Monday, January 26, 2009

How Wikis Were Put to Work for IRS

The Internal Revenue Service has several advisory committees whose members provide the agency with an external perspective on tax administration. Mark Kirbabas of the IRS needed a tool to help the committees and their members communicate better. Mark created a wiki for two of the groups, introducing it primarily as a source to store and work administrative documents. The tool has reduced e-mail traffic and empowered users who can add and edit material online. Almost a full year after introducing the wiki, the committees and IRS employees consider it a success, and it continues to grow and develop to meet the needs of the users.

Mark is the Branch Chief for the Stakeholder Relationship Management Branch in the Office of National Public Liaison, which is imbedded in HQ Communications & Liaison. The branch partners with national tax professional associations through monthly meetings, advisory committees and continual conversations. While waiting for web 2.0 to grab hold at the IRS, Mark is one of two people who have just begun work to restructure the Tax Professionals page and its related pages on to make it a task driven page. Kudos, Mark!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Scott Derrick on Mentoring

Here is an interesting concept: What if the SF&F blog (or 13L) started an advice column? Here is an example of what I would really like to see:

Dear Colleague,

I am a long-time federal manager and have been very successful in my leadership role. I would like to serve as a mentor to pass along my knowledge and experience to the next generation of federal leaders. The problem is that I am extremely busy in my job and do not have the time to devote to mentoring. Any suggestions?

Busy in a Bureau
Washington, DC

Dear Busy,

Thank you for your question and the propitious timing on the topic of mentoring. January is National Mentoring Month, a time to promote the importance of mentoring and to recognize the millions of people who dedicate their time and energy to making a difference in the lives of others. As a matter of fact, the President recently issued a proclamation calling upon citizens to look for opportunities to serve as mentors in their communities.

You are so right to recognize the value of mentoring. Research has consistently demonstrated the benefits of mentoring relationships. Potential benefits for the mentee include accelerated career mobility, greater professional competence, enhanced promotion rates, and increased career satisfaction. Potential benefits for the mentor include internal satisfaction and fulfillment, development of a loyal support base, and career and personal rejuvenation. The mentee’s agency also benefits, of course, given the increased knowledge and confidence that the mentee likely gains from the mentoring experience.

While mentoring can provide significant benefits, mentoring does not have to require a significant amount of your time. Flash mentoring is an approach that you might consider. Flash mentoring is a one-time meeting or discussion that enables an individual to learn and seek guidance from a more experienced person who can pass on relevant knowledge and experience. The purpose of flash mentoring is to provide a valuable learning opportunity for less experienced individuals while requiring a limited commitment of time and resources for more experienced individuals serving as mentors. The commitment is to participate only in the initial meeting; however, the mentor and mentee can mutually decide to meet again after their flash mentoring session if so they wish. For more information about flash mentoring, visit

We hope that you move forward with your interest in serving as a mentor to emerging leaders in the federal government. This is truly your opportunity to give back. If you decide to use flash mentoring, please keep us posted on the results. We love to report success stories!

Your Colleague

K. Scott Derrick, who currently serves as Director of Professional Development at the Senior Executives Association, is a serial innovator in public service leadership. You may read his bio here. Find out more about 13L, a group he co-founded with Don Jacobson, here. Finally, read more about Flash Mentoring here.

Does the idea of an advice column appeal to you? If so, please comment below or e-mail Scott directly at