Friday, May 22, 2020
Articles from across the Web that we at the IBM Center for The Business of Government found interesting for the week of May 18-22, 2020.

John Kamensky

Fiscal Service Planning Pays Off. Federal News Network reports: “The Bureau of the Fiscal Service, two years after putting together a long-term playbook to modernize the federal financial system, has seen some early investments in technology and its workforce pay off during the coronavirus pandemic. . . . Treasury has sent more than 140 million pandemic stimulus payments worth $239 billion less than two months after passage of the CARES Act.”

Shifting Deadlines. FedScoop reports: “The Federal Data Strategy team is extending target dates in its 2020 action plan as agencies focus on “mission-critical” activities and minimize face-to-face interactions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Sustaining Telework. NextGov reports: “Agencies are now financially able to boost their IT capacity and acquire equipment to operate in the work from home landscape, capabilities that will remain in place after the COVID-19 pandemic passes. For example, the Defense Department has seen unprecedented demand for new equipment ranging from tablets, laptops and network equipment to secure devices. . . “

More Productive. Federal Times reports: “At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there were concerns that mass telework would reduce the productivity of federal employees. . . . . According to Ryan Cote, CIO of the Transportation Department, his agency has “absolutely seen an increase” in productivity, but he hasn’t been able to pinpoint why.”

Work Going Forward. Federal Times reports: “Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said May 21 that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will leave the federal government “rethinking" many processes that were once required to occur in person.”

Intel Community Telework. Federal News Network reports: “With many civilian agencies now considering how they’ll reopen and modify office spaces, the pandemic has shown federal and industry leaders in the intelligence community that work arrangements for the classified workforce can — and likely will — need to change too.”

VA’s Hiring Streamlined. For Good? Federal News Network reports: “In the earliest days of the coronavirus crisis, the Veterans Health Administration faced a difficult personnel challenge: Hire as many new medical professionals as possible, and get them working as quickly as they can. . . . Richard Stone, VHA’s executive in charge, tasked the agency with a tougher goal: find a way to onboard a new employee within three days.. . . The challenge seemed daunting, considering it usually takes VHA about 90 days to hire and onboard a new employee. . . . The process improvements helped VHA hire more than 12,000 new people between March 29 through May 18.”

A Grim View of HR. Federal News Network reports: “The downsizing and decentralization of federal HR over the last three decades have created a void that many agencies haven’t quite recovered from, and emerging technology has yet to fill the gap, according to the Merit Systems Protection Board.”

Veterans Benefits Claims Backlog Spikes. FCW reports: “Under the 100% telework regime, backlogged claims increased slowly but steadily, before spiking in early May. As of May 16, the backlog number was 101,456. A week earlier, the backlog stood at 96,088. As recently as May 2, the figure was just over 80,000.”

Michael Keegan

VA benefits backlog spikes amid COVID pandemic. The backlog of initial claims for benefits by veterans has been spiking in recent weeks, after holding steady amid the 100% telework posture of the Veterans Benefits Administration. The backlog of claims for veterans' benefits -- those that have yet to be addressed for 125 days or longer – has crept up to over 100,000 according to data released Monday. VBA had been able to keep the backlog well below that number for months, in keeping with an overall Department of Veterans Affairs goal to lower the figure.

Pandemic reshapes workforce paradigms at DHS. Mandatory telework has DHS and other agencies rethinking their IT security and processes.

'Zero trust' requires IT and the mission side to collaborate. Since 9/11, agencies have been pushed to quickly and easily share information, but cybersecurity failures are pushing government to a zero trust model – one which brings challenges of its own.

Senate panel tees up cyber legislation with expanded powers for CISA and a new White House role. As the committee focused on how to turn ideas from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission report into legislation, the threat of cyber espionage from China loomed large over the discussion.

You can handle adversity. Here's how you do it. Adversity, challenges and setbacks don't have to define us, because we can build up our mental toughness in a variety of ways, LaRae Quy writes. One simple way to do this is to be an avid reader, someone who will "learn new skills and expand your horizons, study to become more intelligent, and make yourself more likable and attractive," she writes. SmartBrief/Leadership

Risk as seen through the lens of one fatal mistake. Risk comes in different forms, and it's easy to think about relatively minor consequences while forgetting about potentially severe outcomes, writes Morgan Housel, who illustrates the point by sharing how two friends were killed by an avalanche while skiing out of bounds. "But once you go through something like that, you realize that the tail-end consequences -- the low-probability, high-impact events -- are all that matter," he writes. Collaborative Fund

Managers need to let people find their failure point. The best way to help people is often to let them work through problems, not rescue them by doing the work for them or extending deadlines, writes Dan Rockwell. "The only way to learn how many plates you can spin is to break some plates," he writes. Leadership Freak

Constraints are a friend to innovation. A blank slate and a command to create isn't likely to go well because "[c]reativity is a reaction" to constraints, rules and parameters, writes Josh Spector. "You're more likely to struggle when asked to draw something than when asked to draw something specific," he argues. For The Interested


Next Week on The Business of Government Hour: A Special Series focusing on Leading Through Uncertain Times with Darrell Rigby co-author of Doing Agile Right. What is agile method? When and how should it be used? What is agile leadership and how can it be used during times of uncertainty? Join host Michael Keegan as he explores these questions and more on a Special Edition of The Business of Government Hour


Broadcast Schedule: The show airs Monday at 11 a.m., and Friday at 1 p.m. on Federal News Network 1500AM WFED

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