Govt Agencies Sharing Best Practices for Collaboration

Ann All
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Execs Weigh in on Collaboration

End users are looking to IT for tools that will help them increase productivity across what in many cases are sharply reduced work forces, but execs are expressing distrust of collaboration tools.

Last month, my IT Business Edge colleague Susan Hall wrote a post about leaders who bring innovative ideas to fruition in government agencies, despite the considerable barriers. She cited a report titled "Leading Innovation in Government," authored by the Partnership for Public Service and Hay Group, which mentions some of those barriers: "complex processes, competing agendas, deep hierarchies and static cultures that can stifle even the most insignificant collaboration and risk."


Some agencies appear to be making headway in overcoming their cultural barriers to innovation by using collaborative tools like wikis. I mentioned several in a post from February, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the General Services Administration, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.


Successes in individual agencies often lead to other agencies trying out new ideas. That appears to be the case with the Office of Personnel Management's use of IdeaFactory, which according to a Federal Computer Week article is "an online crowdsourcing tool the Homeland Security Department developed." (I'm not clear whether this is the DHS' wiki or another tool.)


COPM Director John Berry mentioned the use of IdeaFactory and other initiatives designed to kickstart collaboration at the OPM during a recent speech at the FOSE Institute's Knowledge Management Conference and Exposition. According to the article, OPM launched a site that allows employees to post ideas and discuss new workplace proposals.


While the site has only been up for about six weeks, Berry said employees have already contributed hundreds of suggestions. (Of course, following up on all of these kinds of suggestions can be a real challenge, as I wrote back in January.)


Among other OPM initiatives mentioned in the article:

  • Open-government action learning teams of diverse stakeholders and government employees
  • An internal training program called Learning Connection that features searchable answers to frequently asked questions
  • A pilot mentoring program that pairs new OPM employees with OPM veterans (Mentoring is an especially good fit for millennials.)


I liked Berry's definition of collaboration:

Collaboration is getting people with the right skills on the right project pulling them into the team that needs to get the job done.

As I've written before, Berry seems particularly open to looking to the private sector for ideas. He might be interested in the use of collaboration software at Booz Allen Hamilton. Like Booz Allen Hamilton, I expect the OPM may be an organization that is "not only geographically dispersed but experience dispersed."


Berry also might be inspired by the American Hospital Association's initiative to make its intranet the hub of collaborative activity, a project the AHA's CIO told me is beginning to change the way AHA employees work.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 3, 2011 10:09 AM Daniel H Daniel H  says:

IdeaFactory was originally developed by the Transportation Security Administration as an innovation platform for TSA employees. It allows employees to suggest and rate ideas for improving TSA operations. It's one of the most pointed-to examples of government collaboration out there -- very successful


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