Tag Archives: government

Do You Know Where Santa is Tonight?

December 24, 2009

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Santa

Santa Claus at Peterson Air Force Base

Christmas Eve is a day that holds a special place in many kids’ hearts – for some, it’s the presents, or the family and friends, or the music, or even the food – but for me, it’s always been about Santa Claus.  The almost magical feeling that overcame my cousins and I when we were little kids and we’d go to bed swearing that there was no way we’d ever fall asleep because we were so excited for Christmas morning. Setting out the milk and cookies for Santa, listening for the sounds of the reindeer on the roof of my grandparents house (we always stayed at my grandparents’ house Christmas Eve night) waking me up – it was all kind of surreal for me.  That’s a feeling that I’ll always hold close to my heart during the holiday season and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my kids too someday.

That’s also why this time of year is one of my favorite times to be a Booz Allen consultant too.  That’s because, for the last few years, we’ve had the privilege to have one of the most important jobs in the world – helping the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) track Santa Claus as he delivers presents to kids across the globe. For more than 50 years, NORAD has used the media and a special phone number to provide children worldwide with updates on Santa Claus’ location as he travels the globe on Christmas Eve.

It all started back in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, however, kids ended up calling NORAD’s Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.”  The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, realizing that kids were relying on him for quite possibly the most important information of the year, regularly checked the radar for Santa as he made his way around the world delivering presents.  All of the children who called were given updates on his location…and a 50 year old tradition was born.

Since then, NORAD has continued to track Santa’s annual flight, responding to children who call asking to find out where he is, what they’re getting for Christmas (sorry – the NORAD radars can’t tell if he has coal or presents in his sleigh), and when he’s coming to their house. NORAD, much like Santa himself, has also started to make better use of technology too.  In addition to being able to follow Santa using real-time Google Maps data, you can also join the more than 250,000 people who are friends with Santa on Facebook, get NORAD’s latest updates on Santa’s travels by following them Twitter, see where Santa has already been by looking at the photos of Santa on Flickr, and watch videos of his many visits around the world on YouTube.

This year, help make Christmas Eve become a magical time for your kids too and show them the NORAD Tracks Santa website.  Where’s Santa at now?

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Gov 2.0 Isn’t Achieved via Instruction Manual

December 19, 2009

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Over the last few weeks, I had an opportunity to speak with some of our nation’s finest, both domestic and abroad.  On December 3, I spoke to the members of the All Services Social Media Council and then on December 9, I spoke at the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Public Affairs Conference. From D.C. to Germany, these members of our military never failed to impress me with their dedication to their mission and their love of their country.

Not surprisingly, they also held a common interest in social media – what it means to them, what it means to their organizations, and how (and if) they might be able to use these tools. Everyone was looking for some sort of guidance that would answer these questions. Should they create a Facebook page? Should their Twitter page be a personal account or an organizational account? What blogging platform should they use and how often should they blog?

Coincidentally, the new Open Government Directive, thought by many to be THE document that will answer some of these questions and provide government agencies with the direction they’re craving, was released last week.  The Department of Defense is supposed to be releasing their social media policy in the next month or so.  Other agencies are following suit and issuing their own policies and guidelines.

However, these documents, no matter how many deadlines, milestones, and tactics are included in them, aren’t going to provide a manual for achieving the vision of Government 2.0. Open government isn’t something that’s going to be accomplished via a laundry list of actions that can be checkmarked away.  There isn’t going to be a point when your organization flips the final switch and says, “Ta-da!! Now we’re Government 2.0!!”

Sorry – it’s just not that simple.  Despite the benefits the Open Government Directive will bring, it’s just a start. Government 2.0 isn’t going to happen because you’ve gone through and checked all the boxes from the Open Government Directive.  You can make your datasets available.  You can publish all the open government plans you want.  You can establish working group upon working group.  All of those tactics are great first steps, but think longer term.  Think beyond the 120 day deadline in the Open Government Directive and try to imagine what your agency looks like in this new world of open government.

How will you instill this culture of collaboration, transparency, and participation internally, among your employees so that this is standard operating procedure?  Will openness and transparency be encouraged in new hire training?  Will there be some sort of punishment for those who continue to hoard information and close it off?  Will employees be rewarded for being more transparent?

Achieving Government 2.0 is going to require some serious change management that goes beyond any one Directive and hits at the heart of the organization’s people, processes, and technology.  This is going to be an ongoing process change and we’re still at the start of it.

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How to BE a Government Consultant and Use Social Media

October 28, 2009

90 Comments

Photo

As “Government 2.0” becomes more and more popular, especially here in the Washington area, there seem to be an increasing number of people calling themselves social media or “Gov 2.0” consultants. As such, I’ve also seen a small increase in the number of people who are only interested in hawking their wares because social media is the current buzzword and who will move on to the next buzzword as soon as social media loses its luster.  Now, consider this blog post a public service announcement for all you consultants and contractors out there (including all you Booz Allen guys too!) – I don’t want you to become the next Gov 2.0 carpetbagger.  

So here’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to let you in on the secret and tell you how you can BE a good consultant in this world and add value to the Gov 2.0 community (it’s not all that hard!):

  1. BE helpful – Always always try to provide some value. Read other people’s blog posts, wiki edits, forum questions, and tweets and help out if you can – even if it’s just sending a helpful link, providing a good point of contact, or giving a restaurant suggestion to someone in a different city. Not everything is a marketing opportunity – just try to be a helpful person whom others can rely on.  For the most part, everyone involved in Gov 2.0 is incredibly helpful to one another and we all want each other to succeed.  Those who aren’t stick out like sore thumbs.
  2. BE honest – If you don’t know something, say it. If you suddenly start promoting another organization’s wares, disclose that you have a relationship of some sort with them.  If you’re interested in conducting a marketing call, say that’s what you’re doing.  Nothing’s worse than thinking that you’re going to have a lunch with someone you met on Twitter and they lug in a PowerPoint presentation and start running their capabilities briefings.
  3. BE responsive – If someone emails you, email them back. If someone comments on your blog, comment back.  If you comment on someone else’s blog and they reply to you, continue in the conversation.  You have no idea how much people appreciate a simple, timely response to a question, until you deal with someone who isn’t.  Don’t be that guy.
  4. BE realistic – Don’t promise the world.  Don’t promise your client thousands of Twitter followers in two weeks.  Don’t say that social media is going to solve all their problems – it won’t.  Just because you’ve helped one organization use social media doesn’t mean that the next one is going to work the same way.  Each organization and each organization’s mission is different – their results in using social media will be too.
  5. BE around – Social media is all about openness and transparency and authenticity.  You have to take part in the conversation if you ever hope to influence it.  Don’t proclaim yourself a Twitter expert if you’ve been on Twitter for two weeks. Use the tools that you’re advocating your clients use.  Be active within the social media and Gov 2.0 communities, both online AND offline.  Go out and meet the people with whom you’re talking online.  Out of sight, out of mind – you have to be be around, both physically and virtually.
  6. BE passionate – Please please please, believe in what you’re selling.  Is Gov 2.0 what you do for your job or is it something you’re passionate about?  Don’t tell me – talk with me for about ten minutes and I’ll be able to tell right away.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a passionate person who cares deeply about my mission over someone with a slick Powerpoint presentation any day.
  7. BE authentic – Just be a human being, please? Talk like a human being, not a living, breathing, walking product or service offering pitch. Be able to have an entire conversation with someone and connect with them as a person.  Build a real relationship instead of a sales lead. It will be more valuable in the long run.
  8. Be knowledgeable – Know what you’re talking about and back it up. Don’t speak only in marketing-y consultant-ese. Get to know your companies strengths and weaknesses, and be honest about them.  Stay on top of current Gov 2.0 events and demonstrate your knowledge through consistent engagement.  Get to know the mission and unique processes and policies of the people you’re talking to.  Try to imagine the challenges that they’re dealing with and think about how you can help them overcome them.
  9. BE humble – You’re going to be wrong, and you’re going to mess up.  That’s just the nature of this business.  Admit your mistakes and move on.  Don’t blame someone else or make excuses – say you messed up and you’ll do better and if you’ve been all of these other things, people will forgive you.
  10. And lastly, but maybe most importantly, BE assertive – As Tom Webster points out in this fantastic post, I can tell you to BE all of these things, but unless you’ve got the internal support of your management, it’s going to be difficult to put these tips into action. Be assertive with your management team and make the business case  that there’s value in building and maintaining these human relationships instead of the traditional fire hose approach to marketing.

If you do these things, I promise you that you will BE a better consultant to the government…and BE a much more likable person too!

*Photo courtesy of Flickr user JavierPsilocybin

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Resilient and Engaged, DHS Charts a Path Forward

October 1, 2009

24 Comments

The following is a guest post by Tracy Johnson, a member of my team who specializes in developing outreach and communications strategies for clients enhanced by the integration of effective social media tactics.  Her citizen-centric view of government permeates her work and she never develops a plan without placing herself in the shoes of her client’s customer.  You can find Tracy on Twitter (@tjohns06), on Vimeo, and at Gov2.0 events around DC.

Today, I had the pleasure of participating in a Department of Homeland Security Blogger Round Table—an extension of the National Dialogue on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review occurring online right now.  The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) is a congressionally mandated review of homeland security.  The outcome of the review is a final report due to Congress by the end of this year and is intended to act as a guide for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the nation for the next four years.

Earlier this year, upon notice of the mandate, DHS did what most agencies do when tasked by Congress to produce a report—they formed a committee.  But this committee (actually, several committees, known as study groups) was not going to settle for government business as usual.  DHS is by nature a distributed and decentralized organization whose success depends upon the contributions of Federal, state and local governments, businesses, families, and individuals.  Understanding this dynamic, DHS teamed with the National Association of Public Administration to develop a collaborative platform to both recognize and leverage the interdependent relationships between the DHS and all its stakeholders.

Simplified sketch of the QHSR process

DHS QHSR process

How to contribute
What’s different about this approach is not only the inclusion of the public in the discussion, but also the iterative process that’s being undertaken.  The National Dialogue on the QSHR was split into three phases, each building on each other, to strategically develop goals, objectives and desired outcomes for DHS.

Phases of QHSR Dialogue

According to Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan Cohn (who moderated the round table discussion), the hope of this third and final phase of the National Dialogue on the QHSR is to validate the big picture.  DHS wants to know whether you think the outcomes defined thus far are appropriate given the goals and objectives.  Are the objectives touching on the critical elements of homeland security?  Is anything missing?  You can provide your answers to these questions and submit other ideas on the third dialogue now through October 4th.

What’s Next?
Secretary Napolitano suggests DHS is charting a path towards a more “ready and resilient nation.”  While the concept of being “ready” for future threats is becoming more tangible to the public through efforts such as Ready.gov, Citizen Corps, and Red Cross Ready Rating, the notion of being resilient leaves a lot of room for discussion.  The QHSR study groups have called for further definition of resiliency in the coming months and years, and I hope DHS continues to leverage all its stakeholders in the process to achieve that outcome as well as the many others outlined in the QHSR.

Kudos are certainly in order for the DHS for engaging with the public on this effort to-date, but the conversation cannot stop here.   Through this process, a community has been developed and needs to be cultivated.   Whether participants submitted an idea, rated an idea, or simply read the comments presented, they have formed an informal network of interested parties that should not be ignored once the QHSR is complete.

A feedback loop is necessary for ongoing engagement

DHS process, feedback

Real outcomes of the QHSR
DHS is not only charting a path forward to ensure the security of our homeland, but also is paving the way for other agencies and organizations.  With the widespread espousal of web collaboration tools, the government and its partners have the ability and responsibility to provide better customer service to taxpayers.  And better customer service starts with listening to your customers.  Thank you, DHS, for listening and engaging with your customers.  We, the taxpayers, are looking forward to the path ahead and expect to be included along the way.

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