National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Michael S. Messinger
Note: This Hammer Award ceremony recognized four teams of State Department employees and their public and private sector partners. Their efforts improved customer service and streamlined government:
Remarks for Hammer Award Presentation
December 18, 2000
Department of State
- An Internet and Technology Assistance Team, made up of former United States Information Agency employees and their partners from the International Committee of Red Cross, United States High Commission on Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and 16 major corporations helped hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees from Kosovo.
- The International Visitor Information Exchange - Management System Teams in the Bureau of Educational and Consular Affairs worked with partners in other State Department offices and 8 educational and nonprofit organizations. They used an off-the-shelf platform to create an international network of computer database systems to interconnect U.S. Embassies, the State Department and more than 100 organizations and nearly 100 International Visitor Centers across the country. The network uses the Internet as a key conduit to connect databases.
- A team in the Consular Section, U.S. Embassy Kuwait developed the first ever online United States Citizen Registration for America citizens residing in or visiting Kuwait.
- Employees in States' Passport Services and the Retail Products and Services Office of the United States Postal Service teamed up to help put passport application offices in many post offices and other government offices in cities and communities across the country. This reduces the long distances that citizens have to travel to apply for a passport and takes the strain off the 13 U.S. Regional Passport Agencies, enabling them to focus on the most urgent cases.
Reflecting back over the past seven years that I have been involved with the Reinventing Government effort, I never thought that we could accomplish as much as we did. I've always felt that government was focused on process and bureaucracy, not on outcomes and results. Often our staffs would tell us what they couldn't do instead of how they can do it.
I never thought that we could treat out citizens as customers, instead of just taxpayers, I never thought that I would see a movement of career federal workers committed to giving the best quality service to the American people and compete with the private sector.
I never thought that there would be a day when we would think outside of the box and get rid of the old stovepipe mentality and find ways to partner with other offices, with other federal agencies, with other levels of government and the private sector.
Look at how far we have gone with what started out as a six-month study back in March 1993 to what today is a permanent part of our government culture. And there is no turning back.
Look at what you as teams of federal employees have done over the past few years.
Found new innovative ways to bring displaced refugees during a terrible conflict together using the latest technology and the Internet. You created an international partnership of both public and private institutions to cut through all of the red tape, focus on a single outcome and had great results.
You as a team found a way to work between two government operations to streamline how you make passports more accessible to our citizens. Now we can go to 1,800 post offices to apply for a passport. The goal is 3,000 by the end of next year. Just think if we can eventually do this at all post offices across the country. What we're trying to do is to make government services convenient and easy for our citizens.
You as a team found a way of using the Internet and technology to provide a better and safe environment for our citizens abroad by making it easier for them to keep our Embassy's informed as to their where abouts.
And you as a team, found a way to make it easier for our International Visitor Community to have better access to information on the program and resources to deliver a better experience for those thousands of participants in the IV program by connecting all of the partners together.
What has all of this done? It's help connect citizens with their government, it has helped you deliver services more efficiently and effectively, and it has given you the tools to do your jobs better.
Now how do we know this...
For the past three years we have conducted an across the board employee survey. We just released last Friday the results of the third Federal Employee Survey
- In the next five years, nearly half the Federal workforce will be eligible to retire or take an "early out" and rank-and-file employees are concerned.
- Recent studies tell of a dramatic downturn in the number of talented young people choosing public service as a career and the reluctance of the best and brightest to accept political appointments.
- Their reasons? Generally, it's not an issue of pay. Rather, it's the bureaucratic structures, red tape, and a feeling that it is impossible to "make a difference."
- Combined, these factors make it difficult for Federal leaders to attract and retain highly qualified and motivated people and give the American people service equal to the best in business.
- Remember, Federal employees make sure the planes that fly, the food that's eaten, and the cars that are driven are all safe. Delivering great customer service demands that Federal employees have the most supportive and productive work environment possible. We must win this war for talent.
- As a result of those surveys, specific actions are being taken. The 1998 Government-wide employee survey results, for example, led to the reinvigoration of labor-management partnerships.
- The 1999 results catalyzed the President's Management Council to improve performance management across the Government. In addition, many others are working to improve the Federal workforce and work place.v
- The results for 2000 show solid, steady improvement toward making the Federal Government America's model employer.
- Where reinvention is an agency priority, 84% of federal employees are satisfied with their jobs.
- The overall job satisfaction rate is 63% -- comparable to the private sector.
- Results also show increases in recognition for doing good work; respect for differences among individuals, and an emphasis on plain language to explain government services and regulations.
- At the same time, the results show where we need to re-double our efforts. Although the good news is that we're making progress, we face a considerable challenge. The 2000 Employee Survey results provide a Government-wide and agency-level benchmark against which to compare future progress.
Customer Service Survey Results - to be Released December 22
- Last year was the first time in history that a third party conducted an objective, independent assessment of customer satisfaction with the services they receive from the federal government.
- That survey was one of NPR's signature initiatives. The survey results gave us powerful, scientific evidence that our focus on customer service - going back to the beginning in 1993 - is working.
- This initiative was a giant step forward in the our reinvention cause -- creating a government that works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about.
- It gave us an opportunity to improve America's trust in its government in a way that reflects the voices of our citizens. Those voices are important for setting our reinvention plans and priorities.
- The agencies that participated in this survey went out on a limb in some ways. It's not easy for government agencies to ask their customers -- American taxpayers -- how they are doing. In fact, it's only been recently that government agencies have thought about what they do in terms of serving customers.
- But the government has to get used to the idea of being evaluated by its customers and these agencies are paving the way.
- The numbers mean that more Americans are having the kinds of positive experiences that raise their trust and increase their feeling that government is responsive to their wishes.
- Last year, the private sector service index was 72. And 12 agencies scored equal to or better than that! That in itself sends a powerful message about reinvention.
- One of the most important conclusions about last year's survey was that government employees who have direct contact with the public received high marks for courtesy and professionalism.
- We'll be releasing the results of our 2000 survey this coming Friday, so be sure to watch and see how well we did over the last year.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE HERE? THAT YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. OUR CUSTOMERS APPRECIATE IT, AND WE ARE CONTRIBUTING TO RESTORING AMERICA'S TRUST IN GOVERNMENT.