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FCW : September 30, 2016
28 September 30, 2016 FCW.COM Federal Communications Commis- sion CIO David Bray is the govern- ment chair for the 2016 Executive Leadership Conference — ACT- IAC’s annual gathering of govern- ment and industry leaders in the federal IT community. He talked recently with FCW Editor-in-Chief Troy K. Schneider about the agenda and ambitions for this year’s conference. The tran- script has been edited for length and clarity. You often talk about the impor- tance of encouraging colleagues and team members to be change agents. How do you teach such an intangible skill, particularly in a culture that’s as bureaucratic as government? That’s a very good question. In some respects, it’s helping someone, dare I say, almost recognize their inner potential. They can find an oppor- tunity to use whatever gifts and talents they have to make a positive difference. The nice thing about it is it’s actu- ally somewhat easier to do in public service, which you wouldn’t think. This is definitely a rules-driven cul- ture, but people usually sign up to make a difference. What about the attempts to teach by example — whether it’s an individual leader or a digital service team or whatever? Can you trans- fer some of this culture through osmosis? You can, and I want to be very sup- portive of those teams. The chal- lenge that you run into is when you bring someone from the outside to teach by example and there’s no encouragement of “seek to under- stand before you seek to be understood.” They can have all the best inten- tions in the world. I actually saw this happen a year ago where some- one from a digital service team was talking about the importance of your customers wanting to be sur- prised and delighted by how much information you know about them that they don’t know they need you to know. That might work for Silicon Val- ley firms. You’re filling out a form and, oh, it’s nice that I don’t have to fill this out. But that probably doesn’t work for government agen- cies. I don’t think a lot of citizens want to be surprised that, hey, we pulled records from other depart- ments and know all this stuff about you. We’re headed into a transition, which means huge turnover in the leadership ranks. How do you build a culture of change that sticks after the change agent leaves? You do have to have C-suite leaders who are willing to stay there long enough to, in some respects, work themselves out of a job. The other thing, though, is actu- ally preparing your successors. Suc- cession planning is something that is talked about but not often done — making sure you have a succes- sion plan, and making sure there are at least two people as successors because you never know, they may end going someplace else, too. That planning and that conversa- tion between political leadership and career executives are things I would hope come up at ELC. Clear- ly, political appointees are providing the political direction to the ship of state. The question is: How can we have a better two-way conversation about what are the things you want to get done? And then how can we help you take those objectives and actually execute them in a way that maintains momentum? Make changes if necessary, but keep things moving as opposed to ‘ We need safe spaces to do things differently’ Fir stPerson Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray discusses change agents and the aspirations for this year’s Executive Leadership Conference 0930fcw_028-029.indd 28 9/7/16 12:27 PM
September 15, 2016