Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

“Yes We Scan”

Written on: January 10, 2012 | 34 Comments

In September 2011, the White House launched an online petition web site, We the People, where anyone can post an idea asking the Obama administration to take action on a range of issues, get signatures, and get a response from their government.

It’s an experiment in democracy, which is generating new ideas and improving on old ideas every day. One of those rising ideas is “Yes We Scan.”

Yes We Scan is an effort by the Center for American Progress and to promote digitization of all government information in an effort to make it more accessible to the world.

Here at the National Archives, we house the nation’s permanent records, and we think increasing access to our collections in this way is a great idea. Our most recent efforts to do this ourselves as part of our OpenGov initiative, include the Citizen Archivist project, a Wikipedian in Residence, Tag it Tuesdays, and Scanathons. We are also moving forward on implementing the President’s recent Memorandum on Managing Government Records, which focuses on the need to update policies and practices for the digital age.

Wikipedia “ExtravaSCANza” at the National Archives in College Park, MD.  January 6, 2012. Source: Wikimedia Commons

But all those things aren’t enough. Yes We Scan calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning … [ Read all ]

Record Keeping Memo

Written on: November 28, 2011 | 6 Comments

Today, the President issued a memorandum to heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Managing Government Records.  This marks the start of an executive branch-wide effort to reform records management policies and practices.

I strongly support this Presidential initiative, which sends a very clear message to Federal agencies about the importance of managing electronic records.  Records management must keep up with the technologies used to create records in the Federal government, and the President’s Memorandum underlines the critical nature of this responsibility.

Each agency will be required to report to the Archivist the name of a senior agency official who will supervise an agency-wide evaluation of its records management programs. These evaluations, which are to be completed in 120 days, are to focus on electronic records, including email and social media, as well as those programs that may be deploying or developing cloud-based services.

The President’s memorandum also asks that the National Archives identify opportunities for reforms that would facilitate improved government-wide records management practices.  We will begin immediately to coordinate discussions with Federal agencies, interagency groups, and external stakeholders.

My staff and I look forward to working with OMB, the Associate Attorney General, and all agencies to ensure that they comply with the new Memorandum and that we continue a government-wide effort to preserve permanent electronic records that eventually become part of the … [ 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 ]

Life is Short

Written on: October 12, 2011 | 5 Comments

Steve Jobs will long be remembered for his entrepreneurial savvy, design intelligence, high standards, and ability to predict the future.  The Wall Street Journal called him “the secular prophet.”  I will remember him also as Steve Jobs the philosopher.  His 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford is among the best I have heard or read—and I have heard and read a lot!

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

The older I get the more I do feel that my time is limited.  And I’m trying hard to help people discover and heed their own inner voice, heart and intuition.  But most importantly, I am working on tempering my own “noise.”  How about you?… [ Read all ]

Igniting Joy

Written on: October 6, 2011 | 2 Comments

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have been analyzing 12,000 diary entries created by hundreds of employees in many different organizations in an attempt to understand inner work life:  “the conditions that foster positive emotions, strong internal motivation, and favorable perceptions of colleagues and the work itself.”  It is about the work, not the “accoutrements.”  Meaningful work, clear goals, autonomy, help, and resources are the required elements identified in their new book, The Progress Principle:  Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.  “And it depends on showing respect for ideas and the people who create them.”

Their work has revealed that “…people are more creative and productive when they are deeply engaged in the work, when they feel happy, and when they think highly of their projects, coworkers, managers, and organizations.”  They were also startled to learn that 95% of the hundreds of managers they surveyed misunderstood the most important source of employee motivation and ranked “supporting progress” least important.

Thinking back over my own career my inner work life has clearly been “joyful” in those situations where I felt good about the work I was doing, had the resources with which to be effective, and the trust of my supervisor to do the work.  I still remember going to the best supervisor I ever had with a problem to her expecting … [ Read all ]

Cue the Locusts!

Written on: August 29, 2011 | 2 Comments

It has been quite a week.  Tuesday afternoon an earthquake rattled many of our facilities around the Northeast.  Little known fault lines named Lakeside and Spotsylvania near Mineral, VA, the epicenter, made themselves known over several days with at least seven aftershocks.

The Washington National Regions Records Center in Suitland, MD was the hardest hit with damage to the masonry at the tops of the fire walls and in the fire egress stairs.  The building is closed until all safety issues are addressed.

Other damage to NARA facilities included some loosened mortar in the Rotunda and a cracked wall at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue; a cracked window, cold storage vault disruptions, and minor parking garage damage at College Park; and a damaged panel in the pavilion at the JFK Library.

Certainly nothing like our friends on the West Coast have come to take for granted, but powerful enough to leave lasting memories.

And just when we thought it was safe to go back to work, Hurricane Irene heads our way with heavy winds and downpours.  The FDR Library server room in Hyde Park, NY had a significant leak and lost power.  The staff at our Market Street facility in Philadelphia report some flooding and puddles of water in the basement.  And one minor roof leak in Suitland.

Lots of staff contributed to our … [ Read all ]

Innies and Outies

Written on: August 16, 2011 | 18 Comments

My name is David and I am an introvert.

Survey research varies but at least 25% of the population identifies itself along with me.

I still remember the session at MIT where we were getting ready to take the Myers-Briggs when the instructor was explaining the Introvert/Extrovert characteristics: Are you the kind of person at a cocktail party who hangs around at the edges and observes? Or do you immediately move right to the center of the room and engage in conversation with those around you? And I sat there thinking to myself; I’m not even at that cocktail party. I’m home reading a book!

Marti Olsen Laney, a librarian turned psychologist, in her book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, lists what extroverted employees should know about their introvert colleagues. We:

  •  Like quiet for concentration
  •  Care about our work and workplace
  •  May have trouble communicating
  •  May know more than we reveal
  •  May seem quiet and aloof
  • Need to be asked for our opinions and ideas
  • Like to work on long complex problems and have good attention to detail
  • Need to understand exactly why we are doing something
  • Dislike intrusions and interruptions
  • Need to think and reflect before speaking and acting
  • Work alone contentedly
  • May be reluctant to delegate
  • Prefer to stay in the office or cubicle rather than socialize

Creating Some Magic

Written on: August 12, 2011 | 2 Comments

Reading Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage (“The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work”), “Find a Better Job” in the latest issue of TimeOut New York (yes, I have maintained my subscription just to keep up with life in the Big Apple!), and Glen David Gold’s novel, Carter Beats the Devil—the fictionalized account of the life of Charles Joseph Carter, at the same time spurs some thoughts on work culture.

Achor defines happiness as “…the joy we feel striving after our potential” and stresses the pursuit of positivity (positive emotions) as the key to success.  He suggests a series of activities to help raise one’s happiness baseline from meditation to finding something to which to look forward to exercise.  Two of his suggestions (Commit conscious acts of kindness and Infuse positivity into your surroundings) especially overlap with the TimeOut analysis of five New York City work environments.  Common factors among the five:

  • Openly encouraging creativity and innovation—listening to ideas from staff and making them a reality
  • Providing a truly collaborative atmosphere
  • Showing appreciation for staff in some way on a regular basis—making fun at work a priority
  • Seeing the head of the company “in the trenches”—visibility and accessibility of the senior staff
  • Creating an environment of continuous learning—everyone plays a role in sharing knowledge

So, where does Charles Joseph … [ 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 ]

How Our Students Are Doing

Written on: June 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Nation’s Report Card, recently released by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, doesn’t have good news about our student’s academic achievement in American history.  Just 13% of high school seniors, 18% of eighth-graders, and 22% of fourth-graders ranked at the proficient level.  “These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Here at the National Archives we are attacking this problem with our new DocsTeach product, our Boeing Learning Center activities, and our diverse program and education activities.  We feel a strong commitment to contributing to the solution.

But on Thursday I was honored to participate in the National History Day Awards ceremony at the University of Maryland where 8,000 students, teachers, and parents gathered to celebrate history!  Every state and territory was represented with an enthusiastic contingent who paraded around Cole Field House before the program started.  The papers and projects were superb.  I got to celebrate with the Massachusetts, North Carolina, and New York representatives.  Restored my faith in the academic chops of our students!… [ Read all ]