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Getting Tactical with the Open Government Directive

This week, I participated in the Open Government Workshop, which brought together a group of leaders across the federal government sector. The sessions are designed to develop tactical recommendations for federal agencies developing their open government plans, which are due to be published on April 7.

I was lucky to be teamed up with some really bright, thoughtful folks, and together we developed a total of 23 different recommendations that agencies could draw from. My group focused on how we can foster leadership and reduce cultural barriers to speed the implementation of open government (pretty easy right?). Here are some highlights below. For the full list, check out our team wiki.

Recommendations for improving leadership and reducing cultural barriers to Open Government:

1.  Gain executive buy-in to support Open Government. Provide individual briefings (or "road shows") for high-level leaders to create buy-in and ownership.

2.  Incorporate open government into each agency or department’s strategic plan. Do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) with respect to Open Government opportunities. Define each department’s specialized objectives for Open Government and bake this into the strategic plan (this ensures that it will be a priority for the next five years). For agencies that have them, these objectives fit nicely under your “organizational excellence" strategic goal. This strategic planning process is happening now, so this needs to happen soon.

3. Use anonymous employee suggestion boxes to encourage bottom-up innovation. Consider making it publicly viewable from your open government page in order to push recommendations out into the public domain. There are a number of examples of suggestion boxes (e.g., TSA’s "IdeaFactory" and State’s "Sounding Board"), but we are not aware of anonymous employee suggestion boxes that are also publicly accessible. We think this changes the equation, and instead of employees having to justify why something is a good idea, agency leadership would need to justify why it's not.

4. Make open government practices part of employees’ incentive plans and reward structures. Consider making it easier to incorporate open government activities into performance plans and job descriptions.

5.  Administer awards for incorporating open government principles and practices into your organization.
Whether through financial rewards or just good ol' fame and glory, awards help change the risk / reward equation and encourage employees to push the envelope and potentially put their career on the fast track.

6.  Create a Demand-driven Open Government consulting team at GSA that’s chartered by CIO/OSTP. For agencies that are ready to implement open government activities, they could draw upon this team to come in and help them do it.  The team would collect best examples, templates, guidance, and other best practices from across the government and provide services to agency groups that are ready to take action but don't have the bandwidth.

7. Raise awareness among the federal government workforce about the importance of transparency, accountability, and collaboration through a government-wide open government advertising campaign.
The more federal employees understand that this is a core part of their organization’s mission, the easier it will be to affect real change. If employees understand it is a priority, they will treat it as such.