Risky Business: When Government Takes Calculated Risks

So government, by nature, oftentimes puts itself at financial or reputational risk on a regular basis. Risk is not necessarily bad. After all, avoiding risk might mean that the FAA would ground all flights to prevent crashes! So, finding ways to manage risk is essential.

Empowering Citizens with Money and Social Media

work in practice? Do busy citizens actually get involved? Inspired by successful efforts in Brazil and other countries around the world, several U.S. communities have undertaken pilot efforts to allow citizens to directly decide how monies are spent in their neighborhoods. However, one of the biggest concerns raised by critics of this approach is that not enough citizens actually participate to make the efforts meaningful and legitimate. A new report for the IBM Center by Dr.

Creating Risk-Responsive Frameworks

Other federal agencies also face a wide range of risks. Some are external, others are internal. Some are financial (such as having to deal with managing under Sequester or the market impact on external investments in pension funds, which could affect federal pension guarantees). Some are operational, such as those faced by FERC, or cybersecurity threats, or even insider threats. And some are reputational, such as the recent accusations of Patent Office telework abuse, or the General Services Administration’s lavish conferences scandal.

What Do We Know About Inter-Organizational Networks?

Government and non-profits have already been pioneering the use of collaborative networks over the past two decades to solve complex societal challenges such as clean waterways, reducing child abuse, serving the mentally ill in the community, and reducing smoking. Much of this pioneering work has been done without a roadmap of what works and when using networks is more effective than relying on traditional hierarchies or the marketplace to achieve public goals.

Student Aid: Pioneers in Managing Risk

One former federal leader, Todd Grams, observes that agencies that ignore risk are actually creating risk. Not surprisingly, there has been increasing interest in agencies in recent years in developing a risk management function. So what does it look like? The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) in the Department of Education undertook efforts a decade ago to create a risk management function, which may serve as inspiration for other agencies considering the same.

Weekly Round-Up: September 30 - October 3, 2014

John Kamensky Next Steps on Implementing the DATA Act. Over the past week, there were a series of events around the implementation of the DATA Act. Jason Miller, Federal News Radio, says a joint Treasury-OMB townhall focused on the usability of the new data to be collected, by creating a clear map and navigation of the soon-to-be revamped (again) USASpending.gov website. Adam Mazmanian, Federal Computer Week, notes “OMB is leading the charge to develop data definition standards, one of the biggest challenges of the implementation process.

Why Isn't Performance Information Being Used?

The initial premise twenty years ago was that if performance information was made readily available, it would be used by agency decision-makers. That turned out to not be true. Background. A recent GAO study conclude that the “use of performance information has not changed significantly” in surveys of federal managers between 2007 and 2013. More specifically: “. . . only two [of the 24 major] agencies – OPM and the Department of Labor – experienced a statistically significant improvement in managers’ use of performance information.” And four experienced a decrease.

Weekly Round-Up: October 6-10, 2014

John Kamensky The Focus of Defense Acquisition Reform? Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive, writes that a Senate investigation staff report about problems with defense acquisition programs found the key problem is – the acquisition workforce itself. She writes: Without better training and recruiting of the men and women who manage large weapons contracts, and more effective incentives to reward smart decision-making, the department may be doomed to continue spending too much money for too little return.” DHS Acquisition Reform.

Weekly Round-Up: October 13-17, 2014

John Kamensky Series of Articles on Procurement Reform. Federal News Radio asks: “Is it time for fresh procurement reform or just a rereading of existing law?” And its staff has responded with over a dozen stories over the course of the week, covering more discrete topics such as a 20-year timeline of reforms, pointers on program management, the importance of leadership and organizational culture, and more. A great collection, worth the time of anyone trying to understand the breadth of issues involved. Cathleen Garman, Designated Expert.

Is Recovery Act a Model for Ebola?

Little did I realize that the future would come so quickly, with President Obama’s announcement that he was appointing Ron Klain as the Ebola Czar! Klain, who was chief of staff for both vice president Al Gore and Joe Biden, was a key player in the implementation of the Recovery Act. The forum on the Recovery Act, Five Years Later was kicked off by Klain’s former point person, Ed DeSeve, who in 2009 and 2010 led the day-to-day efforts to coordinate the oversight of $787 billion in spending across 22 major federal agencies via more than 200 programs.


Senior Fellow
IBM Center for The Business of Government
600 14th Street, NW Second Floor
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Mr. Kamensky is a Senior Fellow with the IBM Center for The Business of Government and an Associate Partner with IBM's Global Business Services.

During 24 years of public service, he had a significant role in helping pioneer the federal government's performance and results orientation. Mr. Kamensky is passionate about helping transform government to be more results-oriented, performance-based, customer-driven, and collaborative in nature.

Prior to joining the IBM Center, he served for eight years as deputy director of Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government. Before that, he worked at the Government Accountability Office where he played a key role in the development and passage of the Government Performance and Results Act.

Since joining the IBM Center, he has co-edited six books and writes and speaks extensively on performance management and government reform.  Current areas of emphasis include transparency, collaboration, and citizen engagement.  He also blogs about management challenges in government.

Mr. Kamensky is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and received a Masters in Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at: john.kamensky@us.ibm.com

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