One of those (great) days

Today, I went from a Federal Real Property Association (FRPA) breakfast to a project status meeting to an interview with a super fancy pants federal official to NextGov Prime…. without getting a single parking ticket. Yet.

It’s been one of those (great) days when the pace and swirling mix of ideas generates that much sought-after “things are happening” feeling. As I wait to hear Craig Newmark (craigslist founder) talk about innovation in government here at NextGov Prime, there is a buzz in the ballroom—and it’s more than the thousands of teeth chattering (I swear it's below zero in here).  While I think about how to submerge my fingertips into this cup of tea without getting dirty looks from my neighbors down the row, I’ll share a couple of things I’ve heard today that I think are worth noting:

  • GSA has a program called First Fridays promoting user-center design in IT. Who knew? Under Jonathan Rubin’s leadership, they support other agencies in their efforts to improve federal apps and programs through better design.  While that in and of itself is pretty cool, they also offer an observation deck of sorts. The opportunity is for intrigued but perhaps reluctant agencies who want to watch their federal peers subject themselves to rigorous user scrutiny and feedback before reviewing their own programs. The concept is totally awesome and I can think of a number of federal systems that would greatly benefit from a user-interface overhaul. 
  • Multi-agency contracts on the uptick according to Government Business Council research, Dana Grinshpan. In concept, agencies are supposed to benefit (saving time and money) by accessing a product or service through another agency’s contract.  In practice, however, it seems like the streamlined procurement appeal is often drowned out by overly complex processes and steep overhead costs tacked on by the owner-agency’s contracting office. At the same time, we know there is a push towards government shared services.  It seems to me that two things should come together.  The issuance and administration of these multi-award contracts should be gate through which any agency wanting to provide a shared service should have to pass before going through the expense of standing up the infrastructure needed to provide a shared service. 
  • I was reminded today of a little leadership truism. We all know it but sometimes get desperate and look for shortcuts that ultimately disrespect, disappoint, and disillusion the very people we're trying to compel to action.  That is:  As a leader who has to rely on convincing rather than command and control, there is no substitute for getting to know people- on their terms and their turf-- and appreciating what matters to them. Embracing this reality is the key to connecting, persuading (when needed), and driving greater impact within your organization and beyond.
  • Lastly, poor font choice makes you look old—more than wrinkles and white hair. Before you even start talking, your presentation's look can intrigue the audience or undermine any efforts to convince people that you have fresh ideas. There is absolutely no appropriate use of comic sans or lucida handwriting.  They should be eliminated from the dropdown list to protect the innocent from thinking that being 1990s cute is creative.

More tomorrow.