment of human services policy and legislation going forward, how would you challenge your members to then take those things and move forward to really meet the challenge of improving service delivery and living up to the picture that you've painted so articulately?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think two things: to think holistically, how the various parts fit together to a system of care; and secondly, keep the clients first, keep the needs of the children in this country and the families who are struggling in this country. Unfortunately, I can walk out of this nice building in downtown Washington, D.C., and before I hit the next corner, I will be able to see the failures of our society, where people who have been left out and left behind, the homeless population, who aren't afforded, for whatever reasons, the opportunity to participate in the wealth of this great country. You know, we'll always have our work to do. So those are the things, the messages that I would give.

Mr. Morales: Jerry, it's hard not to be moved by your passion and dedication to public human services, so I'm curious, what advice could you give to someone out there who perhaps is thinking about starting a career in public service and perhaps in particular interested in working in the area of public human services?

Mr. Friedman: Well, I think that the best experience really is hands-on. I always encourage people to volunteer, to spend time in public facilities, nursing homes, to talk to people who have needs to see where their strengths and where they can contribute. I think that that's the greatest thing is through the exposure. You know, we appreciate all of the courses in social work and public policy that happen, but I think it's that hands-on experience, that personal passion that somebody can have, and the exhilaration of actually seeing somebody who has improved the quality of their lives because you've been there, because you've been working with them, because you've tutored somebody who was illiterate and now they're job-ready. I mean, I just can't tell you. It's like maybe the equivalent, the public human services equivalent, of hitting a grand-slam home run in a World Series.

One of the greatest things that I get to do sometimes is to go to graduation classes of public welfare agencies, where they've taken people who had not been job-ready and they're out and they're ready to join the workforce or perhaps they're already working, to see the transformation in their lives. They have a client come back to them and say thank you, you made a difference.

Just one quick story. When I was a probation officer, I had a huge caseload. I didn't always I mean, you had to kind of triage. And years after I had left this job, I received a call one night at my house and it was from a man and I could tell he was obviously very emotional. And he asked if I was the probation officer that had his case, you know, 5, 10 years earlier. And I had to really search my memory banks, and indeed, it was and I did remember that. And what he wanted to tell me was that he was in the hospital, his wife had just given birth to his first child, a son, and that he wanted me to know I was the second call that he made -- the first was to his parents -- that he would not have had that thrilling opportunity to be a parent had I not intervened in his life in an early stage when he was struggling with substance abuse. Now, I barely remembered the case and I didn't do great casework. I gave him a choice: you're going to rehab or you go to jail, you know. But obviously it made an impact on this person. I hadn't thought of that case in years, but to get that phone call is something that just stayed with me for the rest of my life.

We don't always know that we make a difference. And so that's what I would tell people, that if they want a career where they can have those kind of rewards and benefits, then human services is a place that they ought to look.

Mr. Morales: That's absolutely wonderful. Jerry, unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Nicole and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service across the many years and roles that you've had in the area of public human services.

Mr. Friedman: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. If people want to find more about the American Public Human Services Association I urge them to take a look at our website. It has up-to-date information on all of the legislative proposals that are happening in Congress. It's a wealth of information, and it's at www.aphsa.org.

Mr. Morales: Great, thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association.

My co-host has been Nicole Gardner, vice president and partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Anthony Arnolie interview

Friday, April 11th, 2008 - 20:00
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Mr. Arnolie NSF's Director of the Office of Information and Chief Human Capital Office of Resource Management
Radio show date: 
Sat, 04/12/2008
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Intro text: 
Mr. Arnolie NSF's Director of the Office of Information and Chief Human Capital Office of Resource Management
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast April 12, 2008

Washington, D.C.

Announcer: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. This is Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Today, scientific discoveries are emerging at an accelerating pace in virtually every field, transforming the science and engineering landscape and opening entirely new territory for exploration. As one of the premier federal agencies supporting basic research at the frontiers of discovery across all fields, the National Science Foundation plays a critical role in keeping the U.S. competitive in the sciences. The success of such a vital national mission rests on the pursuit of an effective resource management approach and workforce strategy.

With us this morning to discuss NSF's strategic efforts in these areas is Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and NSF human capital officer.

Good morning, Anthony.

Mr. Arnolie: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

Good morning, Solly.

Mr. Thomas: Good morning, Al. And good morning, Anthony. Good to see you again.

Mr. Morales: Anthony, let's start by setting some context for our listeners. Could you take a few minutes to provide us a general overview of the National Science Foundation, including its history and its mission today?

Mr. Arnolie: Certainly. The National Science Foundation is an independent federal government agency created by Congress in 1950 to, at that time, promote the progress of science, to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare, and to secure the national defense. Today, we fund basic research in scientific disciplines such as biology, geosciences, computer sciences, engineering, and education. And we fund researchers in all 50 states through grants to about 1,700 universities. And each year, we receive about 42,000 competitive proposals, and award about 10,000 new funding grants each year.

Mr. Morales: That's a fairly competitive statistic. Could you perhaps share some additional details to give us a perspective on the organization, such as how the Foundation is organized, the size of the overall budget, number of full-time employees and contractors, if you have such a mix?

Mr. Arnolie: The Foundation is run by a director and a deputy director who oversee the staff and management responsible for program creation and administration, merit review, planning, budget, and day-to-day operations. We also have a 24-member National Science Board that establishes the overall policies for the Foundation.

This year, our current budget is about $6 billion. And at present, we have a total workforce of about 1,700. That includes about 1,200 career employees, about 200 scientists from research institutions on temporary duty, and about 300 contract workers. And we're located in Arlington, Virginia.

Each year, NSF supports an average of about 200,000 scientists, engineers, educators, and students at universities, laboratories, and field sites across the country and throughout the world, from Alaska to Alabama and from Africa to Antarctica. You could say that NSF support goes to the ends of the earth to learn more about the planet and its inhabitants and to produce fundamental discoveries.

Mr. Thomas: Anthony, now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, perhaps you could tell us more about your specific program. What are your responsibilities and duties as the director of the Office of Information and Resource Management, and as the National Science Foundation's chief human capital officer? Could you take a moment and tell us about the programs under your purview, how your office is organized, and the size of your staff and your budget?

Mr. Arnolie: Sure. As director of the Office of Information and Resource Management, I'm responsible for ensuring that NSF runs smoothly and efficiently from an operational perspective. Organizationally, I'm responsible for three divisions: the Division of Information Systems, the Division of Administrative Services, and the Division of Human Resource Management. These divisions collectively are responsible for developing and maintaining the technology infrastructure and systems that facilitate business operations, as well as the underlying IT security for managing the day-to-day administrative functions, such as building security, facilities management, proposal processing, conference and events management and visitor services, and also leading the agency's effective recruitment retention, motivation development, and utilization of NSF staff.

I manage about 165 federal employees and well over 200 contractors who work within these three divisions. Approximately 75 percent of the contractors perform information technology services, including application development, data center operations, and help desk support.

From a funding perspective, I'm responsible for a budget of approximately $100 million. And as the chief human capital officer, I serve as the senior strategic advisor for the deputy and the director of the agency on all human capital management issues. I'm accountable for the strategic management of NSF's unique workforce, which includes a large planned turnover of our scientific staff annually.

Mr. Morales: Anthony, if I may, just as a quick follow-up, is your role as director of the Office of Information and Resource Management effectively what people might recognize as a CIO?

Mr. Arnolie: The information technology function falls under my purview, but the CIO function and the Office of the CIO function is a separate function. So my role is a bit broader than just information technology, much like even though I hold the title of chief human capital officer, my role is broader than just human capital management.

Mr. Morales: Okay, thank you.

Mr. Thomas: Anthony, regarding your responsibilities and duties, what are the most significant challenges that you've faced in your position, and how have you addressed these challenges?

Mr. Arnolie: I would say the most significant challenge I've faced since I've been at NSF has been funding constraints and competing priorities, which are not unusual to small agencies in particular. We've been evolving from a small sort of off-the-radar agency to a much more highly visible one, which brings with it greater oversight and increased demands. Until this year, our funding for administrative activities has not kept pace with our needs and those demands, although I am beginning to see that change this year, finally, and I'm really excited about what the future holds as a result.

As a result of that situation, we've had to make some difficult choices among competing priorities. So for example, I oversee information technology as well as human capital management. Both of those are funded traditionally out of the same budget. And so there are often times where a decision has to maybe be made between hiring more people or investing more in technology, and clearly both of those are imperative to our mission, and so it does create some difficult challenges.

What I've done in my position is to aggressively work to educate our senior leadership on the importance of the administrative functions to the execution of our mission. And as I said, I think this year, we are finally starting to make some inroads and those messages are starting to take hold and we're starting to see the benefits in terms of a bigger budget.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

Now, Anthony, I understand that prior to joining NSF, you came from the private sector. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? How did you get started, and what brought you to NSF?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, up until 2003, when I joined NSF, I spent my entire career in the private sector working for a number of accounting and professional services firms. I spent most of my career managing IT organizations, providing internal support to the consultants and accountants.

My most recent position was a partner in charge of technology administration at Arthur Andersen in New York. And it's not unknown to most what happened to Arthur Andersen as a part of the situation that took place with Enron. At the time, my wife and I were both partners at Arthur Andersen. We had met and both worked here in the D.C. area. We decided to move back. She continued in the accounting profession. We thought it wise for us to both not make the same mistake twice, if you will. And so I sought to find a challenging yet somewhat more stable occupation in the interest of our family.

Mr. Thomas: Diversification strategy.

Mr. Arnolie: Absolutely. Absolutely. Too many eggs in the same basket the first time around.

I was fortunate that the opportunity at NSF came up because it was similar from a functional standpoint to roles that I had had in the private sector, albeit obviously in a very different sector, which has been quite an interesting experience for me.

Mr. Morales: So as you sort of reflect on these experiences, how have they prepared you for your current leadership role at NSF and perhaps shaped your management approach and your leadership style today?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, I've had the fortune over my career of having six outstanding bosses, all of whom when perhaps I was maybe too young to trust, trusted me with quite a bit of responsibility. I think that what they did and the themes that I took away from working for them are ones that I apply today. The first being communication is critical. They taught me to speak honestly and frankly and expect the same in return.

The second is you must empower your staff and make sure that they take ownership for the success of whatever they're assigned with. Thirdly, that you must support them when they make mistakes and when they're being treated unfairly. And last but not least, as a leader, you must maintain your poise at all times, especially in the most difficult of situations. And as I said, each of my previous bosses exhibited those qualities, and I've tried to employ those in my management and leadership style.

Mr. Morales: Those are wonderful principles.

What is NSF's human resource strategy? We will ask Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at the National Science Foundation, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at the National Science Foundation.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Solly Thomas.

Anthony, let's talk a bit now about the President's Management Agenda and its focus on the improvement of management and accountability. What are some of the efforts within NSF to meet the requirements of the PMA today?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, when we embarked upon the PMA a few years ago, it really helped us as a small agency to institutionalize some of our important human capital functions and activities. And in particular, it helped us to bring some rigor to our evaluation processes.

NSF achieved green in human capital in 2005, and maintained that green for about two years up until this past June. The challenge that we faced, as I've alluded to earlier, had to do with limited funding. And as a result, we reached a point where there was a divergence between the agency priorities and some of the PMA requirements, and that left us in somewhat of a difficult position. Our funding was limited, and over time, we found it difficult to meet some of the ongoing requirements and still do what senior leadership at NSF was asking us to do.

Now, the good news is we had engaged senior leadership to the point where they had given us quite a list of human capital imperatives that they wanted us to carry out. We were working closely with senior management as well as all levels of the organization. And so while we would like to continue to work with OPM to see if we can get credit for some of the great work we're doing as an agency, and I think our director and deputy would support this, we're proud of the progress that we've been making, and we do credit the PMA for really getting us started down this road of a more rigorous approach to human capital management.

Mr. Morales: Anthony, let's probe on this area a bit more. If we focus on the theme of human capital, could you give us an overview of NSF's human capital strategy, and your efforts to develop a strategic human capital plan? How does the strategy align with and support the Foundation's core mission, goals, and organizational objectives?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, we've recently undertaken an effort to update our strategic human capital management plan, and the basis for that was the most recent update to the NSF strategic plan, so there is a very tight linkage between the human capital management plan and the agency's strategic plan. Our human capital vision is to attract, develop, and retain a diverse world-class workforce that is continually learning and expanding its capacity to shape the agency's future.

To that end, NSF senior leadership recognizes the value of strategic human capital planning as a key component of excellence in management. This is shown through the recent enhancement and ongoing implementation of our human capital management plan. And this plan is aligned to the agency's overall strategic plan as well as outlines goals, plans, and evaluation methods. A working group of senior career federal executives representing all of our key scientific disciplines was formed to update the plan and to ensure its relevancy to the agency's strategic goals and the needs of the strategic and scientific workforce.

Mr. Thomas: Anthony, staying on the human capital topic, as you know, the federal human resources community is changing from a transaction-based environment to a more strategic and consultative role. Could you tell the listeners about your efforts to transform the human resources function within the National Science Foundation? Specifically, how are you engaging the program directorates in order to anticipate human capital issues and improve processes while at the same time operating as consultants?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, under my tenure and under the leadership of the deputy CHCO, we've contracted out, over the last two years, many of our traditionally transaction-oriented duties. What that's allowed us to do is it's provided additional time for our permanent staff to serve in a more consultative role.

Additionally, we've recently implemented a service team concept. And what this entails is while we maintain our traditional functional branches, we deploy customer account representatives - CARs, we call them that are directly aligned to our internal customer organizations. These specialists strive to consult, coordinate, and communicate with their assigned organizations in order to improve our understanding of customer needs and to collaborate more closely for better, faster service. And so far, this concept seems to be working and our customers like it.

In addition, we are engaging senior leadership on a regular basis and discussing human capital issues that are of relevance to the strategic mission of the Foundation. On a quarterly basis, if not more often than that, we have a full agenda at our senior management meetings where we talk about a variety of human capital issues. The important point here is we don't spend a lot of time talking about staffing and classification, but really talking more about how we shape or reshape the workforce to respond to the needs of the scientific community.

And in addition, because we are a highly participatory organization, all of our strategic human capital initiatives are done in collaboration with the program directorates. I mentioned the updating of the human capital management plan as one example, but just about every one of our initiatives from a human capital standpoint is overseen by a steering committee or a working group that consists of representation from all parts of our organization.

Mr. Thomas: Anthony, let's talk a little bit about performance management. Could you tell us about the National Science Foundation's efforts to develop and implement an agency-wide performance management system, and in particular, the focus on aligning employee performance expectations with organizational goals and objectives?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, our performance plans for executives have been aligned to the agency mission for quite some time. In 2004, we expanded this to all general workforce performance plans. We held briefings for supervisors and staff. We set up frequently asked questions, and even created an internal web page to provide information and sample performance plans showing linkage to the mission. And within a short period of time, we had full compliance throughout the agency, and have been pleased with this result. As research shows that when employees see how their daily work supports the organization's goals, then their performance improves, and from there, organizational performance improves.

As far as the executive performance plans, we take a very rigorous and we'd like to think transparent approach to both the evaluation of the plans themselves and their linkage to mission, along with an evaluation of the appraisals and how effective the executives have been at carrying out what's documented in the performance plans. We think that this has been very important, both in terms of making sure that activities are aligned to the mission, and also that our executives are held accountable for delivering on those things documented in their plans.

Mr. Thomas: To accomplish its mission, the National Science Foundation invests in the best ideas generated by scientists, engineers, and educators across all fields of research and education. Could you give our listeners an overview of the Foundation's performance assessment framework? What exactly is the framework, and to what extent does it enable continuous improvement and ensure openness to the research and education communities serviced by the Foundation?

Mr. Arnolie: NSF conducts a wide range of internal and external assessment activities to evaluate and report on our strategic investments and how effectively the strategic plan is being implemented. Since we fund basic research in science and engineering and education, it's sometimes not possible to directly link outcomes to annual investments because the results from basic research oftentimes takes years to come to fruition. Consequently, we believe in assessing the true impact of NSF's activities by utilizing the qualitative judgment of outside experts. To that end, we have a few activities.

One is what we call committees of visitors. We rely on these external committees of experts to evaluate long-term outcomes resulting from NSF grants. The COVs, as we call them, meet every three years to review the program reviews and to provide into two areas: the assessment of the quality and integrity of program operations, and how the research results have contributed to the attainment of NSF's mission and strategic outcome goals.

We also utilize directorate and office advisory committees. The judgment of these external experts help NSF to maintain high standards of program management. They also provide advice for continuous improvement and ensure openness to the research and education community served by the Foundation. Each of our directorates has an external advisory committee that meets twice a year to provide a review of program operations, discuss important current issues, and approve recent reports from the relevant COVs.

Last but not least, we have an advisory committee for Government Performance and Results Act. This external advisory committee conducts an assessment of the entire portfolio of NSF investments in science, engineering, and education. Each year, the committee reviews the Foundation's investments to determine if NSF demonstrated significant achievement under these strategic goals. The committee submits a report to the NSF director, which is incorporated into the Foundation's annual report each year.

Mr. Morales: Now, Anthony, you talked a little bit about the connection between the program leadership and your organization. And I'm sure that the increase in multidisciplinary projects, international activities, and major research projects has increased the volume as well as the complexity of the workload over at NSF. But could you tell us a little bit more about the efforts to analyze these workload requirements? And what can you tell us about a pilot program currently underway to test a new organizational structure and operations model?

Mr. Arnolie: For many years, NSF has been a leading federal agency in leveraging technology to support business processes. With rapid increases in e-government solutions to conduct our core business, we discovered that there were resultant changes in employees' job functions and competencies.

In 2007, we developed a weighted workload model that compares NSF's workload indicators to the staffing levels in our directorates and offices. The trend data allows us to track changes in workload by workload type and by scientific discipline for each directorate and for each program. The model shows a significant increase in overall workload in the last seven years, with only a modest increase in our staffing levels. Further, the model projects continued increases in the coming years, and we continue to refine the model as new data becomes available.

In terms of the pilot, about two years ago we undertook what we called an administrative function study in order to understand and address the impact of changing business process and technology on the program support workforce. The goal was to better align the functions assigned to the administrative staff in support of the mission and to increase professional development opportunities for administrative staff by establishing career paths and learning maps.

The program support staff at NSF represents about 30 percent of our permanent workforce. And recommendations from this study have led to the development of new program support positions that have become part of a clearer career paths with extended professional opportunities that did not previously exist at NSF. In addition to the new positions and career paths, we've developed learning maps that help guide employees through their options for individual competency development, and allows them to target professional development opportunities at the Foundation.

The pilot was initiated in 2007 to test the management positions of this new model we created, and a structured learning and development plan is in place for each of the pilot positions for the duration in order to address the competency gaps assessed prior to the beginning of the pilot. Additional competency gap analysis will be conducted during the pilot. And at the end of the pilot, we will perform a formal evaluation in addition to the rolling evaluations to assess the validity of the pilot and to determine future plans for the new management positions.

Mr. Morales: That's great. It sounds like it's going very well.

Let me switch gears for a moment here, Anthony, and talk a little bit about the NSF Academy. Could you elaborate on how the Academy provides learning opportunities which support the agency's vision and mission? And since we do like to talk about technologies here, can you tell us a little bit about something called "Academy Learn?"

Mr. Arnolie: The NSF Academy serves as the catalyst for the creation of a continuous learning organization at the National Science Foundation. We have a highly educated workforce, and sometimes convincing them that further development and enrichment is necessary. But what we've tried to do with the Academy is, as I said, to simply serve as a catalyst for stimulating discussion and dialogue that might lead to that enrichment.

The Academy promotes organizational excellence through the advancement of human capital by proactively identifying and implementing programs necessary for the development of all of our employees. One unique offering that supports our mission-critical occupations is the Program Management Seminar. This seminar is NSF's orientation for new program officers, many of whom have never worked for the federal government before. In addition to introducing them to federal government requirements, the seminar examines our agency's culture and values centered around NSF's merit review of submitted proposals, and it also raises the new program officer's awareness of the diverse composition of NSF's workforce.

We also offer division director retreats twice a year and division director roundtables on a quarterly basis that are structured around topics of interest to our division directors and our deputy division directors. As an example of how NSF is a highly participatory organization, the planning committees who determine the agendas, the topics, the guests, are all the division directors and deputy division directors, with some assistance from my staff. In addition, the Academy is consistently evaluating and redesigning these programs to better meet the needs of our internal customers.

The NSF Academy is also embarking upon a blended approach to learning that enhances employee learning by allowing individuals to select the learning medium that best fits their individual needs. For example, the Academy provides standard classroom education, but it also provides e-business courses that can be accessed online 24/7 from home or work or while on travel.

We're currently implementing Academy Learn, a learning management system that contains a course catalogue of over 2,000 online courses, has an online technical library, and also has an individual learning plan built in that can communicate the employee's training needs and wants to their supervisor, so that supervisors can more fully support the learning process for our employees.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

How does NSF manage a blended workforce? We will ask Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at NSF, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at the National Science Foundation.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Solly Thomas.

Anthony, like most organizations, workforce planning must be critical in helping your agency's leadership draw a clearer picture of the nature of the current and future human capital decisions. Could you tell us a bit about your efforts to enhance and institutionalize, perhaps, workforce planning within the Foundation?

Mr. Arnolie: Certainly. There's been quite a lot of activity around this in the last two years. As I mentioned before, our human capital strategic plan also includes a workforce plan as well as a succession plan, and those were recently updated to more closely align with the NSF's strategic plan. We assembled a group of senior executives from across the Foundation who led that effort and drafted a plan that was distributed to all NSF staff for comment, another example of the highly participatory nature even after the plan was developed. And we did this with the strategic plan as well. It was posted for comment for about three weeks for each and every one of the employees to provide feedback, and we did make changes as a result of that. That's somewhat of an aside.

But in any case, the workforce plan itself identifies the steps to align our workforce with our current and projected work requirements. Each year, the Division of Human Resource Management facilitates a workforce planning process with NSF senior management that results in an updated set of goals, priorities, and action strategies for workforce and staffing planning across the Foundation. This structured process has focused management efforts on strategic workforce planning, and I would say that's for the first time in many years at the Foundation.

At the same time, we've implemented a biannual staffing planning process with each directorate and office that focuses specifically on developing work unit staffing plans. The staffing planning process encourages directorates and offices to align their staffing strategies to the overall workforce plan.

Mr. Morales: Anthony, you mentioned succession planning. What are some of the efforts at NSF to ensure continuity of leadership through succession planning and executive development? Specifically, what changes are you perhaps making to the recruitment process that enable you to use flexible compensation strategies to attract and retain employees in some of the mission-critical areas?

Mr. Arnolie: The goal of our succession planning activities is to ensure a seamless transition in all of our executive leadership positions. We strive to enable continuity of business operations and to preserve critical organizational knowledge. Finally, we want to develop and nurture a cadre of executives that can lead the agency into the future. Some of our implementation strategies aim to broaden and deepen NSF's leadership pipeline through the implementation of a comprehensive leadership development program, to prepare leadership transition plans for all executive positions, and last but not least, to establish a comprehensive knowledge management and transfer strategy for all of our executive leadership positions.

Regarding our recruiting strategies, we use two principal avenues to hire staff. The first is the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, that authorized the creation of the agency and also authorizes us to appoint scientists and engineers without competition under the accepted service authority unique to our agency. This appointing authority provides us with the necessary flexibility to fill these mission-critical occupations. Compensation for these scientists and engineers is set within pay bands, and the use of additional incentives can also be authorized. Our administrative staff is hired using the same appointing and compensation rules as other agencies in the Executive Branch.

There are similarities in the recruiting processes for both of these groups and we've made substantial efforts to simplify the process, to leverage technology, and to look for ways to streamline the process. For example, we post our job information on both nsf.gov and USA Jobs. To the extent that there are individuals who are specifically looking for NSF opportunities, they would obviously find those on our website. And there are other individuals who may be seeking opportunities from NSF along with many other alternatives.

We've also adapted our recruiting processes to the needs and expectations of our key target applicant groups. For our professional scientific and engineering community, we use a streamlined application process. And these applicants may submit resumes that are much more in line with the types of CVs typically used in those professional communities. We also have extensive outreach efforts to the various scientific communities through what we call "Dear Colleague" letters, which solicit interest in our vacancies by contacting presidents of universities and chancellors who might know of worthy candidates who would be interested in an opportunity at NSF.

Last but not least, word of mouth is an extremely important tool in filling these positions. We turn over about 30 percent of our scientific workforce each year by design. And it's key for us for those individuals when they return to their home institutions to have had a positive experience, and therefore, be in a great position to recommend the next wave of individuals to serve the country by working at NSF.

Mr. Morales: That's great. It sounds like you're making it easier not only for the applicant, but as well as the managers within the organization who are seeking these candidates.

Mr. Thomas: Anthony, given NSF's mission, you seem to rely on a continual and transparent exchange between the broader science community and the Foundation itself. Could you tell us how federal managers can effectively manage an ever-increasing blended workforce composed of contractors and federal workers? And what are some of the key differences intrinsic to these core groups?

Mr. Arnolie: Our success in engaging the science community is in large part because we interact with them regularly and rely on them heavily to perform many key business functions of the Foundation. We not only recruit them for key leadership and program management positions, but we utilize them for merit review of competitive proposals as well as our performance assessment activities.

Now, while this enables fresh ideas regarding scientific research and the management of the agency, it does bring with it some challenges in terms of managing a blended workforce. When you factor in the increased reliance on contractors to perform many administrative functions, managing the NSF workforce can be challenging.

The good news is we have a very collegial culture, and the career federal employees at NSF provide mentoring support, and most importantly, stability to the agency's operations. One of the things that we try to do is we both try and engage the contractors and temporary staff as part of the NSF family. At the same time, we work closely to establish a strong core among the career executives and staff, because it's important for the contractors and temporary workers to hear and for the messages to be reinforced as to what's important to the Foundation.

And so we find that it's the permanent staff that allow us to do that. We have a very dedicated and committed staff, and they really make it possible for this rotation of temporary workers to come in and out and still allow the business of the Foundation to continue.

Mr. Thomas: As you know, Anthony, the younger employees have different attitudes, behaviors, and expectations for their careers and the workplace. In general, they tend to be more flexible and more mobile, and therefore, we expect them to change employers and jobs several times. They also typically look for more flexibility from their employers and greater support at the workplace.

Could you tell our listeners about the National Science Foundation's efforts to meet the challenge of this changing workforce?

Mr. Arnolie: In part, I think we're meeting the needs of this group by expanding our use of the Federal Career Intern Program as well as the Presidential Management Fellows Program. In addition, as you know, we're widely recognized as one of the great places to work in the federal government, and we offer many amenities, such as an on-site fitness center, an on-site child care center, on-site health services, on-site caf�, library services, and proximity to a shopping mall.

We also offer detailed assignments that offer interesting developmental opportunities for our employees. For the last six years, the number of telework agreements on file at the Foundation have increased, and telework is clearly one of those areas that's appealing to employees of all ages. That said, NSF is in a somewhat unique position because for many of the positions we try and fill, the requirements greatly limit our pool and our opportunities to go after some of the younger employees, in that a Ph.D. with six years of experience after attaining it is often a requirement for many of our program management positions. And so we look to leverage as best we can the opportunities to attract younger employees for those positions that they would qualify for.

Mr. Thomas: The NSF is also co-managing partner and a consortium leader for the grants management line of business. And you recently launched a web portal called research.gov. Could you tell us about this specific effort, and to what extent does your office support systems necessary to manage the Foundation's grant-making process?

Mr. Arnolie: Certainly. NSF is a single-mission agency that fulfills that mission by issuing grants, so it's critical that our IT investments support and enable those business processes. Research.gov is a new initiative that supports the grant-making process by providing a menu of services tailored to the needs of the research community, and enables NSF to comply with recent government-wide mandates and guidelines.

We were selected by OMB to lead the research focus grants management consortium because of our successful track record with our existing grants management system, FastLane, our leadership position in the research community, and our high standards and performance for our customers. Research.gov allows us to leverage FastLane's capabilities to deliver common grants management services, and allows us to serve as a lead partner for federal research-oriented, grant-making agencies with a shared vision of increasing customer service for the research community while streamlining and standardizing the business process among the partner agencies. Research.gov provides public-facing services for the broader research community, and business services for institutions that apply for and receive grants from participating federal research agencies.

The first of many business services that we offer is grants application status, and we recently released this in a beta mode. It will allow applicants to check the status of grant applications submitted to NSF and any of its research.gov partners in one single location. As this initiative matures, research.gov will continue to develop and implement additional services in support of the science, engineering, research, and education mission.

Mr. Morales: Anthony, in the past year, we've seen a surge of federal agencies and a variety of communities launching their own version of a Wikipedia or a blog. Could you talk about efforts within NSF to leverage these new social networking ideas and technologies such as blogs and wikis? And specifically from perhaps your vantage point, how can such tools enhance NSF's ability to collaborate and communicate?

Mr. Arnolie: NSF has several methods by which we interact with our communities, both internal and external. There's active interest among our scientists and engineers to explore and use various collaboration tools, and our connection with the academic community keeps us on the constant lookout for the latest technologies.

Regarding wiki technology, we launched the first NSF wiki in 2005, and it has been in agency-wide use for over the last two or three years. Currently, we have about 20 distinct groups that use the NSF wiki for a variety of purposes, such as project updates, meeting minutes, notices of interest, and posting and updating standard operating procedures. Right now, we're exploring the development of a wiki that can be used for both internal staff and their external communities for collaboration. All these tools can help NSF to better communicate and collaborate. We also have the luxury internally of being located in one location, which facilitates a lot more face-to-face collaboration, which is not always an option for some other organizations.

Mr. Morales: Let me switch subjects here for a moment. A major cyber security concern with the federal government these days is employees perhaps not thinking about the risks and being careless about personal information and data security. What steps have you taken to create or cultivate a culture of accountability and protection for sensitive personal information?

Mr. Arnolie: We strive to balance security and privacy considerations, such as the protection of personal information and data, with the open and collaborative environment that's central to the scientific research and discovery. User education we think is the critical success factor in maintaining this appropriate balance.

Our key message establishes accountability. Each employee is responsible for recognizing personal information and avoiding inappropriate access, use, or disclosure. We hold annual security awareness training, which is required or all employees and other on-site staff. We also hold ongoing outreach activities to remind employees of their responsibilities with respect to protection of personal information.

Keeping users informed is just one component of NSF's security and privacy strategy. NSF's information systems are designed to facilitate work processes while providing appropriate levels of protection for security information, which is not a trivial task given that we receive 42,000 proposals each year for research, education, and training projects, and we receive several thousand applications annually for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

One of the things that we've done recently, in 2007, we stopped collecting Social Security numbers from individuals that conduct business with the Foundation, and assigned unique NSF IDs to replace those SSNs for all individual accounts in our grants management system, and this constituted over 350,000 records. We also implemented other technical controls, such as data encryption and secure access mechanisms that are employed where appropriate to provide additional layers of protection for sensitive personal information.

Finally, our security and privacy program could not be successful without the involvement and dedication of senior management, particularly the director and the deputy director. When senior leadership makes it clear that security and privacy are priorities, then the Foundation listens.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

What does the future hold for the National Science Foundation? We will ask Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at the Foundation, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at the NSF.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Solly Thomas.

Anthony, in addition to your role at NSF, I understand that you're also the chairman of the Small Agency Council. Could you tell us more about the Council and its charter? Specifically, what kinds of agencies are represented on the Council and what are the goals of the Council?

Mr. Arnolie: Sure. The Small Agency Council is a voluntary management association of sub-cabinet independent federal agencies. It was established in 1986 with the purpose of achieving three major goals: the first, to ensure that federal policy oversight agencies consider implications to small agencies when developing management policies; the second, to exchange approaches for improving management and productivity at small agencies; and the third, to share management resources so as to strengthen the internal management practices of small agencies.

Now, the loose definition of a small agency is an agency with less than 6,000 employees. Currently, the Small Agency Council has over 80 member agencies representing about 50,000 federal employees, and each of those agencies is represented by a principal management official who generally oversees agency management functions such as personnel, budget, procurement, finance, and information resources management. The full Council meets at least two times a year to discuss a variety of management issues of concern to small agencies.

The Council also has a number of committees that represent small agencies on specialized issues, including information technology, finance, procurement, training, and administrative services. Personnel from these agencies who work in these functional areas sit on these committees and help to widen the overall scope and effectiveness of the Council. In addition, we're also represented on many federal policy oversight organizations such as the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, the Federal CFO Council, and the Federal CIO Council.

Small agencies that have joined the Council are responsible for managing a wide array of federal programs and implementing various statutes. Members have diverse program responsibilities, including private and public sector employment, commerce and trade, energy and science, transportation, national defense, finance, and cultural issues. Almost half of the Council is divided among regulatory and enforcement agencies, and the remaining half is divided among grant-making, advisory, and uniquely chartered organizations. There are many sized agencies represented, including several so-called micro agencies with less than 100 employees.

During my tenure as chair, I believe the Council has further advanced the cause and unique issue of small agencies through the power of its collective voice and membership, which is really the main charter of the Council. For those who are interested in learning more about the Small Agency Council, please visit www.sac.gov.

Mr. Morales: Great.

Now, as a follow-up, could you tell us more about the efforts on the part of the Council to establish a human resources training academy? What is this training academy, and how might it operate?

Mr. Arnolie: Actually it's not the Small Agency Council, but the Small Agency Human Resource Council that has created the human resources training academy for small agencies. The "SAHR C," as they're called, operates independently from the Small Agency Council. However, because my deputy division director for human resource management is a co-chair of this training committee, I can actually tell you a little bit more about it.

Two courses have recently been held, and both were well-attended. And at this time, instructors are being sought among the different small agencies to train on a wide variety of topics within the HR arena, such as workforce planning, labor relations, and benefits. I should also mention that the Small Agency Council administers a training program each year through voluntary contributions from member agencies. This program allows us to pool and leverage funding from across the government agencies to make training opportunities available to small agency personnel. This is particularly beneficial to some of the micro agencies and other really small agencies that would otherwise not have the opportunity in some cases to provide their personnel with required training.

Mr. Thomas: Anthony, let's come back to your role at the National Science Foundation. In transitioning to the future, how do you envision NSF's human capital needs evolving in the next two to three years? And how do you envision your office evolving over that same period of time to support this transition?

Mr. Arnolie: I think what we'll do is we will continue our aggressive push to hire more staff. We're in desperate need, and we'll continue to focus on that. We plan to continue our efforts to redefine the NSF workforce and equip them with the skills and competencies that they need to be successful and to carry out the agency's mission. We'll continue to look for ways to leverage technology solutions to improve our work processes. And we'll also continue to implement work-life programs that improve both the quality of work and the quality of life for our staff.

My office will continue to strategically align itself with our customers, listen intently to their needs, and work closely with them to create and customize our service offerings and deliver the services and solutions that help the agency carry out its mission.

Mr. Thomas: Now, there has been much discussion about the pending retirement wave in government and what type of impact it will have on agencies. What are you seeing within NSF, and what plans are in place to mitigate its effect?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, as it turns out, our retirement projections aren't as grim as the federal government overall. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 50 percent of all federal employees and 70 percent of all federal senior managers will be eligible to retire by 2010. At NSF, by contrast, only about 20 percent are eligible today, and 39 percent will be eligible in 2011. In addition, and maybe more importantly, NSF staff tend to work longer into their retirement eligibility years.

With the recent adoption of the updated NSF strategic plan and the importance of aligning the agency's human capital management with the Foundation's strategic goals and priorities, a succession planning working group was tasked to update key elements of the human capital management strategy, including leadership succession planning, goals, and strategies.

Some specific succession planning concepts being implemented include identifying best practices in leadership transition and knowledge transfer, providing hands-on learning and mentoring for potential leaders, and appraising senior leadership on their succession planning efforts. And we believe that focusing on those particular areas will put us in the best position to handle any retirement wave that we might face in the years to come.

Mr. Morales: Anthony, you previously talked about how NSF has received the honors as one of the agencies titled as the best places to work. And in fact, you've obviously ranked consistently near the top on that list. So other than some of the things that you've mentioned, what do you think are some of the keys to your success as a best place to work?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, I'd like to take a lot of credit for that since it's the Federal Human Capital Survey that yields those results, but the truth is it's the NSF staff that make NSF a great place to work. It's very participatory, as I said before. Every individual believes that they have a voice and that what they have to say can influence the agency's priorities and the agency's strategic direction. I think that that is an important factor in people coming to the Foundation and wanting to stay at the Foundation.

In addition, I think that we have a very unique and very important mission in terms of funding basic research. We promote science and innovation through all types of science disciplines, and I think it's critically important. Two items that might not directly be connected to NSF in the public's eyes would be the initial investments we made to lead to the creation of the Internet, or the investments that we made in a small group of principal investigators who later went on to found Google. So those are two of the things that as an employee of NSF, you recognize that the work we do really in the near and the longer term future promote incredible innovations in science, engineering, research, and education that are critically important to the country.

As I said earlier, one of the other reasons I think we are considered one of the best places to work is we do all that we can to provide a variety of work-life programs that are meaningful and beneficial to our staff. I mentioned the on-site child care center, the on-site fitness center, the on-site health services, along with retirement counseling and tuition assistance. We continue to try and add to our portfolio work-life programs to the fullest extent possible.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

On that same note, Anthony, we have a number of listeners who may be thinking about a career in public service. Now, given your own federal experience and the transition from the private sector, what advice might you give someone out there who's perhaps considering a role in government?

Mr. Arnolie: Well, there are a number of agencies with different missions who serve this country in different ways. I would suggest that you explore a bit to find a fit between what you value and what you're interested in and what your strengths are and what those agencies do. I know that agencies are working hard to be more flexible in terms of work schedules and work assignments, so don't assume there isn't a good fit for you. Finally, understand that there's nothing more important than service to your country, so lend us your talents and you might find a rewarding, challenging, and personally enriching opportunity awaits you. That was certainly the case for me, and continues to be the case for me at NSF.

Mr. Morales: That's wonderful advice.

Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Solly and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country in your roles at NSF.

Mr. Arnolie: Thank you. And I guess I'd like to finish by saying a recent study said that there was a very positive impression of who NSF was, but by that same audience, not a clear understanding of exactly what we do. So what I would encourage you to do is to go to www.nsf.gov and learn more about what the Foundation is all about, the areas that we provide funding for, and the types of activities that might be of interest to those of you seeking employment in the federal government.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Anthony Arnolie, director of the Office of Information and Resource Management and chief human capital officer at the National Science Foundation.

My co host has been Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's Human Capital Practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour.

Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Dr. Jeff Pon interview

Friday, June 29th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"I act as the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary in all matters concerning our workforce, the development, retention, and recruitment of our workforce."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 06/30/2007
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Human Capital Management; Strategic Thinking; Missions and Programs ...
Human Capital Management; Strategic Thinking; Missions and Programs
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Full Radio Interview Transcript

Dr. Jeff Pon
Chief Human Capital Officer
Department of Energy

Originally Broadcast Saturday, June 30, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.

You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. This is Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

The U.S. Department of Energy has a rich and diverse history, with the lineage tracing back to the Manhattan Project. Today, DOE stands at the forefront of helping this nation meet its energy, scientific, environmental, and national security goal of developing and deploying new energy technologies and reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources.

The success of such a critical mission rests on DOE's pursuit of an effective workforce strategy.

With us this morning to discuss the Department of Energy's strategic human capital efforts is Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Good morning, Jeff.

Dr. Pon: Good morning, Albert.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Good morning, Solly.

Mr. Thomas: Good morning, Al, and good morning, Jeff.

Dr. Pon: Good morning, Solly.

Mr. Morales: Jeff, let's start off by learning more about your department. Many of our listeners are generally familiar with the U.S. Department of Energy. But can you give us an overview of the history and the mission of the Department?

Dr. Pon: Absolutely. It's probably one of the richest histories in our nation. As you take a look at the Department of Energy, I'd like to hearken it back to the three isms. We've combated three isms: one, fascism, Manhattan Project yielding the atomic bomb ending World War II; communism, the Cold War era, where we had to basically give a lot of resources to the nuclear complex to combat the rise and fall of the former U.S.S.R; and now terrorism. We're developing bomb technology, different types of detection technology. We are tasked as a mission for non-nuclear proliferation across the world, and we also maintain the nuclear stockpile.

Those are three great missions that the U.S. Department of Energy has had in its history. But truth be known about this, as I was prepping for this interview, many people always hearken back to the Manhattan Project and Oppenheimer and how he built the team with contractors.

But I had this factoid actually run across my desk. On August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein actually wrote President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about research in developing a powerful bomb, and that Einstein noted that Germans had stopped the sales of uranium, and German physicists were engaging in uranium research. That was probably one of the pivotal points where a scientist actually interacted with one of our chiefs of state. And I think from that interaction kind of grew a lot of the notion of a patriotic scientist.

Mr. Morales: Well, Jeff, that's certainly a very rich history and a very broad mission that you've described for the Department. To help give us a sense of scale, could you tell us how the Department is organized? Can you tell us a little bit about the size, the budget? You referenced the mix between federal employees and contractors. And also, can you describe the geographic footprint of the Department?

Dr. Pon: Sure, absolutely. Well, first, I forgot to mention that in 1977, President Carter actually formalized the Department of Energy, and our first Energy Secretary was Jim Schlesinger. About 200 employees actually took over Building 5 at DoD, which is now known as the Forrestal Building.

But in 1977, we kind of came together kind of like DHS. I sometimes describe the Energy Department as being a myriad of different types of agencies. Those agencies were the Federal Energy Administration, Energy Research and Development Administration, Federal Power Commissions. We run Bonneville Power Administration, which has a lot of different dams, utilities, transmission lines all the way from the Columbia River system, Washington, Oregon, and also California, and it runs the gamut. So we do a lot of different things and a lot of different missions.

Really, I think it's important to note that the Department Of Energy's footprint is a domestic agenda. We have about 14,000 federal people across the whole entire complex. We run 27 national laboratories, some of which you probably know of: Lawrence Berkeley, Sandia National Laboratories, Argonne, Fermi, too many to list in this conversation. But we pride ourselves as being on the forefront of scientific discovery. Where else in the whole entire world can you actually claim that you work for an organization that's trying to discover the meaning of the universe, mapping the human genome, making little stars at the NIF program? NIF stands for National Ignition Facility, where we actually fuse materials together to create different types of materials.

One of my first experiences as a person that was growing up in the Bay Area was actually taking a tour at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. And it was so inspirational, after 20-30 years growing up in the Bay Area and going over Interstate 280 and looking at, very quickly, on Sand Hill Road, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, that big two-mile stretch that goes right underneath 280, and actually knowing that you're a part of that complex and knowing that you're a part of a rich history of science and technology, 85 Nobel laureates that are associated with our DOE complex. That's just something that I take great pride in representing. And I hope that we're great stewards of the future of scientists and technologists in the Department of Energy.

Mr. Morales: Absolutely fascinating.

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, now that you've provided us with the scope of the Department, and certainly a very fascinating description of the Department, could you tell us more about your specific role? What are your responsibilities and duties as Energy's Chief Human Capital Officer? And could you tell us about the areas under your purview, how your office is organized, the size of your staff, as well as the budget?

Dr. Pon: Solly, I'll address that in a couple of different ways. I'll give you the standard one, which is the CHCO Act, or the Chief Human Capital Officers Act of 2002. We're supposed to be the principal advisors to the head of the agencies. I do act as the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary in all matters concerning our workforce, the development, retention, and recruitment of our workforce.

But moreover, I think in the private sector, you have this thing called "duties as assigned." That's very much emphasized here. We're not only working as human resources people, but really as strategic business partners to our most-senior leadership here. We're in a business model. We run a $24 billion business. We're the largest funder of the physical sciences, so we have a large responsibility to do what's critical for workforce planning in alignment with the mission. That is my primary mission and goal, to make sure that we have the right talent at the right time at the right place.

Mr. Thomas: And regarding those responsibilities and duties, what are the most significant challenges that you face in your position, and how have you addressed these challenges?

Dr. Pon: My responsibility is to make sure that each and every one of our managers has the right information to make some critical decisions. We make sure while we are recruiting, selecting, and retaining people that our workforce strategies are effective, in alignment with our priorities as an organization.

If you take a look at the history of DOE, one of the chief challenges that we have is working together. Each and every one of our sites has a rich history, has their Nobel Prize winners. These different types of confluences around our whole entire complex makes it very difficult to align to a whole entire strategic mission and be one Energy Department.

But when you come down to it, I think if you were to explain the Department of Energy, we're really in the business of managing science, technology for energy security, national security, and American competitiveness in an environmentally responsible way. That's a huge portfolio.

I asked the Secretary of Energy, are we a one company, one corporation, with a leadership philosophy that's integrated across our organization, where the golden mean or the bar is set at a certain level and everybody follows it, or are we a holding company with 24 or 27 different LLCs? He answered it by saying, "I believe that we are the latter, but striving to be the former."

And that's my job here, it's to make sure that we're aligning people practices, financial practices with the CFO acquisition practices, because at the end of the day, if you're talking about functional things, and I know that The Business of Government program has not only human capital officers on but CFO, COOs, and other different types, the bottom line is making sure your organization effectively is managed across the organization. So that's what we're trying to do.

And in my office, we're tasked with doing some pretty interesting things that aren't just human resources-related, but human capital-related. running in human resources, too.

Mr. Morales: Well, I do want to get into some of the details of how you do keep the trains running in such a complex organization. But I'd like to learn a little bit more about you first, Jeff.

You referenced the private sector, and you're relatively new to the government, so I'm curious. Can you tell us a little bit about your private sector career and what brought you to the federal government?

Dr. Pon: Sure. I came here to the federal government as a Presidential appointee this time. I came here to serve this country and give back. That's one of the more important things that myself and my family wanted to do. It's really unplugged from the private sector. My wife and I were working in some great companies. I ran a couple of companies then at the time. I was experienced in doing a large-scale change at a big technology company, a Fortune 250 company, repositioning them, going from 57 general ledgers to three.

So is that human capital? I would say it is because it has to do with the management of human resources and how people make decisions.

Mr. Morales: Jeff, that's obviously a very broad background, so I'm curious. How have those experiences shaped your current leadership style and how you manage today?

Dr. Pon: I think I'm blessed to having this job come here, because it's really at the intersection of where my sweet spot is. I'm an industrial organizational psychologist, an organizational change management expert.

And I take a look at the government as being the most challenging organization, the most important company to run -- 1.8 billion people. So I take a look at the complexity of our human resources function here in the federal government, and I take a look at it as an opportunity to improve an existing working system, and taking the evolutionary approach of doing things in the government that's very meaningful for managers.

Some of the policies and personnel procedures that we have were designed in the 1940s and '50s, and continue to be managed and run that way. We have certain market pressures that we face as a federal government, and we're addressing those things in a concerted effort. So what brings me here is really a sense of challenge. It's really to make sure that it's a collaborative -- as the President says -- citizen-centered, market-driven, results-oriented government. And I think that's what the taxpayer expects. They want to make sure that the federal government is working in an effective and efficient manner.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

So what is the Department of Energy's human resource strategy? We will ask Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Jeff, let's take a moment to discuss the President's Management Agenda, or the PMA. The Department of Energy continues to maintain its Green status in human capital management under the PMA. Could you elaborate on your efforts in getting to Green? What challenges did DOE have in overcoming its own internal workings to get to this level? And what does the Department need to do to sustain the status going forward?

Dr. Pon: Just to qualify, I've been at the Department of Energy for about 14, 15 months. We were Green when I entered; hopefully it'll stay that way. So that was largely with my partner over there, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer, Claudia Cross, and the staff that she built.

The areas that we've achieved to get to Green is making sure that we have a strategic plan for the whole entire organization -- a five-year strategic human capital plan that's integrated across our whole entire organization. It's making sure that we're closing the gaps in mission critical occupations, in IT, in program management, in project management, HR. There's a lot of different good work that has been done in the last five years, six years, in getting us to Green. And I think we're going to maintain that if we do our work in making sure that performance management is central to that.

One of the key challenges in getting to Green and staying Green is not just being Green. It's really related to how do we operate our business? And I think that's the core essence of the President's Management Agenda. And that has been one of the highlights in his presidency, and hopefully, the work will continue in its institutionalized form with the scorecards, and many of the practices that come from a President that is an MBA. I think it's very important to understand what we're trying to do here in human capital in the Department of Energy. We're making sure that our human capital processes are in support of the program mission.

We're getting back into the nuclear energy business. We're making sure that there's a global nuclear energy partnership, making sure that as our science and technology people that average the age of 50 in our complex, while they're going out, we have knowledge management and learning development-type of strategies. Those are what's important to me and captured in our scorecard.

It helps keep transparency and accountability across our whole entire organization, but bottom-line is, are you doing the right thing? I'm going to be emphasizing really a lot of alignment between performance accountability -- we've aligned our mission goals all the way down to the individual, so each individual knows their individual role and responsibility to the mission.

That's a large accomplishment in and of itself, but now we have to really justify how we keep track of the "what do you do" and "how do you do it." So "what do you do" is the accomplishments, but "how do you do it" is just as important, which is a cultural element of it.

So I think we're one of the leaders in the government in trying to change the culture and operationalizing the culture through the human capital plan, and through what work we do with the Office of Personnel Management and OMB. And as a result, it's not just about checking the boxes. We want to make sure that these priorities are meaningful so that we have the right people, right place, right time. We're training and developing the best of the best, because we are the best of the best, and we want to remain that way as a nation in this global competitive environment.

Mr. Morales: So it's really about institutionalizing the changes that you set forth in your strategy.

You referenced the strategy, and you talked about its linkage to the mission of the Department. Jeff, I was hoping you could elaborate a little bit more on that. Can you give us perhaps a more-detailed overview of the DOE's human capital strategy, and some examples of how you're aligning that with the mission goals of the larger department?

Dr. Pon: Sure, absolutely. Actually, the President and Secretary of Energy have 10 priorities, one of which is the strategic management of human capital. That was a great surprise to me, a great endorsement of what the Secretary actually believes where human capital should play. It's at the mission level of the Department. Why is it so important to do that? It's because human capital is something that has to be on the forefront of the conversation as opposed to human resources, as in the transactional nature of those things.

I would think that the strategic management of human capital is a wide brush of how we do things in the Department in terms of what do we find important in terms of knowledge skills, abilities, and experiences of our employees, but moreover, from there, you can actually define your recruitment strategies, hiring strategies, your development strategy and retention strategies. Sometimes I go into other organizations and talk this language in the private sector -- the make, rent, or buy type of strategy.

Well, many of us in the government don't really talk that way. Well, you make, which is develop people; you want to rent contractors, or you want to buy, which is recruiting people from outside the government or outside other agencies in doing that. That is central to running an effective organization, and the strategic plan actually reflects that: where are the hiring priorities, where are the development priorities, and actually managing it as one organization.

Our organization has many silos within -- you have power marketing administrations, utilities, you have the national Nuclear Security Administration dealing with national security, the nuclear complex, and then you have the different types of technologies dealing with renewable energy. That's a wide portfolio, and the different types of people that we're recruiting can be different types of strategies. So we're rolling all that up and actually saying hey, there are many different ways of engaging with these strategies, but here are our priorities.

As a chief human capital officer and the principal advisor to the Secretary, he expects me to understand how we're pulling that all together, how we are recruiting for the next generation of our scientists, technologists, or anything like that. We're integrating these internship programs, so we have one face to the public.

We're going to be developing a web that actually integrates all of the different internship programs, and we're going to on a voluntary basis profile a lot of our candidates so that we can place them directly on a goodness-of-fit type of way in matching the candidate pool with the jobs that we have across our whole entire department, as opposed to the public going on one site, different site, different manager and all those things. And that's one example of what we're trying to do that's operationalized in our strategic plan.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. Jeff, we understand that you are establishing a Human Capital Coalition. Would you give us a sense of the new and innovative human capital management activities that this group will be developing for DOE?

Dr. Pon: Absolutely. This is a little bit different than what is known in our complex called functional accountability. Human Capital Coalition preceded the notion of functional accountability. Human Capital Coalition is a coalition of human resources professionals across our whole entire department, and also the administrative officers that actually interact with the organization. It is a very important key aspect of how do you run an organization through governance.

The Human Capital Coalition, what it's done is it's formed the relationship basis of teeing up what the human capital needs are -- requirements -- what types of things we're doing about it -- initiatives -- and how we programmatically track these things.

I think it's a really good way of establishing a governance that's not really in the law. It's actually volunteering to get on a conference call and say what are we doing about integrating internships? What are we doing to develop people or prevent cyber security-type of breaches? Those types of things, we address in this Human Capital Coalition. And it's much better to I think run an organization where the ideas come from the why perspective as opposed to just the top-down.

The policy stick is something that I know is within the purview of the Human Capital Office, but at the same time, when I first came to government, my approach was to make sure we identify what everybody is doing, what we should all be going towards -- so specifications, standards in the IT world, and policy is what we have to do all of the time. So by establishing that type of governance, I get to explore the ideas, explore the current practices, and identify some of the practices and best-in-class practices, and actually address some of the issues that we have across the complex with my partners.

We do not have dotted-line or cross-line type of relationships if you're talking about the personnel world. But we are forming these dotted-line types of relationships informally to get the job done. And that's what matters the most, getting the job done.

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, you had talked a little earlier about the functional accountability initiative, and let's talk a little bit more about it in detail. I understand that the initiative's in place as a way of improving the financial, human capital, IT, and some other operational functions. Why don't you describe to our listeners a little bit more about this initiative, and also perhaps how it looks to enhance oversight and accountability?

Dr. Pon: I think it was really important for the Secretary to initiate this activity across the organization. We in the Department are working towards being much more integrated. In the areas of functional accountability, we have HR, or human capital, as I call it, general counsel, information technology, or the CIO office, the financial organization, and also the procurement organization. We have dotted-line relationships now across the Department based upon the Secretary's delegation of certain types of authorities. There are seven authorities.

It's concurrence with existing management to establish positions, including grade level or appointment type; concurrence on new hires -- of the head of the site office in HR, for instance; concurrence on making sure that the workforce shaping authorities like VSIPs or voluntary early retirement and VERAs -- that's the VERA part, but the VSIPs, the voluntary separation incentive package -- are concurred on. Moreover, there are a lot of different authorities that the Secretary actually granted us, like active participation in employee development performance standards for the people that are "dotted line" to us now.

Why is that all important? Well, the whole entire motivation from my point of view on this was making sure that we as chief information or human capital people had knowledge, knew what the budgets were, knew people, time, and resources, what the efforts are, and really take a look at it as a whole and manage it.

And that's a very, very tough thing to do in any organization, whether private of public. It's really taking a look at matricizing an organization. So on the one hand, you have the people that have the direct line of authority in the programs, and they have a human capital person actually working for them. But it's actually given me input in on what their performance goals are, who they are, how we're selecting and developing the whole entire function of human capital. So that has been a monumental thing for this Secretary, and for a lot of our functional heads, to tackle.

As one of our site managers said in implementing this -- he said to me, "Jeff, you know, this is all good. We want to make sure that we're working together as one, branding the Department of Energy as one so we have the same entrée as a NASA is to the public than Department of Energy is to the public right now." However, the biggest challenge that we have is change. And what he said -- going back to what he said was, "Jeff, we're all for this stuff, but we're so good at not changing."

And that's what we're trying to do here. It's not just about dotted-line relationships. It's really about coordinating how we run the Department of Energy.

The last responsibility or authority that the Secretary gave of note is active participation in what's called our corporate performance review. I don't know if any other agency does this, but what we do internally is all of the Assistant Secretaries and the Under Secretaries and the functional managers such as myself actually get into a room on a day-to-day basis for about three or four weeks and review each and every one of our budgets. So it's a shared knowledge of here's what I am doing, here's what you're doing, where's the overlap, where are the priorities in preparing a budget? As a part of this process, guess what? Human capital is now on the crosscut basis, so I get to understand what everybody is spending in people development. That's unheard of. It's usually buried in somebody's budget and they're doing X, Y, and Z, and the people from headquarters, the bad old headquarters, never know about it.

But this is a way in which we're working together as an organization to pulling the whole entire organization in a much more effective way. Efficiency will come, but the effectiveness of our organization in decision-making is happening not only at the top, but actually at the field managers level, and also our contractor environment. I'm really delighted working for Secretary Bodman, because it's so easy for me to, as a person formerly from the private sector, to understand what he's doing.

He's trying to make sure that we have a consistency across our organization in our management practices, in our execution, holding people accountable. And I get to be a champion of that. It's so important to understand that the Department of Energy is not just about the deliverables and goals that we have in our Energy Policy Act of 2005, it's really how do we do it, how do we coordinate science and technology.

If you take a look at one of the major challenges as a nation, it is how do we as a government improve the life cycle development of technologies? Because in a global competitiveness perspective, we've gone through manufacturing, we've gone through agriculture; we've been leaders in that. But really the engine of the nation has to be science and technology. And as a principal sponsor for the physical sciences, we play a vital role. So we have the basic science of R&D looking out 10, 15, 20 years, and taking a look at the fabrication of those things has been a missing link within the government.

It's really understanding where we are in terms of proof of concept and demonstrating of the principles. But there is a large gap between how do we get that to the commercial sector and where we are in terms of fabrication in the tooling, in the manufacturing capability, of that type of technology. So that's one of the things that we're trying to concentrate on. It's really managing the portfolio of different things. And I'll give you one short example of this. I've mentioned that we have four of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

Why? Well, it's because of the multidisciplinary focus of our laboratories that is needed to accelerate the growth of technology. Why is that important? Well, Human Genome Project. Could you imagine the processing that it takes on a DNA level that we need to have in modeling these things? It wasn't available five, ten years ago. And with the computer science, and also biological and organic chemistry-type of science that's coming out of our labs, they're actually working together in cross-functional, cross-disciplinary teams, and accelerating the pace of science and technology.

Not many people know about that. And that's so exciting to be at the forefront of scientific discovery and technology, but at the same time understanding what the Department of Energy's role is. You can't just focus on basic science. You have to make sure that the sciences are being promulgated across the commercial sector. And we play a very important role in working together with our private sector partners in developing certain initiatives such as the corn ethanol or cellulosic ethanol, such as nuclear power plants, certain things like that.

Government is not going to be getting into the business of building nuclear power plants, but many of the private sector will. And we need to encourage the bedrock of how the foundational aspects of getting into that type of businesses is.

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, prior to assuming your current role, you served as the Office of Personnel Management's e-Government Deputy Director, and in that role, leading the government-wide effort to implement the five e-Government initiatives as well as the HR -- the Human Resources Line of Business. Could you elaborate on Energy's plans to transition to an HR Line of Business, and other government initiatives that relate to human resources?

Dr. Pon: The Human Resources Line of Business is a very, very important effort across the government. It really is having to do with what is the business of HR. It's really defining what the business is, what the different types of services HR provides, how do we keep track of this performance, what's the information that we track, and what's the technology.

But aside from that, it's really taking a look at the shape of HR and what we do now. I would say that as a characterization of human resources across the federal government, we're still in the age of doing a lot of transactional administrative work. We're still chasing the paper. And HRLOB along with the e-Government initiatives is really taking a look at how do we go from a paper-based human resources function to a digital function. And I think that's a very important aspect, because it's the on-demand data that you have that I don't have right now.

If you talk about what's happening in the private sector or even some parts in our government, the ready use of data is so important to making critical timely decisions. It's a matter of -- when you talk about a report being generated from your official personnel files, it takes months and months to roll all that information up and ship it to Office of Personnel Management, and they'll take a couple of months to decipher it and issue a official report. But in this digital age, you should have access to all of that information, gathering that information and synthesizing it. Technology offers that to us.

And the Human Resources Line of Business is really taking a look at some core functions of human resources such as personnel processing, such as time and attendance, certain things like that, and taking a look at how better to out-task that assignment -- and I'll be very careful with these words, because they've been such hotbed issues for this whole entire -- you know, people say, oh, you're going to outsource HR. No, we're out-tasking certain things that we all do, and some agencies do it better.

E-payroll is an example. As a government, we had 26 separate payroll systems, now we have four. Economies of scale actually speak to that. You don't really change too many things in terms of personnel processing or even payroll for that aspect. So certain organizations have been tasked with that; same with the Human Resources Line of Business. We are trying to make sure we know what are the core transactional things, and get the agencies out of that business, get them out of the business of transactional administration, and get them into the more strategic role.

Mr. Morales: So it's really focusing on the high-value-added activities?

Dr. Pon: Absolutely.

Mr. Morales: Great.

How is Energy managing its blended workforce?

We will ask Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also joining us on our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Jeff, workforce planning is vital in helping your leadership draw a clear picture of the nature of the current and future human resource decisions. Could you describe your efforts to enhance and institutionalize workforce planning within DOE? And to what extent does DOE's technical qualification program assist in these efforts?

Dr. Pon: Well, workforce planning is central to human capital management, first of all. It's a contract between the programmatic manager and human resources. With a workforce plan, you actually have a forecast and model on what their priorities are, who they're going to be recruiting, what their next 100 hires are going to be, who they're developing. Those are things that are so important to our organization in identifying, and each and every manager needs to have that.

I'm sitting down with each and every one of our Assistant Secretaries and going through their workforce plans. I expect them to actually understand what is their workforce, what is it composed of, where does it need to be in one, three, and five years, and how are we going to be closing the gap through that make, rent or buy type of strategy, which is how do we recruit them, how do we develop them, how do we supplement them from a contractor workforce perspective.

So that's a very important aspect of our human capital strategy; it's effective workforce plans and how we roll those things up and integrate that into our strategic workforce planning process. In terms of the DOE technical qualifications program, obviously, human capital, one thing that we aren't experts in is in the technical aspects of our technical workforce. I mean, we have nuclear engineers, physicists, tooling and manufacturing-type of vocations. We can't know it all, so what these forms do, actually, they set certain types of criteria or standards, maybe towards certifications, just like we've done in our contracting workforce and in our programmatic workforce.

So there are a lot of more certifications coming out of that, but then it really balances out the understanding of what it is that you do from a technical aspect, what it is that you do from a leadership perspective and a management perspective. And that is really the competency profile that we have as the Department of Energy, and we operationalize that through our competency management approach. We're not there yet, but we're developing that and pulling it all together. These last several years, it's been the effort to pulling it all together so that everybody's at the table in deciding what is a corporate model for the competency management and workforce planning.

Mr. Morales: Jeff, along similar lines, you described earlier for us the composition or the mix between contractors and federal employees at the Department of Energy. Could you tell us how federal managers can effectively manage this ever-increasing blended workforce composed of the two, and what are some of the key differences intrinsic to these two core groups of federal employees and contractors?

Dr. Pon: That's one of the chief challenges that I have here in the Department. I view my role as not just caring for the federal workforce; it's really taking a look at our whole entire workforce. Probably one of the more unique organizations in its profile, because 90 percent of our workforce are contractors, and our contractors work on some engineering feats that are simply amazing, like the National Ignition Facility, where fusion technology is happening; Stanford Linear Accelerator; the International Hadron Colliders.

A lot of these things are engineering marvels and feats, but what's important to understand is where does our workforce need to have its greatest talent and what are we doing about it? My approach to this is making sure that the knitting is done for the federal workforce first, so we have our strategic plan. We have our workforce, integrated workforce plan as a whole entire organization. I'm making that public to our contractors, because there are certain things that the Department of Energy is not very well-equipped on doing.

Nuclear engineers -- for instance, out of college, they're getting offers, 10 to 15 offers for about $100,000 to $120,000, and as you know on our GS or general schedule, we can pay a college grad at the General Schedule 7, Step 10, about $46,000 to $47,000. There's a huge disparity on that. I realize, as an effective manager, that I can't compete on a compensation basis, but our contractors can. So when we identify that skills gap, hopefully they're doing something about it.

So we're mapping out for our workforce plan for each and every one of our sites. So as people ebb and flow on the federal workforce or on the contracting workforce, the institutionalization of the process of workforce planning will be something that is comprehensive across our organization.

That's what we're doing in managing a multi-sector workforce. I think many government agencies will have that challenge as we go from a smaller workforce, larger workforce, contractor expertise or not. Federal government really does have a vested interest on understanding and working with their contractor workforce, too, because at the end of the day, there's only a certain amount of scientists, technology, engineering and mathematicians around the world.

Mr. Morales: Great. It sounds like you're driving a certain level of collaboration also with your contractor community.

Dr. Pon: Absolutely. To within the laws of the FAR, but making sure that we're voluntarily giving them information and telling them that it's not "you must do" in their contract, but it's here's what we're doing, does it make sense for you to participate in on these things on a voluntary basis? And quite frankly, from a strategic point of view, they understand the importance of participating in on this cross-collaboration and being effective competitors within their own fields, too.

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, staying on the theme of competing for talent, can you talk a little bit about what changes you're making to the recruitment process at Energy, and on the same wave, does the agency use flexible compensation strategies to attract and retain quality employees?

Dr. Pon: Solly, I think we're doing everything we can within the law from exercising the three Rs, and really taking a look at how we manage the workforce is a very difficult thing when you have certain types of capabilities within your own HR organization. I'll be frank; we don't do enough in recruiting as a government. I know that there's job fairs that we go to from time to time, but I take a look at the private sector and who we're directly competing with. One technology organization that has about 13,000 people has a workforce of 400 recruiters working in that one part of their business.

In my part of my business, I can count my recruiters on 10 fingers, so just from a number standpoint, we are encumbered upon how much resource we have in doing recruiting, active recruiting. We should be taking a look at our perspectives on that, but what we're doing about it, despite the resource challenge that we have, is really taking a look at a long-term perspective. And many, I guess, administrations really don't focus on the 10-year-type thing, but we have to as a nation in my role.

We're looking at high schools and colleges. We sponsored the National Science Bowl that just concluded. While we do direct recruiting, and post our jobs on the website, we're going with the Department of Labor and Education, along with the Department of Energy, with this thing called the American Competitiveness Initiative, and it's really reinvesting in our education structure, in our key markets in our labor force, and also in science and technology. And we're making concerted efforts and working together towards recruiting, enabling scholarships, grants to internships, to federal service or contractor organizations.

We have internship programs that come and go. But what we're trying to do right now is really wire the process where we're getting them excited about science and technology, taking the pre-algebra, algebra, because if they don't, it's over already. And really encouraging them to take internships in our complex, whether it's in our contractor workforce or on our federal side, and mapping out where they want to go and keeping them there, because I can't sell them on the dollars associated with it.

Sure you're compensated in a fair and equitable way in the federal government, but just taking a look at our science mission and taking a look at the importance of our mission as a nation -- you take a look at what's happening in the Generation Y or millennials, they are not there to hop from job to job to job. They're really trying to take a grasp of what can I do, and how can I have continuity, how can I make a meaningful contribution in this nation?

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, I'd like you to talk a little bit about the Department of Energy's learning management system. Maybe you could talk a little about how it enables Energy to more closely link training to competencies and also to employees' career plans. And on a related note, what plans does Energy have to develop an enterprise e-learning strategy as a way of shifting from a classroom-based to a more technology-enabled learning environment?

Dr. Pon: We have a long ways to go here. I used to be the e-training acting project manager. I was tasked with implementing learning management systems across the federal government. Here at the Department of Energy, we have a very good learning management system that is more on the forefront of integrating a lot of the point solutions that we have. So you can't really talk about learning management solutions without the content, without the competency management type of tools, which invariably are separate. And I think the software space right now is trying to integrate that.

And the companies that I think are doing very well are the organizations that conceptually get it, understanding that competency management is the basis of identifying your skill sets. And having that gap actually linked to your recruitment and assessment tools, linked towards your development and training things: IDPs, individual development planning. And the companies that I think will survive and be the leaders in this space will be the organizations that actually integrate a lot of the point solutions that we all love but are poorly integrated right now.

So in the Department of Energy, we have these tools, but we have a challenge in integrating these things. We come from a very strong training instructor-led type of culture, so either you're training or you're working, as opposed to a blended learning where you can take a class and then actually study on your own, an asynchronous type of learning, e-learning, or even just the e-learning type of courses with the different types of libraries and resources.

Now, in this day, it's what version do you want it in, you know? How many different citations do you have to have? So the way in which we're trying to adapt to technology is very much a bifurcated strategy, because we have on the one hand an exiting population that is used to doing certain things a certain way, and at the same time, you have an on-demand type of generation that expect nothing but the best graphics, the best type of simulation and interactiveness, or else you lose their attention. So there is a big challenge between balancing the two, but we're doing both, and blending those, and making sure that the options are there. But the challenge is the utilization of a learning management system, and using that as an effective strategy for cost avoidance and the learning experience.

Mr. Morales: Jeff, we spent a fair amount of time talking about the workforce within the Department. I want to transition a little bit now to the leadership portion of the organization. What are some of the efforts at DOE to ensure continuity of leadership through succession planning and executive development?

Dr. Pon: I like to define my terms first. Succession planning is something different than what I was accustomed to -- when you talk about succession planning on a best practice basis, you hearken to the GE Session C-type of models or different things like that where you put your high performance people and your high potential people on a 2x2 grid. And you might have nine different squares and see what you do with the northeast quadrant, which we all know about, and the bottom quadrant, which is a really easy thing to do, too. But it's the middle part that you need to figure out what to do with.

In the federal government, I don't know of many agencies that actually do really succession planning. We do replacement charting. If Bob leaves, who are we going to replace him with? And that's what we're doing. We have replacement charting, a comprehensive plan to make sure that we know who's going to be coming in and coming out while the changes of administration happen, where's your career staff that's going to be the bedrock and foundation for the next one, three, five years?

It's impressive to know that the Deputy Secretary of Energy wants to ensure that the career people are solid and intact, and he prides himself in making sure that those critical decisions are made on a consistent basis. He chairs our Executive Resources Board, and we make sure that we're identifying the future leaders so that the Department of Energy actually has some continuity going forward.

That's a very important aspect of taking a long-term view of management and succession. Our government does not identify leaders across. That's what the SCS was designed for first. We don't rotate across very readily or anything like that. So we need to do a better job at that.

We're doing a lot, but we're not doing enough.

Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the Department of Energy's human capital efforts?

We will ask Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also joining us in our conversation is Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

Jeff, given the evolution of global energy markets, how do you envision DOE's human capital needs evolving in, say, the next three or five years? And how do you envision your human resources office will need to evolve to support this change?

Dr. Pon: I think our challenge is to get out of transactional administration and go towards more strategic. It's really working with the businesses directly. Instead of just processing the blue paper or the 52s and the 50s -- that's HRspeak for the process paper -- we really need to get in front of that, which is taking a look at what is the mission of an organization; how are they meeting the challenges of the next one, three, five years; what are their areas of growth or decline; how are you going to identify the right vocations within that skill set in the next one, three, and five years. That should all be teed up by a human capital professional.

How are we going to be identifying that from a workforce planning standpoint, and what are the resources that we have? It makes it much clearer as a role to serve as opposed to processing the paper on who just came onboard; how are we recruiting; did you position classify. It's the operations elements. That's our bread and butter right now. Hopefully, our bread and butter will be a business partner that identifies how do you design an organization; what are your chief strategies for your learning, your recruitment and your retention?

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, you chair the Subcommittee on Human Resources Workforce of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council. Can you tell us a bit about the Subcommittee role and responsibilities as well as its initiatives underway to address the federal workforce challenges?

Dr. Pon: As the Subcommittee chair, it's an interesting group to chair, because human resources people working on human resources people is really the Subcommittee, so it's like the consultant taking the consultant's advice. We try to make sure we identify what is currently available in terms of competencies. OPM, Office of Personnel Management, had all of the agencies actually take a competency assessment across agencies, so we really know what's there right now, but really, it's how do you get to the strategic role; what is the competency of the future? And we're identifying that with the Office of Personnel Management. And then we're going to be migrating our whole entire population to that plan.

It's identifying what skills they don't have right now, and making sure that there is a road map for getting them there, or hiring people to supplement that. So that's really the big thrust of the Human Capital Workforce Subcommittee. We're also doing innovative efforts such as inviting public and private people that are of note to share best practices with. We're taking field trips to some of our local private industry counterparts that are really deep into human resources information technology that actually have automated systems, so we know when we get to the other side, this is how it's going to look, and it's not going to be all sugar and honey; it's warts and all, and this is what they had to do.

So there's a logical progression to getting us to a human capital type of skill, and I think we have a long ways to go, but we're making sure that we know what the best practices are. So we're setting the bar, we know where we are, and we're coming up with the strategies to close the gaps.

Mr. Thomas: Jeff, you're a previous recipient of the Federal 100 Award, which goes to individuals who've made a difference in government technology in any given year.

First of all, congratulations on receiving such a significant award.

But given such a perspective, could you tell us what emerging technologies you see that hold the most promise for improving the federal management of human resources?

Dr. Pon: I think before we get into a digital economy for HR, we really need to know what it is that we're trying to answer; why do we want to do things? I always ask the first question, why do you do the things that you do to my managers, and they go through their programmatic accomplishments -- I went to this meeting, had this conversation. I said but why do you do that? And the question on why do you want to utilize technology in human resources is pretty simple. It's we need to be much more effective in delivering the data so we have knowledge. Knowledge to behave, behave to perform and have the performance, quite simply. And that's what technology does.

In our generation, I think what's different about any other generation that has preceded us are two things: one is the way in which we work as teams; and technology. And those are the two enablers that have shaped the way in which we work right now. For the federal government to be slow on adapting technologies creates completely complex systems. If you take a look at the proliferation of technology, as a government, we actually bought on the personal computer basis, then the LANs, the local area networks, and then the WANs, and so on, and so forth, and we collected all those things up. And guess what, it didn't all connect together. Surprisingly so. Why? It's because it was locally brought up.

Same with human resources. A lot of our practices were brought up in a localized environment, and what we're trying to do is come up with standardization in all those things, and at the same time institute technology. Technology can be an enabler for standardizing these different types of practices, so there is employee self-service, management self-service, and reporting self-service. It's frustrating as a citizen when you can't look up your tax returns for the last seven or eight or nine years, but they're working on that. You can actually file your taxes now to the IRS via e-mail. Wouldn't it be nice if we could actually submit our resumes online?

Yes, we can now. So we've made some pretty significant strides in adapting towards technology, but we're at the tip of the iceberg in terms of how we utilize technology in the management of human capital.

Mr. Morales: Jeff, you've obviously had a very successful career within the public service, and you have a tremendous amount of passion for the job that you have over at DOE. I'm curious, what advice would you give to a person who perhaps is thinking about a career in public service?

Dr. Pon: I came here to serve the federal government, and I think for my career counterparts, there's no higher calling than serving as a civil servant. We sometimes recognize the good men and women of our military, but from a management standpoint, from the bread and butter of how our government works, the Executive branch civil service is where it all meets. And I think it's an honor to work with our career civil service people, and encourage at every single conversation that I have with our young people that federal service is not something that should be considered; it should be something that you do in your life.

I encourage the young people to make sure that they're not only on the job market, but they're citizens. To be a citizen of the United States -- in my family history, it's being a citizen of choice. We came to this nation generations back, but it's just like every other story that we hear. We come here in search of hope, of liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I think there's no other higher calling than actually serving that institution for some time in your lifetime. Maybe as a whole entire career, maybe as two or three years, but that's the draw there.

You're doing good for the rest of your whole entire citizenship, and that's something -- at times, a very -- gulp in the back of your throat and saying, gosh, I'm glad I'm serving my time here in that capacity and giving back as opposed to -- you know, I love building companies and certain things like that. But this has been such a delight to give back to the federal government.

Mr. Morales: Jeff, that's just a wonderful perspective. Thank you.

Unfortunately, we have reached the top of our hour, so we've run out of time.

I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule today, but more importantly, Solly and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country at the Department of Energy.

Dr. Pon: Albert, thank you so much. And Solly, thank you for the questions, too.

I appreciate the time that you've spent with me in discussing some of the important efforts in the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy is a vast and broad organization that can't really be covered in one hour, but I would encourage some of your listeners to really take a look at the Department of Energy's website, www.doe.gov. It talks about the rich history, about the interactions of Enrico Fermi, of Oppenheimer, of Einstein, of our 85 Nobel Prize winners, and how they've actually combated the three things that I talked about -- the three isms -- the communism, the fascism, and terrorism right now.

There's no more important issue that we have in energy security, national security and also American competitiveness, and I'm glad to serve at the pleasure of the President and the Secretary and this nation, as a taxpayer and also as a civil servant.

Mr. Morales: Great. Thank you very much.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Dr. Jeff Pon, Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

My co-host has been Solly Thomas, associate partner in IBM's human capital practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales.

Thank you for listening.

This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

Douglas J. Bourgeois interview

Friday, April 6th, 2007 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"We have the opportunity to set the gold standard for service in the federal government due to the unique nature of our business model and the services that we offer: proven solutions that have withstood the test and scrutiny of time and competition."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 04/07/2007
Intro text: 
Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Organizational Transformation...
Financial Management; Leadership; Collaboration: Networks and Partnerships; Strategic Thinking; Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Organizational Transformation
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast Saturday, December 2, 2006

Washington, D.C.

Mr. Morales: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Doug Bourgeois, Director of the National Business Center at the Department of the Interior.

Good morning, Doug.

Mr. Bourgeois: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Steve Watson, partner in IBM's financial management practice.

Good morning, Steve.

Mr. Watson: Good morning, Al; and Doug, thanks for joining us.

Mr. Bourgeois: Thank you for having me.

Mr. Morales: Doug, let's find out a little bit more about the Department of Interior's National Business Center. But first, to provide a better overall context, would you give us a general sense of the history and mission of your parent organization, the Department of the Interior?

Mr. Bourgeois: Certainly. The Department of the Interior was formed on March 3, 1849 to be responsible for the nation's internal affairs. And as such, it's the nation's principal conservation agency. And its mission is to conserve and protect America's natural resources and cultural heritage. Also offers recreational opportunities for Americans. It also has a responsibility to honor our trust responsibilities to American-Indians and Alaska natives as well as Pacific Island communities, and conduct scientific research and conserve and protect fish and wildlife.

And so it is a composite of eight separate organizations that we call bureaus that carry out the broad mission. Those eight bureaus are the Bureau of Indian Affairs, The National Park Service, The Bureau of Reclamation, Minerals Management Service, The U.S. Geological Survey, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Bureau of Land Management, and The Office of Surface Mining.

Now, the National Business Center is really not part of either of those eight, it's part of the Office of the Secretary or the Department, and we support all eight in providing the services that we offer.

Mr. Morales: Along those lines, can you tell us a little bit more the specific mission and the scope of the National Business Center, and tell us a little bit about when it was created and how it does support the overall mission of the Department of the Interior?

Mr. Bourgeois: The National Business Center was officially formed about six years ago. Unofficially, I think the NBC grew organically through a period of about of 30 years, where various services and types that we offered were brought together slowly but deliberately over a period of time. It kind of culminated six years ago with the formal document that established the National Business Center.

Our mission is to provide general administrative, financial, and other business services and systems for the Department of the Interior and to other federal agencies. And the Department recognized that by providing specific functional services, NBC could deliver those services more efficiently, more effectively and more economically than they could do it for themselves.

The scope more specifically is like financial services where we provide technology hosting, user-support, you know, accounting operations, those types of support for our customers. And generally this support would be provided around or using what's called an ERP software suite, of which we support many.

Another service area is HR services, where we provide payroll and HR services through similar types of services that I described, hosting user-support and HR operations to process transactions for about 300,000 civilian employees in the federal government. We also support acquisition services. We also provide IT services, which is generally managing technical infrastructure, integration, providing disaster recovery and other IT support for our customers.

We offer training services through the DOI University. We also offer appraisal services, where we are the single entity for appraisal policy for the Department of the Interior. And we also do the same for aviation services, where we are the aviation policy organization for the Department of the Interior. And we also administer aviation programs, particularly the aviation safety and mishap prevention program, which has been quite successful over the last 30 years.

And then finally, administrative operation services, a very broad mission, much like the Department itself, but these services are extensive, and we've got a long and strong history of providing superior customer services in these areas.

Mr. Watson: Doug, that's a large array of services that NBC provides. Can you tell us a little bit about how NBC is organized to carry out those services, something about size of your budget, number of employees?

Mr. Bourgeois: Yes, as is implied by the question, the complexity of the services and the broad scope drives the organization's structure. And first, there's my office. I provide executive leadership and strategic direction, interface to senior departmental and other government officials, and as well as working with senior client executives on particular matters relative to the services we offer.

And then there's an entity in my office called the Solutions Coordination office, which is a program management office which helps manage those initiatives which might involve technology, but generally cross multiple service lines. So for example, an HR service line, a financial management and an IT service line; if we have one project that crosses all three, that would be managed out of the solutions coordination office to help us kind of traverse the traditional functional boundaries and challenges that you would generally see in that kind of an initiative.

We have an organization unit we call a directorate, which pretty much maps to each of our major service areas. We have a budget and finance directorate which is responsible for the financial management services I described. We have the federal personnel payroll systems and service directorate, which is an organizational unit that provides the HR line of business services. We have an acquisition services directorate which is focused on the inter-agency contracting; an IT directorate which obviously provides the IT and technology-based services.

We have the strategic management of human capital directorate, of which the DOI University is a part, and that provides the training and employee development services. We have an administrative operations directorate focused on the facilities management, the drug and alcohol testing, and other administrative services. We have the appraisal services directorate, which obviously does the appraisals, and aviation management.

So the directorates span virtually the entire United States with physical presence in more than 20 states, major headquarters areas in the D.C. area and in Denver, respectively, where roughly 40 percent of our staff would be in each of those locations. So we are about 80 percent in total between Denver and D.C. and then the rest in the other 18 states that we operate in.

Our budget is driven completely by this level of service that our customers ask us to provide to them. Our budget this year is estimated to be around $310-$320 million. We currently have about 1,200 federal employees, and about 600 contractors that we use to deploy all these services and meet the needs of our customers.

Mr. Watson: Doug, that's a sizeable organization, as we've discussed here. What are your specific responsibilities and duties as the director of this organization?

Mr. Bourgeois: It's my responsibility to support the Administration and the Secretary's programs, policies, and priorities, so that's the top of my list. I am also responsible for successfully managing the execution of our various programs and services, and make sure that we meet the needs of our customers.

And of course, the two areas where we are responsible for the Departmental policy, aviation and appraisal, that carries a somewhat unique responsibility for me to ensure that these policies are in the best interest of the Department and are consistent with government-wide policies and other Department policies as necessary. I see my job as to develop and execute a business model within the federal government that competes with the private sector for quality and efficiency of service while still adhering to all of the applicable federal laws, regulations, and rules.

Mr. Watson: Doug, I do want to get into your thoughts around the business model as you say, but I do want to set a little context about your career, because you do have an interesting background in terms of your career path going back to the private sector. Can you describe for us a little bit about your career path, and tell us what you've learned in those various roles, and how you're applying that today?

Mr. Bourgeois: Well, I have a Bachelor's of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering, which I got from Cal. Poly University out in California. And I spent a few years in California and in Arizona working as an aeronautical engineer.

When I was working as an engineer, my job was really to write software, software that predicted the performance of aircraft engines at various conditions, altitudes, and things of that nature. And I really was compelled and interested in the software side of it. Due to some of the ups and downs of the aircraft aviation business as well as my desire, and I felt like I could manage in the organization as well, I decided for career purposes it would be good to go get an MBA degree. So after a few years as an engineer, I decided to go to Tulane University in New Orleans, where I earned an MBA in finance. And from there, I was picked up by FedEx. I had a variety of positions there over a seven-year period, but most recently when I left FedEx, I was managing director of customer service technology, with responsibility for the 1-800-Go-FedEx telephone network, and all the technologies used, either automated or software applications used by the customer service representatives that answer the phone when you call that number.

My career at FedEx traversed a lot of responsibilities, but I was able to grow and to be a product of their culture and their management approach and philosophy, which I still bring with me today.

And then interestingly enough, somewhere around 2001, I just decided that for family purposes, I wanted to move to the D.C. area, and it just so happened, my father being career military, mentioned to me something called the SES, Senior Executive Service. I did some research on the OPM website and found a really neat listing right at that time, which was for the CIO at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. And I'd always had an interest in intellectual property, and next thing you know, I was CIO at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where I helped to migrate the patent process to an online environment, which is I think a really nice accomplishment for that program, and I think for the overall technology industry in the United States.

And so I'm very proud of the accomplishments that we achieved there. And then I've been the director at the NBC for the last two years. And it really seems like the place that I have been trained and prepared to be.

Mr. Morales: What is the National Business Center's business strategy? We will ask Doug Bourgeois, Director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Doug Bourgeois, Director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior.

Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Watson, partner in IBM's financial management practice.

Doug, momentum has been building in the federal government to align many of the government's administrative functions within designed shared service providers in several lines of businesses. Could you define for us the concept of shared services and lines of business, and explain the purpose of adopting a shared services model?

Also, can you describe the relationship between being a recognized shared service center and an OMB-designated center of excellence?

Mr. Bourgeois: I think the President's Management Agenda, which obviously has been around five or six years now, really kind of exemplifies and summarizes the purpose of shared services. And the President's Management Agenda strives for a government that's citizen-centered, not bureaucracy-centered. So that's an important overarching principle there. Results-oriented and market-based, which obviously has significant relevance for the National Business Center and the services we offer. And for being efficient and effective, which is basically our underlying mission and part of our value proposition.

So a Shared Services Center is simply an organization that provides services to multiple other organizations, could be in the federal government but not necessarily -- and allows them though to share -- them being our customers, to share the core resources and investment capital. And so where you have fixed investment, that core cost is spread over a larger and larger customer base, if you're successful, bringing the unit cost or the cost per unit of output down. So that is part of the value proposition.

So what we offer, though -- what the shared services center offers our customers is a more efficient approach than a do-it-yourself alternative because of what I described as economies of scale. Now, a line of business is also part of the discussion in shared services. But what a line of business is, it's a way of structuring the market based on common administrative functions throughout the federal government, so an example would be a financial management line of business, a human resources line of business, a grants management line of business.

Now, each line of business being a segment of the market includes one or more shared services centers that are competitively selected to be able to provide services in that line of business or in that market. And so shared service centers are selected through competition that's coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget to become qualified and eventually selected to provide those services within the particular line of business.

And then finally, I think the last concept here is the center of excellence. So a center of excellence is simply a shared services center that goes through the competitive process and is selected to provide services in a line of business. So the two concepts, Shared Services Center and Center of Excellence, are kind of becoming interchangeable, and that's where some of the confusion comes in.

Mr. Morales: Doug, I think you've done a good job of sort of clarifying those terms. You talked about human resource and financial management, and I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit more on those two particular, which are NBC's core lines of business, which are also designated as centers of excellence. Can you tell us a little bit about the range of services provided under each of these LOBs, and what are the benefits specifically to your clients?

Mr. Bourgeois: In both, we generally provide technology hosting, user support, and some sort of operations support for our customers. Where things differ is in the financial management side, for example, where it's heavily ERP-driven in terms of the software type. And that would include like core financial software like the General Ledger as well as like travel interfaces and procurement systems to be interfaced, and other general administrative-type modules.

So it's kind of a product-centric, if you will, service offering. In the HR side, it's really core as its foundation is payroll, but then surrounding that are other related HR services like staffing recruitment and bringing people onboard, employee labor relations support, performance management, benefits administration, those kinds of things, which generally are driven more so by a combination of custom-developed applications and perhaps some other software modules that come into the mix there.

So again, our service offerings are quite similar but they are delivered in very different solutions, and even a different approach to supporting those solutions given the unique characteristics of them.

The business benefits and value proposition: client agencies really have the opportunity to eliminate redundant systems and resources when they migrate over to the use of the National Business Center. And it results in some savings for their agencies, which they can potentially reduce their budget or plow that back into their core program, their core mission program, and it provides them with other opportunities.

We also offer the expertise. I mean, we maintain a high level of expert resources that possess specialized functional knowledge and federal knowledge in HR and in payroll and in the general ledger and the federal government and those kinds of requirements that ensure that we provide high quality services for our clients. We also offer the opportunity to reduce risks. Our customers avoid the risk of having to build these kind of solutions themselves, because we've already got them and we have a lot of experience implementing them. When they choose to come over to the National Business Center, they gain our expertise in migration and data migration and data cleansing and support, as well as the functional knowledge and expertise, which is a significant risk reduction strategy for them.

And then finally, we offer them focus. Our customers all have the opportunity to better focus on their core missions -- when they come to us for these administrative services, they are better able to focus on their core missions, whatever it may be, and kind of leaving us to wrestle with the day-to-day operational matters in these administrative areas.

Mr. Watson: Doug, upfront you identified a lot of lines of business at the National Business Center, and it sounds like two of them, human resources and financial management, are centers of excellence. Is there a goal to move the other lines of business services you provide to become centers of excellence? And if so, what's your timetable for doing that?

Mr. Bourgeois: One of our strategic objectives is to evolve each of our service offering areas that I described, each of the eight, to become a center of excellence. We identified three critical success factors that are necessary for the successful operation as a center of excellence. And those include customer service excellence, quality products and services, and efficient and economical operations. And so that's our NBC definition, if you will, that any operating unit or line of business, when they achieve those three things and demonstrate those three things, in our view, they have achieved the center of excellence objectives.

And in the area of customer service, for example, we are in the process of establishing a world-class call center capability. And we're also working on and delivering service-level agreements to track our objectives and to measure those objectives, and to demonstrate to our customers that we're providing the level of service that we committed to provide. We are pursuing an ISO registration through a quality program across the NBC at this time.

And then second, in quality, we're also continuing to evolve what's called our control environments, and that's the set of policies, practices, tools and requirements that we use to ensure that there's no fraud, waste, or abuse going on in our environment, but also to make sure that we are most efficiently and effectively utilizing the resources available to us. And we consider compliance in general to be part of our quality concept, so we're pursuing that as well, and it's necessary these days because of the federal requirements to comply with A-123 and these other technical requirements in the financial environment. And since we operate in a financial, core financial services environment through the financial management line of business, it's even more so important that we are focused and dedicated to those objectives.

And then finally, efficient and economic operations. We have three things going on there. One is activity-based cost management. We have a human capital initiative, which is basically competency-based certification. We're just taking that concept and applying it across our multiple service lines.

And finally, integration, and I'm not talking about technical integration here. We think it's critical to providing efficient and economical operations to operate as an integrated entity. We have many customers that are utilizing more than one service line, more than one line of business. We need to continue to evolve our operating environments so it's one NBC culture, through branding, through our service-delivery, problem-resolution, so that we actually are integrated in our interfaces with our customers.

And so that's it in a nutshell, those main initiatives that we're working on to continuously improve our customer service environment.

Mr. Watson: Doug, I want to you talk a minute about franchise funds. Franchise funds have the ability to retain a portion of its fees derived from the provision of services and then to reinvest those funds for future needs. Could you tell us if the NBC is part of the Department of Interior's franchise fund known as the Interior Franchise Fund, and if so, how does having this designation benefit the NBC strategy?

Mr. Bourgeois: The Franchise Fund is a key tenet of our overall business strategy, and the reason is, about two years ago, when I came into the NBC and we started working on our strategic direction, we learned that there were some financially based constraints that were kind of hindering our ability to both provide the highest quality services but also to evolve and grow the service. And in an environment of economy of scale, obviously, the more customers, the more units you produce, the lower the unit cost. So it's important to continue to grow and evolve over time. So we considered some of the franchise fund-related issues or lack of a franchise fund as a key strategic barrier to our overall success.

And the franchise fund is a very useful management tool that permits agencies to function in a businesslike manner, and it includes the ability to maintain reasonable operating reserves, for example, for unknown, unplanned business situations. So there really is a need to maintain an operating reserve, but also has the ability to retain up to four percent of total annual income for the acquisition of capital equipment and financial management improvements, for example.

Operating in a competitive service-for-fee environment without the franchise fund put the NBC at a disadvantage because there was no provision for operating reserves, there was limited ability to invest in capital equipment upgrades and expansion, and an even less ability to invest in new service offerings. And so those constraints are able to be overcome when you operate in a franchise fund environment.

Currently, only about one half of one of our lines of business is operating in the franchise fund today, and that's the part that was previously the GovWorks Acquisition Center that was recently realigned into the National Business Center recently, about a year ago.

We are working with the Department to develop a kind of transition plan that would essentially migrate some more of our services into the franchise fund over time. It's more efficient because we are able to operate in a single standardized accounting and financial environment across the NBC, as you might expect now with some of our business in the franchise fund and some in the more traditional working capital fund; in fact, the majority in the working capital fund.

It's also more effective because of a single standardized control environment across the NBC. And in the federal government, control environments can be quite comprehensive, as I mentioned, when we're doing payroll and pay disbursements of nearly around $13 billion a year, and we have $2 billion a year going through our financial management systems, we have a very heavy set of comprehensive controls in place.

And so when you operate in the working capital fund and in the franchise fund, there's some differences in those control environments. It lowers the cost of maintaining our infrastructure through economies of scale, but also provides us with an infrastructure investment strategy that we can continue to evolve and lifecycle manage that infrastructure, which is an infrastructure investment strategy.

And then finally, it allows us to avoid a cost bubble of investments for our customers, because our customers really want a smooth cost curve. So the franchise fund gives you the opportunity to set aside reserves gradually over time, and when you've accumulated enough, invest it in that new service or that technical upgrade, so it helps our customers in that respect as well.

Mr. Morales: Doug, can you tell us about the DoI's Financial and Business Management System initiative? Specifically, what is NBC's role in its implementation, and does NBC plan to leverage this system, which I understand is a functionally-driven SAP solution, as an offering to your clients?

Mr. Bourgeois: We operate and we support Oracle Federal Financials and CGI-AMS' Momentum product, and with the FBMS, we are implementing SAP. And so it expands those options for our customers.

And one of the things that is a key element of our financial management strategy is product agnosticity, where we're not necessarily biased in those product areas, and so we're not just, by supporting one or the other, you know, totally committed to that one.

But with the Department of the Interior, FBMS, this is our expansion into an SAP-based service. So as I mentioned, expansion and growth is good for our overall business model, so we're very interested and involved in trying to do what we can to help support the Department in that implementation.

Our role specifically is hosting the technology and the solution so we have it in our data center and we support it and make sure that it's operating efficiently and effectively. We also support the technical software itself in what's called Application Management Service, which helps us keep it up to speed with upgrades and patches.

We also offer helpdesk services, so we interface with the manufacturer, SAP, or other technical support organizations to get the problem fixed. And then finally, we're operating and maintaining the entire solution for Interior.

Our plan for an FBMS-based offering is that we are planning to offer SAP-based solutions to federal agencies outside DoI, again to leverage the economy of scale. As you might expect, there's a significant financial investment that the Department is making in implementing in that tool. We don't have a specific timeline that's been established for that because we are completely focused on bringing up the Department of the Interior and implementing the best helpdesk capability that we can. The DoI plan is going to roll that out gradually over the next five or six years.

And so somewhere between now, where we are now, and then, we will have had enough experience and enough success supporting the Department of the Interior to begin to springboard off of that and offer it for non-Interior clients. It's just too early at this point in time to divulge the specific expansion plan, but we definitely have that in our business planning timeline horizon.

Mr. Morales: Great. What are some of NBC's key operational innovations and priorities for fiscal year '07?

We will ask Doug Bourgeois, Director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Doug Bourgeois, director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior.

Also joining us in our conversation is Steve Watson, partner in IBM's financial management practice.

Doug, the NBC operates in a changing and increasingly competitive environment. And your competition includes both the government and the private sector organizations. Can you tell us a little bit about what sets NBC apart from its competitors, and perhaps what some of your priorities are for this fiscal year?

Mr. Bourgeois: Love to. First, the NBC takes our mission responsibilities very seriously. I mean, we are constantly pursuing the delivery of high quality products and services that meet the needs of our customers in the most economical manner possible. Now that said, there are a few things that set us apart from our competitors. We have a private-sector-like dedication to customer service, which is not traditional in the federal government.

But also, the breadth of services presents a unique outsourcing opportunity. We have some of our clients that are generally smaller in nature now, but I can see this as a tremendous opportunity for the future, that come to us and basically say I want everything. I want to focus my organization on our core mission, and I want to outsource to you financial management, HR, and all contracting, all administrative services.

Mr. Morales: Entire back offices.

Mr. Bourgeois: And so we have -- exactly -- the ability to provide now, to deliver the entire back office service area for our clients. In addition, we have proven solutions that have withstood the test and scrutiny of time and competition. And so our solutions are proven and they are effective. And we have a highly effective and efficient private-sector partnership model that we have deployed to ensure we are meeting those two objectives, of the most efficient and the most effective services possible.

And we have demonstrated the ability to deliver value for our customers. In payroll, in the fiscal year that just finished '06, we lowered unit costs in payroll 6-1/2 percent that year. Productivity -- using the payroll example and taking it further, in the last 15 years or so, payroll costs adjusted for inflation declined by 30 percent, while functionality in our payroll systems and services increased by 80 percent.

Services -- in payroll -- we successfully met all 17 service level agreement commitments in payroll in that fiscal year that just completed. And flexibility -- while still leveraging common solutions and core infrastructure, we do implement unique requirements for our customers, and therefore are able to balance their need to support things that are actually unique to their organization, but also deliver on the value of economies of scale. We need to achieve a one NBC culture, as I mentioned, and we need to integrate into one integrated service offering in one culture. And so that's a major initiative for us.

Second is to become customercentric, where the customer is core of everything that we do in terms of migrating to the enterprise customer support environment and the SLAs that I mentioned previously. Expanding our HR services is a major priority for us this year. We are supporting and completing the delivery of HSPD-12 services with the recent government mandate, as well as implementing core infrastructure for integrated secure on-boarding and off-boarding of staff that's going to build on the HSPD-12 service over time.

And then finally, as a major priority, improving the capabilities of our management team, using some of the tools and techniques that I learned while at FedEx, pilot a competency-based certification program, and demonstrating progress on our employee survey, where we develop senior management action plans within each line of business. So all of those things coming together are our main priorities, I think, for the coming year.

Mr. Watson: Doug, you've talked a lot about the customercentric approach that NBC takes. Can you tell us a little bit about your Customer Executive Advisory Board, and how that fits in with your customercentric approach?

Mr. Bourgeois: I can. The Customer Executive Advisory Board was an innovation that we implemented about six or seven months ago. We're looking at how we coordinate and communicate with our customers in the delivery of the services that we operate, because it's a very operational environment, there's a lot of day-to-day changes that occur, and so we've built a comprehensive approach to establishing and maintaining that coordination with our customers.

And the Customer Executive Advisory Board is the strategic level, it's the senior executive from our customer groups that we bring in to this group that addresses the strategic direction and priorities of each of our customers, looks for commonalities, and then applies them to our priorities so that we're staying in tune with the strategic needs of our customers and we don't lose touch with that. And it also is getting more and more involved in setting kind of collaborative spending levels and priorities, as I mentioned.

Mr. Morales: Doug, many organizations have recognized a need to move towards integrating its business infrastructure by establishing a flexible and agile environment. Can you describe to us how is the NBC building an adaptive and a flexible service delivery infrastructure, and what's the role of service-oriented architecture or SOA in making this happen?

Mr. Bourgeois: One of our major objectives is to integrate our overall service offering into being an integrated organization, and deliver those services to our customers in an integrated fashion. So we're in the process of building a flexible and agile service delivery infrastructure through the SOA. So we're in the process of modernizing our IT infrastructure and our business processes to make them SOA-enabled. For example, I referred to an HSPD-12 initiative. In the area of HSPD-12, which is about user identification and authentication and credentials in terms of the identity and the management of that identity for each individual, it allows us to use our payroll systems, for example, to identify and enter changes in the status of an individual, and through the SOA, it will trigger notification to multiple other systems that need to know about that automatically so that we can disable their access to certain physical locations, or we can do other things.

We have the ability to use an SOA to seamlessly and automatically trigger downstream processes, including the classified background investigation if that needs to be kicked off as well. And so we're better able to traverse the more functional silos in an automated fashion through our SOA. So it's a major way that we're pursuing the overall integration of our business life.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What does the future hold for the National Business Center? We will ask Doug Bourgeois, Director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Doug Bourgeois, director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior.

Also joining me in our conversation is Steve Watson, partner in IBM's Financial management practice.

Doug, what are some of the major opportunities and challenges the NBC will encounter in the future, and how do you envision NBC changing over the next 5 to 10 years?

Mr. Bourgeois: Well, the opportunities that we have in front of us are significant. We have the opportunity to set the gold standard for service in the federal government due to the unique nature of our business model and the services that we offer. We have the opportunity to demonstrate the proactive modern use of HR practices in the federal government, which is a cultural change in itself, but it is an opportunity that we face.

And we also need to create more momentum, or add to the momentum for the effectiveness and efficiency of shared services. I think I've used examples predominantly on the efficiency side, but the effectiveness side also is even more so important, and we have the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of our services and help others to see through the visibility and transparency of that through our service level agreements.

And then just the continued growth through integrated, seamless, value-added services, and continuing to break down those functional silos and barriers, not only as we do it in our organization, there's a multiplier effect, because all of our customers get the benefit. So if we're successful in doing that, all of our civilian and federal clients also get benefits from that. On the challenge side I think, you know, we are in a competitive world, and competition with both federal and private sector shared services centers is a challenge for us, and it requires us to continually sharpen our pencils and stay sharp in what we're doing.

The migration to the DOI-FBMS financial management system that we discussed previously is also a challenge for us. But it's a challenge for us from the perspective of operating our business, and using that tool from an administrative standpoint is a big change for us from our legacy system to the new FBMS. And we need to stay on top of that migration; otherwise, there could be business impacts that may affect our customers. So we have to stay diligent on that.

The increasing numbers of workforce that are becoming eligible to retire; we need to stay on top of it by continuing to bring in folks that are qualified and skilled at all levels, and also have career ladder and growth opportunities for them to stay with us over time. And of course, the culture that resists change; the culture and the natural tendency to resist change is a challenge that we have to overcome.

Mr. Watson: Doug, we've learned during this hour that NBC provides a wide and diverse range of services. Could you elaborate on the NBC initiatives to ensure it has the right staff and skill-mix to provide all these services? Specifically I've heard about your four-point people strategy. Could you talk a bit about that?

Mr. Bourgeois: Absolutely. This is based on the approach that FedEx takes to managing its workforce and managing people. First and foremost is listening to our employees. We implemented that within the NBC two years ago, an annual employee survey, followed up by focus group sessions where we talk to the staff to better clarify what they told us, develop action plans, and link those plans to the performance plans of our management team so that they pay attention throughout the year. Second point on our four-point people strategy is workforce management -- is, you know, in our partnership model, utilizing the best mix of federal employees and contractors in an efficient manner so that we are leveraging highly specialized, sometimes technical skills of the private sector in a smart way, because those generally are more expensive, but they're still absolutely needed and necessary and an important part of our overall service area and business model.

But also using the federal employees in the most effective manner and in appropriate roles, where generally, it takes a lot of number of years and federal experience in order to gain some of these expertise, particularly in things like the federal general ledger and then the payroll requirements and other things like that.

In any year, we might have a fluctuation of plus or minus 20 percent in some particular service area. If we're deploying 100 percent federal employees at the maximum estimated volume, if we have a downturn of 10 percent, we've got 10 percent of employees that they're not really fully utilized.

So we need to maintain that level and have some flexibility through contractor resources to be able to plus up or minus for any particular business fluctuation and volume that we have. We also are working on our management competencies. We have implemented a program through a manager's competency model to work towards the continued evolution and growth of our management team, and also to infuse some private sector practices, and to merge the best of federal and the best of private sector terms of how they operate and how they manage.

The fourth point in certification is really where we have specialized skill needs, to make sure that we have and leverage objectives, certification-based approaches to continually ensuring we have the best skills, and that are staying current and that we are supplying our customers in that way.

Mr. Morales: Doug, you've had a highly successful career, and you successfully bridged the migration from the private to the public sector. I'm curious what advice might you give to a person who would be considering a career in public service, and possibly interested in joining the NBC?

Mr. Bourgeois: My first piece of advice is that, you know, the federal career can be extremely rewarding. And there are so many opportunities and challenges within federal programs.

And for anyone who has a mission orientation that they want to or need to really identify with the work that they do, there are so many really powerful and important missions across the federal government that you'll find something that really aligns with what your interests are in that way. The career opportunities are there for those who have aspirations. I mean, for those who perform and can produce results, there's an evolving trend of focus on results in the federal government.

I would also encourage folks who are considering careers in government at any level to talk to others, both government employees and folks in the private sector that provide services to the government, to ask them what it's like, to learn a little bit more about the culture and some of the processes and things. I think that would be beneficial before you make the leap. But then finally, I do think in terms of your personal characteristics, you have to have thick skin and you have to be persistent. In a nutshell, I'd say that culture can kill you. So if you have thick skin and you're persistent, you can work within the culture and be successful, and there is plenty of rewards in it for you.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. That's great advice, Doug.

Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. And so that will have to be our last question. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule today, but more importantly, Steve and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country in your role at the Patent Office and now at the NBC.

Mr. Bourgeois: Thank you very much. It's been my pleasure to be here. I appreciate you having me here to share my thoughts in these areas. For those of you listening, if you have an interest in looking at NBC services, you can go to www.nbc.gov, and there's plenty of information there on our website that describes our services and how you can access them.

Mr. Morales: Fantastic. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Doug Bourgeois, director of the National Business Center within the Department of the Interior. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation. Once again, that's www.businessofgovernment.org.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

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