Tag Archives: social media

Open Government Directive Workshop Results in More Questions Than Answers…For Now

January 12, 2010

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Yesterday, I, along with 250 other people representing three dozen agencies, contractors, and non-profits, attended the second Open Government Directive workshop held at the Department of Transportation. The workshop featured 10 Ignite-style presentations (awesome) by federal employees engaged in some form of open government, followed by an unconference in the afternoon where all of the 250 attendees gathered to informally discuss everything from how GovLoop can help support the Open Government Directive (OGD) to how to look beyond the deadlines and implement a culture change within your agency.

From left to right: Giovanni Carnaroli, Gwynne Kostin, John Teeter, and Jim Rolfes speak at the Open Government Directive Workshop

I really enjoyed participating in this conference for a few reasons. First, it was led by the Department of Transportation, not by a commercial company or a non-profit. There are a lot of really good conferences, events, and seminars on Gov 2.0 held by commercial companies and non-profits, but when a conference on government is hosted and led by government, it takes on a different feel and usually results in greater sharing, trust, and relationships.  Secondly, I really enjoyed meeting all the new people who attended this event. The world of Gov 2.0 can sometimes feel like an echo chamber, but yesterday, I got an opportunity to talk for the first time with people like Josh Salmons with the Defense Information School, Neil Bonner from TSA, Dan Munz from GSA, and Giovanni Carnaroli from DOT. It was good to see so many new faces leading the panel sessions as it brought some new perspectives and some insight into the day-to-day challenges that our government is facing in implementing the OGD.

As I listened to the various speakers and discussion leaders, I was happy to hear the focus on culture change not compliance, on baking transparency and openness into processes vice making it an extra tasking, and on looking at the OGD as a floor, not a ceiling when talking about Open Government. However, there was little in the way of concrete steps for government agencies to follow to implement these things. We did a good job of shedding some light on the challenges of the OGD and discussed some possible solutions, but everyone is still trying to figure it out so there was a lot of, “that’s a great idea – we should totally do that” and not as much “here’s what we did and how it was successful.”

And I think that’s ok…for now. I’m really looking forward to future workshops where hopefully some of those ideas have turned into solutions that are shared and improved upon. Jacque Brown discussed some of these questions and challenges in a recent post and those were expanded upon yesterday:

  • Funding. The Open Government Directive didn’t come with any additional funding or resources – how does OMB expect the government to realistically fulfill these tasks and meet the deadlines without any additional funding?
  • Evaluation. How will OMB measure success? Do they take a “did they meet the deadline or not” approach or will they take a “journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” approach?
  • Clarification. Every agency is interpreting the deadlines and actions in the OGD differently – is there going to be a clearinghouse to determine what’s right or not? Will there be some sort of enforcement for what “meets the deadline” and what doesn’t?
  • Flexibility. For most agencies, the deadlines are completely unrealistic – getting legal approval on anything, much less a policy change, usually takes 45 days by itself. How will missed deadlines be handled?
  • Culture. Right now, agencies are wired to compete with one another, not collaborate – how do you incentivize that inter-agency collaboration and communication that’s so important to this effort?
  • Education. How do you take the focus off of just meeting the objectives in the OGD and take that next step toward creating that long-term process change?
  • Ownership. Who’s ultimately responsible for implementing the OGD? Is it the CIO? The CTO? The Chief, Public Affairs? A cross-functional team?

The good news is that this Open Government Directive Workshop was the second in a SERIES. The organizers told me yesterday that they’re hoping to have these workshops every six to eight weeks or so. I’ll be very interested in attending those future workshops and learning more about the solutions to these questions that received so much attention yesterday.

For more information on the Open Government Directive, here are some additional resources:

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I Started a Blog But No One Cared

January 8, 2010

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Image Courtesy of Flickr user cogdogblog

As many of you know, here at Booz Allen, we’ve got an internal suite of social media tools available on our Intranet – hello.bah.com. While it’s garnered a lot of publicity, won awards, and really changed the way we think about virtual collaboration here, I get asked this question and others like it (e.g., why isn’t anyone asking questions? How do I get people to read the blog? Why isn’t anyone editing the wiki pages?) at least once a week.

These aren’t trivial questions – people take the time to create a blog post or add content to a wiki because of the promise of emergent collaboration. They hear stories about people getting entire white papers written by people they don’t even know because it was posted to an open wiki; they see blog posts with dozens of comments that lead to new initiatives; they read forum threads dozens of pages long with input from people across the organization and they want to realize those benefits too. Against everything they’ve learned over the years, they post some content to this open and transparent platform with the hopes that people will flock to it, adding comments, having discussions, linking to additional resources, and interacting with their information. When that collaboration and interaction doesn’t happen, they quickly get turned off and will either A) assume they did something wrong and not go back or B) believe that they’ve been sold a lot of snake oil and this social media stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As you might imagine, neither of these conclusions bode well for the long-term health of a virtual community behind the firewall. So, what do I tell these folks when they ask me why no one is reading their forum posts, commenting on their blogs, or editing their wiki pages?  I start by sending them these eight bullets –

  • Write interesting content. You’d be surprised at some of the mind-numbingly boring stuff government consultants blog about. Realistically, out of the 20,000+ people at the firm, how many of them are really going to be interested in your jargon and acronym-filled blog post about the latest developments in IT Service Management? Write something that more than the 20 people on your team will be interested in if you’re looking to get greater engagement.
  • Email is still king. Despite all its successes to date, hello.bah.com isn’t a daily, in the workflow destination for most of our staff. They see the potential of it, and use it occasionally, but visiting the hello homepage to check out the latest blog posts and wiki changes isn’t exactly at the top of mind for most people yet. Post your blog entry, wiki content, forum thread, etc. and then send out an email with a link to it.
  • Cross-promote. Include the link to your content in your team newsletters, meeting agendas/minutes, email signatures, briefings, Yammer messages, and any other communications vehicles you use. Just because you’re the boss/team lead/project manager doesn’t mean people have automatically subscribed to everything you do and are waiting with bated breath for your next post. When our senior VP started blogging internally, we sent out a mass email with each post that included a link to the post, a short blurb on what it was about, and directions for how to subscribe for future posts. We did this for the first five posts or so until people were aware that the blog was out there.
  • The world doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t just post and then whine about people not commenting on your content. Ask yourself if you’ve gone out and commented on anyone else’s blogs. No? Then why are you surprised that no one is commenting on yours. Go find other posts and wiki pages related to your topic and engage there. Include links back to your content as “additional information you might find useful.”
  • Give people an action. Why are you posting in the first place? Do you want to get people’s opinions on some new initiative? Do you want cross-team collaboration on a white paper? Are you asking your team if they have questions about the new reorganization? Be clear about what you want from your readers.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them. Tell me what benefit I get from taking time out of my day to click over to your blog/wiki page/forum and read it. Will I get an opportunity to influence future policy? Will this be the new location where all of our meeting agendas and minutes will be kept? Is creating my profile required for my performance assessment? Will I get to get answers directly from a VP instead of some anonymous email address? Don’t just tell me that it’s there and to click the link because that’s not enough. Entice me. Whet my appetite for what I’m going to get for my time.
  • Do some internal “pitching.” I’ve had colleagues reach out to me and ask me if I’d blog about their programs on my blog. People have asked me to go out to Yammer and link back to their wiki pages. I’ve received internal emails from people pitching me on their project and asking me to “get my team to engage with their content.” This isn’t because I’m some subject matter expert, it’s because I happen to have a popular internal blog and my readers and friends tend to read what I write and click over to things I link to. Find people like me and make them aware of your content and ask them to get involved. No one wants to be the first person to respond – they want to see that other people have read it and commented on it too.  Aren’t you more likely to read a blog post that has 20 comments than one that has none?
  • Lastly, be a community manager.  When the comments on our VP’s blog all started to skew toward the “thanks for posting – great job” variety, the value of those comments went way down (our VPs don’t need any more self-esteem:).  That’s when I started to post some more contradictory/controversial comments and posts.  I wanted to model the behavior that people could/should take when participating in that online community. Other people needed to see how to interact in this new environment.
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Looking Back at My 2009 Social Media Resolutions

January 2, 2010

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On New Year’s Eve 2008, I made seven social media resolutions that I wanted to try to keep during 2009.  I had to be in total control of whether each would happen or do not happen, they had to be realistic, and they were somehow related to the work I do with social media and communications. Today, one year and 2 days later, I wanted to revisit those resolutions and explore what I accomplished, what I didn’t, and why.

My first resolution was the always ever-popular “blog more often.” Looking back at the frequency of my posts, I averaged about one post per week. While this is less than I’d ideally like to blog, I found that while there are a ton of topics I’d like to blog about, I tend to blog only when I feel like I have something to say that offers some some value to you. While I didn’t necessarily blog more often, I think I did something more important, and made my posts of higher quality. Grade: B

My second social media resolution was to “focus on things other than social media.” I wanted to do a better job of taking some time to go spend time with my family, go to the gym, and do things outside of work. Unfortunately, as social media and the concept of Gov 2.0 gained more momentum internally and with our clients, it seemed that there was always more and more work to be done. Day-to-day, I found myself busier than ever, but this year was the first where I actually took some vacation time and went on a trip. I took some time off and went to Hawaii in May and then to Paris in December. I need to do a better job of balancing work and life every day, not just on vacations.  Grade: C

My third resolution was to “re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto.” This one was easy – this was one of the first resolutions that I tackled, and it resulted in one of my favorite and most popular posts of 2009, “Twenty Theses for Government 2.0, Cluetrain Style.” The best part of this resolution was that it helped me simplify things. There’s sometimes a tendency to overthink this social media stuff and we forget our fundamentals. Re-reading the Cluetrain Manifesto and my resulting post provided a good foundation from which to start.  Grade: A

My fourth resolution – to “spend an hour each day reading about social media” wasn’t as successful. I was rarely able to carve out an hour a day to read and comment on other blogs, discussion forums, online communities and books. I know the importance of participating in these discussions and growing my knowledge base, but it was difficult to keep this elevated on the priority list when I’m also balancing client work, performance assessments, proposals and white papers, internal governance roles, etc. We all face these competing priorities, but we also have to make community participation and professional growth a priority as well. In 2010, I hope that I’m able to turn this into reality. Grade: C-

Accomplishing my fifth resolution – “turn more of my virtual connections into real ones” – was my most fulfilling. Whether through the Gov 2.0 Camp, the Gov 2.0 Summit, or any other number of Gov 2.0 and social media events I attended over the last year, I had the opportunity to meet a huge number of people in real-life. I can’t possibly list them all here, but I can’t tell you how much more important friends and people are than followers or subscribers. Grade: A

My sixth resolution was an utter failure – “use email less internally.” Not only did I not use email less, I think I actually used it more often. Despite the availability of tools like hello.bah.com, Yammer, and instant messenger, email remains the least common denominator. From intern to Vice President, it’s the one tool that everyone has the access, the knowledge, and the experience to use. Until we can show demonstrable value of social media to everyone in the organization and make it as easy to use and accessible as email, it will continue to be difficult to wean people off of it. In 2010, I resolve to do more to incorporate social media into the things that I can directly control – the day-to-day workflow of me and my team. Grade: F

My final resolution of 2009 was to “proactively reach out to more senior leaders to teach them about social media.” Happily, this resolution was accomplished in spades this year. Whether through our reverse mentoring program spearheaded by Shala Byers or the numerous internal briefings that my team and I conducted, social media and Gov 2.0 has gone beyond “hmmm…that’s interesting” to full-scale “this is critically important to our business and we need to learn more.”  While we haven’t achieved broad adoption yet, we’ve certainly achieved broad interest to learn more.  Grade: B

Overall, I’d give myself a B- in realizing my 2009 resolutions. Not too bad, and to be honest, probably better than I thought I’d do! My biggest regret it that Iwasn’t able to cut down on my use of email more – I’m going to try to do more this year to incorporate social media into my routine processes and walk the walk a little better.

What about you? How’d you do in achieving your new year’s resolutions from last year?

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Do You Know Where Santa is Tonight?

December 24, 2009

19 Comments

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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