Dec 31 2009

December 2005: From the Editor

Management consultant King Whitney Jr. delivered a message meant to inspire a sales team 40 years ago that still resonates today.

"Change has considerable psychological impact on the human mind," Whitney noted. "To the fearful, it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better."

Whitney bore the burden of leadership, which requires motivating one's staff to push forward—even when the course seems unclear. Numerous program directors throughout the federal government unwittingly heed those same encouraging words on a daily basis.

Unlike any workforce in the nation, federal employees understand the unkind necessities of change. Every federal agency must cater to the changing needs of its customers, new laws and reinterpretations of existing ones, as well as ensuring that the rights of its customers—American citizens, families and veterans—are fairly, efficaciously and compassionately administered.

Sometimes change means making adjustments. In "Project Up In Flames?" Joseph J. Zucchero outlines the symptoms of a project in trouble. Turn to p. 66 for a set of best practices for getting a wayward project back on track.

Several agencies, such as Social Security Administration and General Services Administration, provide top-notch employee benefits that outscore the private sector in terms of quality. Samuel Greengard provides insights on these programs in "Perk Package Makeover" on p. 19.

One way to test whether goals are being met is to ask the customer. On p. 40, "Survey Says," Wylie Wong explains how the U.S. Mint, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies utilize surveys to better understand what they're doing right and wrong.

But surveys only go so far. As a result of the war in Iraq, the VA will serve more veterans who require ongoing health care. Technology plays a crucial role in improving service levels and ensuring that our nation meets the unique needs of our veterans. On p. 45, "On Call," Wong describes how telehealth services may help improve ambulatory care for veterans who can't travel to VA health centers.

The VA is an agency that hits close to home for me. My father was a Marine and served three tours in Vietnam. After the war, my father came home injured, lost and needing my mother to head our household. She then began working with the VA and fearlessly created a career out of necessity, smarts and determination.

She may retire after 33 years of service with the VA next year. (Maybe not, though. As much as she looks forward to retirement, she gets great satisfaction from doing her duty.) I hold the organization and its mission in high regard because it has meant so much to my family and to a remarkable woman, my mother.

As Whitney noted, you'll find the fearful, the hopeful and the confident within the federal enterprise. Yet, regardless of which category civil servants occupy, you'll also discover the commitment to make things better. Thank you for letting Fed Tech share their stories.