Earlier this week, I attended a book signing event sponsored by Deloitte to mark the publication of “If We Can Put a Man on the Moon… Getting Big Things Done in Government.” This is a wonderful study by Bill Eggers of Deloitte and John O’Leary of Harvard’s Kennedy School. Based on a review of over 75 government undertakings in the United States and abroad, the authors look at the process by which government tackles its biggest challenges.
As I poured through the volume these last two days, I came back again to the view that for at least the last 30-plus years in federal government we’ve been over-led and under-managed. Our focus has been on leadership, vision, inspiration, modeling the way, etc. But what we have really needed is to manage, to better execute.
Ironically, earlier that same day I had attended the monthly luncheon of AFFIRM. The program focused on the General Services Administration and the Networx transition. Over 40+ months into the transition to newer, more powerful, and cheaper telecommunications technologies, only 33 percent of all services have been disconnected from FTS 2001 and about half of all agencies still need to award a contract to a provider. Karl Krumbholz, who guides the Networx vehicle for GSA, contrasted this with America’s experiences in the World War II – when it took 44 months to defeat the Axis powers and win the war.
So tomorrow I start work on my companion volume to the Eggers- O’Leary volume. My working title: “How Can we Get Big Things Done in Government When We Can’t Even Get Small Things Done?”