Archive for the ‘Transformation’ Category

Declassification Prioritization

Written on: December 2, 2013 | 5 Comments

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) recently hosted an open meeting to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, focusing on declassification prioritization. PIDB continues to advocate for public discussion on the report. This meeting represented opportunities to highlight recommendations from the report, continue the conversation about the current declassification system, and discuss the topics citizens want prioritized for declassification.

top secret stamp

The meeting also hosted a panel discussion on “Perspectives on Prioritizing Government Records for Declassification and Public Access,” featuring Stephen Randolph, Historian at the Department of State; Joseph Lambert, Director of Information Management Services at the Central Intelligence Agency; Michael Dobbs, Journalist and Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Museum; and Stephen Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists.

My opening remarks at the meeting were an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the National Archives’ role in this democratic process, and to highlight the work we are doing to eliminate the declassification backlog and modernize records management practices:

When people have open access to government information, they are able to hold government accountable for its actions. This is an essential part of our democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote from Paris in 1789: “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government…whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on … [ Read all ]

Solving the Problems of Our Time

Written on: June 8, 2012 | 2 Comments

On his first day on the job President Barack Obama told his Senior Staff,

“Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that Government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that’s why, as of today, I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans—scientists and civil leaders, educators and entrepreneurs—because the way to solve the problems of our time, as a nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.”

Knowing we don’t have all the answers, we’re changing the way we think about our work at the National Archives and Records Administration. We’re shifting our perspectives to reflect the fact that we do not have all the answers. The principles of open government – transparency, participation, and collaboration – help us draw on what citizens know.

Today, we release our updated Open Government Plan for 2012-2014. Looking back over the past two years, I’m proud of our accomplishments in strengthening open government in our agency and in our society. We set an ambitious path, accomplishing almost 70 tasks. Over the next two years our work will include:

  • Creating a new culture based on
[ Read all ]

A Tool for Transformation

Written on: November 23, 2011 | 7 Comments

During the transformation planning process last year, we began using a variety of social media tools to invite staff discussion and participation in transforming the agency.  Staff participation has been and continues to be critical in providing new ideas as well as feedback for our transformation initiatives. As we continue to work on transforming the agency, we are carefully investing in new social media tools to sustain and increase staff collaboration and participation.

One of the tools we are preparing to roll out to staff over the first half of 2012 is a tool we are calling the Internal Collaboration Network (ICN).  What is it? The ICN is a social business software tool for the staff to more easily communicate and work together.  We are using the Jive Social Business software platform to make it happen.  Check out this short video that previews how this kind of software is helping NASA today:


Although we are at the forefront of federal agencies using a comprehensive social media tool for our work, we are definitely not alone. We surveyed peer organizations, looked at their lessons learned, and discussed social collaboration systems with their staff. Examples of what others are doing include: the Army’s MilBook, NASA’s Spacebook, Defense’s DoDTechipedia, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Knowledge Center.

These organizations understand the value in using … [ Read all ]

Culture and Values

Written on: June 27, 2011 | 8 Comments

Having grown up on the public service side of libraries, I am always on the lookout for examples of organizations and companies who can articulate a service culture.  My latest discovery is, founded in 1999 “…with the goal of becoming the premiere destination for online shoes.”  Although I have never been a customer of, I am surrounded by folks who swear by them!

Delivering Happiness
Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
A book by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

According to Tony Hsieh, the Zappos CEO, “…our belief is that if get the culture right, most of the other stuff—like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers—will happen naturally on its own.”

That culture is defined by 10 core values:

1.    Deliver WOW Through Service

2.    Embrace and Drive Change

3.    Create Fun and a Little Weirdness

4.    Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5.    Pursue Growth and Learning

6.    Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication

7.    Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8.    Do More with Less

9.    Be Passionate and Determined

10.  Be Humble

People who have worked with me know that “sparkle” and “dazzle” are two terms I will inevitably use in a public service conversation.  Sparkle describes the active engagement and genuine interest of the service provider in the … [ Read all ]

NARA and the IRS

Written on: May 16, 2011 | 5 Comments

Charles O. Rossotti was the Internal Revenue Commissioner from 1997 to 2002.  In his book, Many Unhappy Returns, he tells the story of “one man’s quest to turn around the most unpopular organization in America.”

I’m always interested in reports of “lessons learned” and this is one of the best, especially as I reflect on our own transformation—how far we have come and how much farther we have to go.  Every one of Mr. Rossotti’s basic beliefs applies to our own situation.  Successful change:

  • Means improving the way an organization performs its mission on behalf of all of its stakeholders and rejecting an either/or model of performance.
  • Means getting the right people in the right jobs.
  • Requires the right measurements and incentives.
  • Depends on moving to an organizational structure, business practices, and technology that are up-to-date and aligned with the needs of customers.
  • Requires knowing what is really going on where it counts—on the front line.
  • Requires open and honest communication inside and outside the organization.
  • Requires change, not just communication about change.
  • Depends more on having the right governance, leadership, direction, and authority than on rules and mandates.
  • Has its limits—set by the broader constraints of the context within which it operates.

Customer focus, the right people, listening to the front line, excellent internal and external communication, and more action.  Sound familiar?  If you’ve … [ Read all ]

More Hockey Wisdom

Written on: May 2, 2011 | 1 Comment

In a February blog post I cited Wayne Gretzky as a strategic thinker—skating to where he thought the puck would be. On Friday night, a young emerging forward on the San Jose Sharks squad, Benn Ferriero, delivered an equally great after game quote. In the first game of the Western Conference Semifinal Series against the Detroit Red Wings, Cousin Benn scored the winning goal at 7:03 into overtime. On his 24th birthday! Meeting with the press, Benn said: “You’ve got to be ready when you’re called upon. Try to stay loose, try to stay engaged in the game, and when you get your chance you’ve got to make the most of it.”

Words to live by!  As we roll out Charting the Course, creating the new organization and culture, I know that many of you are feeling anxious about the future.  The process is organic and we are trying hard to communicate as much as we know when we know it.  There is no secret master plan in Washington! We are trying hard to recruit and appoint “red box” leadership to work with their new staff units to engage in the process of creating our new organization.  At the same time we are working to model and celebrate our new values.  All of which will provide opportunities for you to be involved.  So take … [ Read all ]

Developing a Hockey Mindset

Written on: February 25, 2011 | 1 Comment

Two weeks ago, the San Jose Sharks came to visit the National Archives for a behind-the-scenes tour on their day off in Washington before playing the Capitals. As professional athletes go, they had plenty of interest in our records — especially the declassified 1930’s contingency plan to invade Canada!

As you may know from a previous blog post of mine, one of my favorite quotes is from Wayne Gretzky:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be,

not where it has been.”

Now, more than ever, adapting this mindset will help us transform the National Archives. This approach will help us innovate in order to address the changing needs of our customers — the Federal agencies, White House, and Congress we serve as well as the American public.

The way we do our work today was envisioned in the earlier part of the 20th century when the format of choice was paper. In order for us to fulfill our mission in the 21st century, we need to reexamine our theories and practices to take advantage of the tools enabled by this technological age. We need to develop the skill sets that will move us beyond our current capabilities, as we continue our basic job of collecting, protecting, and providing access to the records of the Government.

This is an exciting time to work … [ Read all ]

Doing More With Less

Written on: February 17, 2011 | 8 Comments

On Monday, President Barack Obama requested $422,501,000 for the National Archives and Records Administration for Fiscal Year 2012. This is an 8.2 percent decrease from the President’s budget request of $460,287,000 for Fiscal Year 2011.

The reality is we’ve got to do more with less.

This fiscal situation is not likely an aberration, but a challenge we will face as an agency for the next five years. We are, however, well positioned to meet this challenge.

The greatest budget savings will come from the earlier decision to move the Electronic Records Archives directly into an operations and maintenance mode. We will also leverage our transformation efforts to make the most of a difficult situation.

Our transformation plan — Charting the Course – will be our roadmap. The planned reorganization will create a new structure that will enable us to find more efficient ways of doing our work. We will foster a new culture that innovates and thrives on change. We will find new ways of exploiting technology to drive down cost and help other federal agencies do the same.

Innovation will be central to our work. This budget climate presents us with an opportunity to find efficiencies in our work that we would never have thought of under different circumstances.

We will continue to rely on the experience of the National Archives staff to identify … [ Read all ]