As I drove back from the [Management of Change] conference Tuesday, I came back time after time to three takeaways:
1. The traditional talking-head panel is dead, or dying. I tried to find a traditional, 20th-century government-speaker panel. I failed. You know the kind: three or four (or more) government talking heads, a moderator like yours truly, a preordained set of questions that everyone has conference-culled to death, and a room full of mostly industry people checking emails, or checking eyelids for cracks. In a quest for interactivity, MOC’s organizers built an agenda that consisted almost exclusively of “challenge zones,” areas of interest that required participants to either get engaged in solving a problem, or purposefully withdraw and refuse to participate. There was no middle ground. And in the rooms I looked in, I saw very few non-participants.
2. Government IT conferences are finally breaking down the last diversity silos. Not color, gender, or anything like that. Government conferences have been good at those for a long time. What they haven’t been good at — especially at IT conferences — is giving platform space to non-IT stakeholders. This year’s MOC featured a few procurement professionals, human resources officials, and experts from other specialties, sharing their expertise with not only the IT leaders in attendance, but with the industry people who service the IT market. I saw many light bulbs go on above the heads of industry people who started to comprehend why some things work the way they work.
3. The value of face-to-face interaction has never been greater. Sure, some industry folks show up at these events for the cattle-call aspect. But the cross-agency collaboration — something this administration rightfully emphasizes — happens more easily and naturally at an event like this than at any “council” meeting. Relaxed, informal, slower-paced conversations rarely happen in Washington; at events like this, they are standard operating procedure. That interaction is the best kind, too. At least three agency leaders told me Tuesday their most valuable takeaways from the conference were the information exchanges with peers at other agencies. And all of them agreed that such exchanges were unlikely, if not impossible, in a standard DC setting.
Read the full commentary here.
Photo: Martha Dorris of the General Services Administration receives the John J. Franke Award at the 2015 Management of Change conference. Photo by Francis Rose.