Remarks by Bob Stone, Project Director, National Performance Review
at the
Bureau of the Census
Concept of Operations (CONOPS)
Hammer Award Ceremony

Suitland, Maryland
May 14, 1997
(See team achievements at the end of the speech.)

Thank you, Gisele. I'm very happy to be here. It's always a pleasure to be in the company of people who are making reinvention happen.

You know, I'm a little nervous. I'm used to presenting Hammers to low-profile agencies like the Department of State and the IRS. But the Census Bureau seems to be in every paper I pick up lately. Today in the Post, Mike Causey did his whole Federal column on your special hires for the year 2000 Census. It's a real kick to talk to such high-visibility group.

Speaking of visibility, the other day it occurred to me that maybe every federal agency could develop "tag lines" to make them seem more user-friendly. For your agency I came up with, "The Bureau of the Census -- We're Counting on You."

Actually that tag line could be reversed, because in reality, America counts on the Bureau of the Census. It counts on you to provide accurate demographic and economic data in record time. Today we are celebrating some teams who are serious about that responsibility to our customers, the American people.

"CONOPS" represents one of the most difficult things to accomplish in a bureaucracy -- it represents "change." Here's how I imagine it started. One day someone said, "There's got to be some way to make our acquisition system work better." And then someone else said, "Work better? Hah! Want a real challenge: try and think of some way it could work any worse." And then the first person said, "You know, there just has to be a better way." At the NPR, and in the Vice President's Office, a statement like that is known as a "Worthy Thought."

But the teams assembled here today did more than just have a "Worthy Thought." You did something about it. You created change, a change that is just beginning to make a difference. That change is CONOPS. That is what we call Reinventing Government.

There are many great things about this Reinvention. One of them is that this is the longest-lasting government reform effort in the history of this nation. But even greater is that the Vice President asked people like you, people in the front lines, to do the reforming, the reinvention. Previous efforts either brought in outside experts, like the Grace Commission under Reagan, or they made it a "cabinet-level" or similar management review.

Nobody thought to ask the people doing the work if they had any ideas on how to do their jobs better. As we federal employees know, nobody thought that we had any ideas, period. The answer had to come from captains of industry, or the Harvard Business School. Not from us.

But this time we did it right. The Vice President was committed to a reinvention that started with the people who do the work. I can't tell how proud he is of you. You are the people who proved he was right to put his confidence in the federal workers.

That is what the Hammer Award is all about. Hammer Teams like yours are restoring the faith of the American people in their government. The Vice President had confidence in us, and now the American people are beginning to have confidence in us. After decades of steady decline, polls are finding that confidence in government is on the rise . . . and Hammer Teams are part of the reason why.

I have more good news for you. Your "Worthy Thought" was not alone. The seeds of reinvention have been sown throughout the government. Other pockets of reinvention have sprouted all over the place.

And those efforts have borne fruit. The Blair House Papers is your book. It is a collection of "Worthy Thoughts." It is fifteen principles that we distilled from reinventors like you. Having learned from the workers how to reinvent government, the Vice President decided it was time to teach the managers.

Vice President Gore launched this effort with a bang. On the Saturday before the inauguration, President Clinton and the Vice President held a Cabinet Retreat at the Blair House, which is right across the street from the White House.

Most of the day was spent with the new and remaining cabinet secretaries split up in working groups. But there was one plenary session. The presentation was by Al Gore, and the topic was -- reinventing government.

We summarized his presentation into this nifty little book and called it The Blair House Papers. We gave it a red cover, because that is the color of revolution -- a revolution you started.

The Blair House Papers provides the "rules of the road" as the Federal government drives to a balanced-budget future. This book is not a "directive-from-on-high" but a distillation of what people like you in the federal front lines have taught us in the first four years of reinvention.

Listen to the three key principles in The Blair House Papers, listen to how they resonate with what you have achieved in CONOPS:

  1. Deliver great service.
  2. Foster partnership and community solutions.
  3. Reinvent to get the job done with less.
Each of those principles is reflected in what these Hammer Teams have accomplished.

But now comes the hard part. The Vice President began the effort in the Cabinet Retreat. But the job of teaching the managers is not an easy one. With the grand exception of all managers in this room, managers can be a pretty thick-headed bunch.

That's where you come in. Once again the Vice President has put his confidence in you. Your achievements in CONOPS are what might be called, in D-day lingo, "beachheads." What we need now is to expand on those beachheads and create breakouts, liberating entire government agencies, and finally, the entire federal government.

To focus our efforts in achieving breakouts, the Vice President and the NPR identified the 32 key government agencies that have the most interaction with the public and provide the majority of services. Guess what? The Bureau of the Census is one of those agencies.

So once again, you, particularly you, are playing an important role in reinventing government. We need you to become "Disciples of Reinvention" to the rest of the Bureau of the Census. Spread the news, tell people about your success. But don't just tell them, SHOW them. Most importantly, encourage them to voice their own "Worthy Thoughts." I know that Dr. Riche will back you in your efforts. And so will Al Gore.

So, on behalf of the Vice President, congratulations and thank you for your tremendous efforts and outstanding results. And to conclude, let me suggest an amendment to my tag line. This time it should read -- "CONOPS -- We're counting on you."

Because we are.

End of Speech

What the Concept of Operations Reengineering Team at the Bureau of the Census Accomplished

The Bureau of the Census volunteered to participate as a pilot in the Department of Commerce's plan to reinvent its acquisition system. CONOPS, an empowered, cross-functional team of Census workers, streamlined acquisitions by redefining its relationship with industry and using technology to speed up communications and cut out work. The team, formed around mission and project objective rather than the acquisition, focuses on getting results.

In the reinvented process, vendors give input to the team rather than respond to a lengthy and specific statement of work. The team regularly interacts with vendors on the Internet and through e-mail. They post online model documents and other templates to cut down on time and expense in recreating new documents with each new contract.

Here's just one example of what happened because the team cut government red tape. A $50 million contract for up to 21,500 laptops to be delivered over four years was completed in 18 weeks with first delivery occurring within 24 weeks. Normally, just the order would have taken at least 12 months to award.

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