Thank you Anthony for administering the oath. Thank you Jessica -
did a wonderful job. [Jessica is Greg's six-year-old granddaughter
who held the family Bible for his swearing-in ceremony.] My thanks
Secretary Riley and Deputy Secretary Smith - and to all of you from
SFA - you here in Washington for hiking down the street in the
and to those of you listening in around the country. Thanks, too,
my colleagues from reinventing government and the Government
Information Technology Systems Board, and other friends and
supporters. A special thank you to Linda [Greg's wife] and the
of my family for being here on this special day.
"We put America through school"
This is a great day for me. I've been looking forward to telling
of you how proud and excited I am to have been picked for this job.
For a couple of reasons: To start with, I'm proud to be part of the
Student Financial Assistance team. It's because of the job we do!
It's literally part of the American dream. We help put America
What a great mission. What a great thing to be able to say. To
friends. People you meet. To your kids. "Mom, Dad, Grandpa, what
you do at work?" We put America through school. It's gotta be one
the best jobs in the country.
How great it is to have been picked for this team. It shows my
is holding. Because I've been on quite a few winning teams. I
build life support systems for the Apollo Project. I helped work
force reduction agreements between us and the Soviets Union. I've
built successful technology companies and created award-winning
software. And most recently I've been helping reinvent government
forever change how it works.
All that was homework for what I get to do now - the second reason
am so excited about this job. I get to lead the very first,
congressionally chartered, Performance Based Organization in
government. It officially shifts the focus of government from red
tape to results. This has the potential to be huge.
The PBO concept was championed by Vice President Gore and his
Partnership for Reinventing Government. But it was actually
in a solid, bi-partisan way by the Department and a Congress that
knows good business principles when it sees them. It is a new way
run the government. And I am determined to make this first PBO an
unambiguous success, so that more and more PBO's will be created
"Our formula for success"
Our formula for success will start with what worked for me as a
private sector CEO, but we will add what I've seen work to reinvent
government. With a constant focus on results, this is what we'll
First, we'll be obsessed with customers. That means you have to
who your customers are - pretty simple in our case. They are
who need money for school. And you have to know what your
want. That's a little trickier. Because you have to ask them. If
you assume you know what they want, you'll get it wrong.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago, the Internal Revenue
Service assumed that what their customers wanted most was to
their tax booklet in the mail as soon after Christmas as possible.
don't know about you, but I wasn't in any hurry to get that
In fact, it used to make me mad. I'd toss it on the corner of my
and glare at it occasionally while I waited for the rest of my tax
information to come so I could file my return.
When the IRS surveyed their customers - asked what was important to
them - they got a big surprise. The number one response - the
people wanted most - was minimal contact with the IRS. I see that
no surprise to you. Knowing that their customers want minimal
has driven lots of changes at IRS, like electronic filing, filing
the touch-tone phone, and their goal of answering all your
in one phone call. They made lots of improvements, but first they
to ask what their customers wanted.
IRS wasn't the only agency to get it wrong. People at Veterans
Affairs used to think that veterans enjoyed sitting around in
rooms because it gave them a chance to swap war stories. But when
asked their customers, they found out veterans don't like waiting
more than anyone else.
The point is that if you don't ask your customers you're probably
going to get it wrong. We are going to spend a lot of time
to our customers.
The next part of the success formula is to constantly collaborate
partners. Most businesses can't function without partners. We
Look at Ford Motor Company; they need suppliers and retail
to succeed. They are all independent companies free to do their
thing, but their fates are linked inextricably by their ultimate
customer, the Ford buyer. We're no different.
Our partners are the lenders and guarantors and schools. They're
delivery system, and the way we deal with each other strongly
influences the cost and the quality of service to our ultimate
customer-the student. By the way, if our partners have a problem,
have a problem.
Working with our partners, we'll carry out the third part of the
formula. We'll get all of our systems aligned to deliver what our
customers want. You start with a picture-a system architecture-so
can actually see where you want to go. Then you draw a blueprint
will take you there from where you are today. You get there
step-by-step-buy a little, test a little, fix a little-and at each
step try to use commercial software that's already proven itself.
Better a 90% solution off-the-shelf than a 100% new design.
The fourth part of the formula is to build a financial management
system equal to the best in business. We can't operate the PBO
Okay. That's the winning formula: be obsessed with customers,
constantly collaborate with partners, align systems to deliver what
the customers want, and run a best in business financial management
system. Every bit of it is essential.
But, it's not enough. There is one more piece that makes the whole
thing work. I call it my secret weapon. Because lots of top
executives want their organizations to be customer-driven, to work
smoothly with their partners, and get all their systems aligned to
deliver. Who doesn't? But they don't succeed because they don't
the secret weapon.
"My secret weapon is you"
I'll let you in on it. My secret weapon is you. It's employee
empowerment. Nobody can improve customer service more than the
employees who meet the customers, talk with them, and listen to
day after day. Nobody knows our partners' needs better than those
you who interact with them. Or knows better than you the glitches
our systems, and how to fix them.
Even though I haven't met you all yet, I have heard from enough of
to be absolutely positive that you want to make a real
to add value, to help put America through school. This desire is a
powerful thing. A potent force that has been trapped in an old
bureaucracy. In the PBO we're going to tap that force.
When I've seen other organizations tap this force the results were
amazing. In just one week, I've seen examples here that hint at
· Keith Wilson and Amy Luycx knew students well enough to know
they would love to be able to use the Internet to apply for loans
on-line. So they teamed up with some other SFA folks and created
FAFSA-on-the-Web, one of the best Web-based customer service gems
the government. I recently presented this team with one of the
government's top technology awards.
· When our partners at schools in Puerto Rico said they could
some training in default management, Tara Porter, Nancy Height, and
Steve Tessitore put together a 3-day course that 80 schools
Many said was the best training the Education Department had ever
· And life's been simpler for our own debt collectors since Eric
Vanburen, developed the Debt Collection Service intranet. All the
manuals, laws, regulations and guidance they need is at their
fingertips on the computer instead of buried in mountains of paper.
I'm sure you all have ideas that will improve things. Each and
one of you knows specific things that SFA could do, or could help
partners do, that will improve service and cut cost. You know
you live the business every day.
Some of you may have tried to make changes and got tired of trying.
Some may even have learned to keep their mouths shut. That's the
first change we have to make. That's my job: to get those good
out of your heads and into operation.
So, I'm going to kick off a customer service task force composed of
you. And you are going to start changing SFA.
The task force will be done in cooperation with NPR and the
Department. But the primary staff will be front-line employees.
union will be our partner on the task force - by the way last week
reconstituted a Labor Management Partnership Council focussed on the PBO.
The task force will be a focal point for your ideas on how to
SFA. There will be a hotline to the task force so that ideas
have to go through me or other managers to get heard.
The task force will also be a focal point for customer and partner
inputs on how we can do a better job.
We did a task force like this at the IRS and provided a framework
the dramatic, top to bottom changes that are going on there now.
employees had great ideas. For example, the IRS customers were
frustrated because they couldn't get through on the phone. IRS was
trying their best but only managing to answer 50% of the calls.
of the frontline workers on the taskforce came to me and said he
how to fix the problem. He had drawn up some charts that showed
were big peaks in the volume of calls. He told me that the peaks
right after they sent out certain letters, and that if we spread
mailing the letters, we could spread out the calls and eliminate
peaks. He also suggested spreading out the hours when operators
on duty. We did that and IRS was able to answer 80% of all the
instead of 50%. Next year, they will have operators available 24
hours, 7 days a week, and will answer over 90% of the calls.
the kind of improvements our task force will be able to make, too.
The task force work will also get to help set the goals I'll have
meet as Chief Operating Officer-goals in customer satisfaction,
employee satisfaction, and financial performance. When was the
time you got to set goals for the boss? How's that for a change?
How's that for fun?
This is gonna be fun. It's gonna be fun to surprise students with
fabulous customer service. Fun to astonish bursars and astound
bankers, those critical partners of ours - they are always critical
our effort, and sometimes critical of it.
Cutting cost can be fun, too. Even if you're not an auditor. Some
people think cutting costs just means cutting jobs. That's not
it means to me because there are so many opportunities to save
Helping schools and banks save on administration. Helping more and
more students avoid default. Big opportunities.
"An organization that everyone can trust"
What's going to be the most fun, though, is the chance to do what
joined government to do. To make a difference for America. I know
that's why you signed up. I know that's what's in your heart.
in mine, too.
We have a rare opportunity to show everyone what we can do. You
the sad truth is that public opinion doesn't trust government to do
the right thing. Just doesn't think we can do as good a job as the
Well I know we can. Congress and the Administration have given us
chance. We're going to do a great job serving customers from this
PBO. And we're going to give all government employees something to
brag about in the process. They don't get much chance to do that
soccer game, at church or across the back fence. We'll give them a
story to tell.
We are gonna show 'em service like they've never seen, and we'll
fun doing it. We're going to show them that the people who work
government are good people too often trapped in bad systems.
And when we get the kind of results I know we will-better than
wildest expectations-then more and more people in government will
this same opportunity-more and more government workers will get to
show what they can do as PBO's.
We're going to make the government's first Performance Based
Organization an organization that everyone can trust. Students
trust us to get them their money in time for school, and to keep
accounts straight. Our partners will trust us to keep them
in mind, and in the loop as we make improvements. The taxpayers
trust us to be careful with their money while we use it to
our proud mission-while we use it to put America through school.
Thank you all for listening.
***** Student Swears in OSFAP's New COO *****
Mr. Anthony Samu administered Greg Woods' oath of office as
OSFAP's new chief operating officer. Anthony represents
OSFAP's customers, the students of America. He does that
officially as president of the United States Student
Association. And he represents our student customers in a
very personal way, too.
Anthony was the first member of his family to graduate from
college - even the first to graduate from high school. His
of a college degree would never have come true without federal
aid, and he has worked tirelessly to increase funding for
students, especially grants for low-income students.
While attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthony
worked as a financial aid advisor, helping other student
the application process. He also is a student representative
Project EASI (Easy Access for Students and Institutions), a
government-private sector partnership working to simplify and
improve student aid customer service.
Greg Woods in Profile
Since 1993, Greg has been the deputy director of the National
Partnership for Reinventing Government concentrating on
technology, customer service, and regulatory reform. Greg
spearheaded Access America, designed to provide families
electronic access to a wide range of government services from
applying for Medicare and pension benefits to making
at national parks. One of the first pilot tests of Access
America will allow students to use commercial financial
and the Web to receive financial aid accounts and monitor
For eight years before that, Greg was the CEO of Science and
Engineering Associates, a startup company that develops
systems and innovative software. Earlier, he was deputy CEO
Science Applications International Corporation, a consulting
firm, and president of its subsidiary, JRB Associates.
In the early 1970s, Greg worked for the Secretary of Defense,
winning the Fleming Award as one of the outstanding young
in government. It's good to have him back in government.
Performance Based Organizations
Student Financial Assistance