Sunday, December 28, 2008

Training Games: Anne Laurent interviews Ralph Chatham

On December 8th, thirty-nine Senior Fellows and Friends gathered to learn about the design and use of virtual-world training games to augment the tactical and cultural training of young soldiers who are deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Anne Laurent, who has been reporting technological innovations that are ushering in permanent changes to the way government operates, contributed her considerable talent and business acumen by interviewing Ralph Chatham. A former Naval Officer and private industry consultant, Ralph created the DARWARS initiative in training technology.

Ken Sosne (Department of Education) and Pam Piper (OMB, retired) provided the following notes to convey the flavor of the discussion:

“Training can require a large investment with a small increase in proficiency. Ralph was looking for way to leverage training resources by developing an electronic platform that can provide training with enormous cost savings and run scenarios over and over to increase learning. Ralph decided that ‘I wanted to make sure no one rides blind into a culture again.’”

“Anne complemented Ralph's story telling with her experiences on virtual issues. The overall interplay between the two was interesting to watch. The audience was quite interactive and someone asked if there was a way one could build a game for executive leadership and meetings so that managers could have simulation similar to the soldiers.”

“A lightweight and agile training approach compared to pilot training models/simulation, features an underlying gaming ‘engine’ with ‘story’ content that can be adopted to the immediate need.”

Later, Ralph generously provided several attachments so that participants could think about the potential transferability of this approach: a report on “Training Superiority and Training Surprise,” that resulted from a Defense Science Board task force he co-chaired, and two chapters that will appear in an upcoming book, Development of Professional Expertise, edited by K. Anders Ericsson, 2009, Cambridge University Press.

Ordinarily, members of this multisector network convene in a small-ish banquet room near L'Enfant Plaza. That provides a comfortable container for dinner and dialogue among highly motivated individuals who RSVP early and make a point of showing up. However, there was so much interest in this topic, and its potential transferability to civilian government challenges, that we moved up Seventh Street to a larger space at the National Academy of Public Administration. Academy staff members Frank DiGiammarino, Dan Munz, Bryna Helfer, Susan Jacobs, and Jeanne Smith were instrumental to the evening's success.

Steve Ressler, co-founder of Young Government Leaders and creator of the new social network, GovLoop (, dropped in from Tampa to join us, as did the founders of Conversations About Leading, 13L, NAPA’s Collaboration Project, and several other heavy-duty innovators for good government. Participant affiliations included:

American University
ARPA Consultant
Atlantic Media Company
Center for Radical Improvement
Department of Commerce
Department of Education
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Navy
Department of State
Department of Transportation
Department of Treasury
Environmental Protection Agency
General Services Administration
Government Accountability Office
Kahler Communications
Library of Congress
National Academy of Public Administration
Office of Management and Budget, Retired
Partnership for Public Service
PMI Education and Training SIG
Senior Executives Association

As usual, work experience levels ranged from intern to senior executive. If you are interested in participating, please send a note to, introduce yourself, and ask to be added to the mailing list so that you begin receiving evites as they are issued. Basic courtesy and a constructive approach are hallmarks of each gathering and make this discretionary effort fun. If that appeals to you, then please join us in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Re-Inventing the Practice of Leadership for the Public Good

We are once again in a time of great leadership transition and I find myself hopeful about the possibility of bringing focus to the importance of public leadership as a profession. I believe that this election cycle’s results are indicative of a world hungry for a new model of public leadership, one that embodies new competencies and skills that are appropriate for the challenges we face and for the global stage on which all leaders are now measured. Our president-elect and his team have modeled many of these new practices during the long campaign process as well as during the post-campaign work of selecting the new cabinet.

Given the global capacity to see and hear each other 24/7 I believe we are more conscious than ever of the terrible price citizens throughout the world pay for our laissez-faire approach to the practice of leadership. Unlike other professions -- medicine, law and accounting spring to mind -- as a society we have never agreed on the conventions for measuring successful performance as a public leader. Never in my lifetime has it been more obvious how heavily we depend on the performance of public leaders (not only those active in our country), in ways that affect every aspect of our lives.

Over a thirty-year career as a Federal employee and manager my job required me to support the development of public leaders. As the current Director of the Public Sector Consortium ( it has become a full-time avocation.

My hope is that the Consortium can help facilitate a shift in citizen focus and consciousness about what is really required of public leaders in terms of competency and performance. With this shift we might bring about the commitment to select and develop people who are prepared to take on the responsibility of public service. We would like to see leaders skilled in Systems Thinking, Facilitative Leadership, Sustainable Leadership Practices, and Organizational Learning (to name just a few) before they take on the mantle of public leadership.

I believe that the purpose of healthy governance systems is to protect and sustain the commons for the citizens who depend on shared resources. Public leaders implement the purpose of governance and their work requires foresight and the courage to intervene on the tragedy of the commons when necessary. This is what it means to serve the public good. Every country and culture has a different definition of their commons, and consequently our governance systems serve different purposes. This is at the heart of our dislocation within many of the global issues we are currently facing. Examples of the commons in this country might be access to health care, access to clean air, access to education, access to safe food sources, and personal safety.

Our collective inadequacy to articulate what is required to do the most important work in our society has cost all of us a great deal.

I have great hope that together we can agree on what is required in this newly defined profession of public leadership; together we can articulate and recognize the essential practices involved. Together we can invest in developing the competencies before people enter the profession of public service and invest in those who are already hard at work and in need of new skills. We can create measures of successful performance, and implement these performance measures when we promote or elect. Together we can identify the naturals within our society and nurture them early for this noblest of professions.

Georgie Bishop,
Director, The Public Sector Consortium

Monday, December 15, 2008

Guest Post by Dan Slattery

Work Transition in Retirement & My Pursuit of Excellence in Government

Like many people who anticipate the transition from a full-time career in government or business to the life of retirement, I thought I was well prepared. Two years later I now know the truth: no plan, no matter how comprehensive, can ever prepare you for every surprise, challenge, or opportunity that you will face in your new life. When I planned my retirement and relocation to a small town in Rhode Island after 30 years in Washington DC, I thought I had a defined plan that would result in financial security, happiness, and fulfillment. My financial plan has been successful despite the downturn in the economy and I am happy with my new lifestyle and the opportunity to engage in a variety of recreational activities and hobbies. Yet there is still a real transition to make from a full-time work career into a new life that may not include full-time employment.

If you don’t have a new job lined up when you retire, you may find this part of retirement unsettling, or maybe just challenging. While there is a host of retirement literature to help you, there is no roadmap that works for everyone. My choice was to take a break and not work full-time. However, I knew that I had a need to work with people and be involved in something that benefitted others. I must admit that despite being a meticulous planner my approach to finding work in retirement was pure serendipitous. My focus was part-time work, and money was not as important as my desire to stay active and fulfilled as a person.

My first job opportunity in retirement was non-paying. I volunteered my time to a fledging political watchdog group that was founded on promoting good government in response to a highly dysfunctional town government. My next job came by way of networking; the president of our volunteer group recommended me to a friend of his who needed someone to work part-time and do financial abstracts. As it turned out I hated this job. The boss was nice, the pay was good, but it was boring and I left after two months. Next, I found my dream summer job -- I became a golf ranger. For the uneducated, a ranger rides in golf cart and acts as a mobile host for the golf club. My reward was $8 an hour and unlimited free golf, so as an avid golfer this was my best summer job ever. As autumn approached I found myself unemployed once again and followed my wife’s suggestion and became a substitute school teacher. This job has its rewards and frustrations but I am now in my second year of being a sub and it’s OK. Sometimes there are moments with the kids I really cherish.

After two years in retirement, I must admit my most rewarding job has been the volunteer job. I am now the president of that fledging grass roots organization, known as the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. We have a steering committee of 20 volunteers that I oversee. Our e-mail list includes about 1,500 residents in a town of 8,000 and our website at has been an effective political tool. We became a Political Action Committee, and in November 2008 all 9 of our local candidates won with a two-thirds majority vote. I am not sure about my next job, but recently some businesspeople and political party representatives asked me if I would apply to be the new town administrator. I plan to apply because I think my skill set matches up well with the position and it’s an opportunity to serve the town, make a positive difference, and pursue excellence in local government. If I don’t get the job, I will continue to look for other opportunities to work with people where I can make a positive difference.

Dan's final post was at the U.S. Department of Education, where he served as Budget Officer and Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Education Statistics. During a concurrent term as Chairman, Excellence in Government Senior Fellows Board of Leaders, Dan was instrumental in developing the Senior Fellows Awards Program. He is one of the most collegial people on the planet, which makes us look forward to future updates - and maybe even a visit from Rhode Island.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gators, Gourdheads, and Pufflings

Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Su Jewell's new book is now available at

Su is an accomplished wildlife biologist, administrator, and environmental writer who currently works in the D.C. metro area. She spent twelve years studying wildlife in the Everglades and Florida Keys with the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and National Audubon Society. Her Exploring Wild South Florida, an incredibly beautiful paperback, distills her experience there and is an interesting, articulate guide to finding natural areas and wildlife. It will be the first thing in the suitcase, the next time I head to Florida! I expect this new book to be equally entertaining and have ordered a copy.

Those who attended the 7/24/07 Senior Fellows and Friends event with Andy Schoenback and Sandi McCabe (Budget Formulation and Execution Line of Business) have met Su already. You'll be pleased to know that she's likely to be back in 2009, to sign books and lead a discussion of her choice.