Progress Report - Chapter 3


Putting "Services"
Back into GSA

It wasn't long ago that, in government offices across the country, federal employees referred to the General Services Administration merely as "GA"; as one employee put it, "It never had any services." [10]

That, however, was before Administrator Roger Johnson, whose organization controls or influences $45 billion in agency purchases, gave GSA's reinvention labs unusual freedom to overhaul their operations. In the Rocky Mountain Region in Denver, the new organization chart has customers and front-line service centers on top, the regional administrator on the bottom, and Washington not listed.

Of the 400 proposals from the region's workers on how to simplify and cut the costs of internal operations, most are already in place and very few were turned down. Management and union officials have formed a Quality Council to devise ways to prepare for the future. Council members have fanned out across the region to interview the GSA's customers about what they want. They also sought ideas from Canada's GSA, which enforces a procurement law of only eight pages, including both English and French translations.

As Wolfgang Zoellner, who heads the reinvention lab, told his colleagues, Johnson has stopped sending people from Washington to check up on the Denver staff. Instead, he merely tells Denver and the other regions what he expects them to achieve and lets them figure out how. Zoellner, in turn, told his own staff to treat the field offices under their jurisdiction the same way.

Among the changes in Denver, the lab replaced the standard custodial contract that even specified the color of sponges. The new one, 100 pages thinner, simply requires that the contractor keep the building clean. The staff also scrapped the 600-page General Services Administration's Acquisition Regulation, cut six months off the lead time for building design, cut the time it takes an agency to get rid of old furniture and equipment from 60 days to 21, and moved back into the short-term car rental business, competing successfully with commercial firms.

In Denver, the red tape is greatly reduced, the customers are thrilled, and GSA's staff is much happier. "It's much more enjoyable, "Mark Koehler, lead maintenance mechanic, told Vice President Gore in June. "It's actually fun now. A year ago I couldn't say that. I may have left the government before now had this not come about."[11]


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