GSA to rethink what success means

Monday - 4/12/2010, 6:18am EDT

Martha Johnson, Administrator, GSA

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

CAMBRIDGE, Md.--The General Services Administration is doing a top-to-bottom review of how they measure whether or not they are meeting their mission.

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson says senior officials will be heading off-site in May to do the analysis and come up with new metrics that focus on transformation and capacity building.

"The opportunity that we have here is that the acquisition workforce was redefined several years ago," says Johnson in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio after her speech at the IRMCO conference.

"We will figure out the ones that will take us forward. We don't want measures that are focused on inspection, but ones that will motivate our people and point us in a better direction."

Johnson couldn't say how many metrics she would like to cut or have in the end. But she expects to get rid of some of the more obvious ones that are not working at the May meeting.

The revamped metrics also will meet GSA's new mission statement. Johnson announced the changes to the mission statement at the conference's opening keynote Sunday night.

"GSA's mission is to use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions and by so doing foster an effective, sustainable and transparent government for the American People," she says. "GSA is deliberately casting itself as the government's change agent. Our mission is pure and simple, to change government."

She also encouraged GSA to take risks and for other agencies to let GSA take risks for them.

"Failure is required, but the trick is to fail fast and learn from it," Johnson says. "We need culture change when it comes to risk, and we need the courage and leadership to face down risk."

Johnson reiterated from her previous speeches three broad areas of change: openness and transparency; sustainability and customer intimacy.

She says GSA is baselining the government's carbon footprint and energy usage and will provide a tracking tool for agencies. GSA is playing a major role in data center consolidation initiative and helping to green the supply chain.

"Sustainability will drive everything we do, exposing waste, recognizing full value and costs, cradle to cradle, and calling on us to be full citizens of the world and therefore transforming us as well," she says.

GSA also is moving from collaboration to collective intelligence. Johnson says this means helping agencies converge on solutions instead of just putting up a bunch of divergent ideas.

"There are hints, new techniques and some new tools by which we can organize the governance, the ranking and the conversation so that we can converge on solutions," she says. "That is the piece that is going to be the inflection point that we are facing now. How do we not just collect people's ideas, but help the collective converge on solutions? You are going to be seeing some of that at GSA and I'm eager to have that capacity built into overall government."

The final piece around customer intimacy is moving to an approach where GSA's customers pull them toward transformation. Johnson says this means GSA will be reverse engineering their business processes to ensure they are best meeting their customer's needs.

"It's a transformational notion in terms of how you go about organizing work," she says. "What is truly transformed? The processes, yes. The performance, yes. But most importantly, it's the people that are transformed. Transformation equals talent and this is what is important to me as an educator, as a manager and most importantly as a steward of the federal worker and the federal workplace."

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To hear more from Administrator Martha Johnson on GSA's new role, click here.

For more from the IRMCO 2010 conference, please go to Keyword: IRMCO.

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