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FCW : March 30, 2014
12 March 30, 2014 FCW.COM For a smart guy, Dan Tangherlini has made some questionable career moves. A rising star at the Of ce of Management and Budget and Transportation Depart- ment in the 1990s, he took a detour into the District of Columbia govern- ment, working at the Metropolitan Police Department and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority before ultimately serving as city admin- istrator under Mayor Adrian Fenty. In 2009, Tangherlini returned to federal service by taking three jobs in one: the Treasury Department s assis- tant secretary for management, chief nancial of cer and chief performance of cer. In 2012, he moved to the Gen- eral Services Administration as acting administrator, tasked with righting an agency that had just lost several executives and much of its credibility because of questionable conference spending and other mismanagement. Tangherlini likes to say it s all an attempt to get stories to match those of his brother, who is a re ghter in San Francisco. "What I m really trying to be is as cool as my younger brother," he quipped. "But I m not even close." Turning serious, however, he said it was a "huge honor" to even be consid- ered for such public-service challeng- es. "I ve gone because I ve been asked," he said. "And maybe it s because other people weren t interested in doing it, but in every one of those opportunities what I found were smart, committed, dedicated public servants who were dying to work on something big and important and meaningful." That answer --- with its descrip- tion of the allure of making govern- ment better and the sharing of credit with agency colleagues --- gets to the essence of the GSA administrator and the management style that has won over many at both ends of Pennsylva- nia Avenue. Not everyone is a fan of Tangher- lini s tenure at GSA, of course --- per- haps unsurprisingly, given his mandate to rein in spending and reboot some of the agency s management culture. But he has undeniably put his agency on a path of constant improvement, and given GSA s IT leaders the space and permission they need to experiment. "It s OK to risk the possibility of blowing up what works," he said, if that s what it takes to ensure that sys- tems continue to improve. "If you don t make continuous improvement or investment, the risk gets big. You even- tually get to the point where you have to rebuild the thing from scratch." That doesn t mean change for change s sake, Tangherlini said, argu- ing that much of GSA s success comes from the "combination of people who bring experience with having tried things before with people who are really interested in trying new stuff." The key is "valuing everyone s opinions around the table but having a clear message that we are going to continu- ally improve, and we are going to focus on great outcomes and results." Anyone hoping that GSA might calm down after an initial urry of change should probably think again. From Tangherlini s perspective, things are just getting going. Noting that he started at OMB in 1991, right after the Chief Financial Of cers Act was passed, Tangherlini said, "You ve got to remember, we didn t even have audited nancial statements for federal agencies. I don t think it s a stretch to say that we didn t know what agencies were spending and where their money was." "I think it s taken every bit of those 20 years for us to actually build the effective management system," he said. "We are close to really having the... continuous streams of meaningful, important and interesting management data that will allow managers to actu- ally have a sense of how their agencies are performing in real time." "That initial 20 years was hard and slow," Tangherlini added. "I think the next 20 years are going to be fast and dramatic." ■ 2014 GOVERNMENT EAGLE WINNER A force for continuous change DAN TANGHERLINI ZAID HAMID BY TROY K. SCHNEIDER
March 15, 2014
April 15, 2014