Mark Forman | Another View: The lessons of reform (print version)

This is an abridged version of acceptance remarks made by Mark Forman at the Oct. 25 GCN Awards Gala, upon being inducted into GCN's Hall of Fame.


Click here for the full version.

Mark Forman

Ever since I came to Washington, I've wondered how a government staffed with bright and committed employees could keep the Government Accountability Office so active. Here are some of the key lessons that I've learned.

  • Focus on the incentive structures: Processes, technologies, organizational charts, are just tools. For lasting change, positive rewards will always beat negative consequences.

  • Transparency and accountability: Let the sun shine in and fix the problems. Every wave of information technology promotes transparency and responsiveness.

  • Don't mistake a critic for a detractor: Listen and decide. The worst situations in Washington occur when leaders victimize people who raise valid concerns.

  • Leverage teamwork: Increasingly, government relies on teamwork.

  • Give away success: I've always tried to spread more credit than I take.

  • Set goals; figure out how to achieve them.

  • Understand emerging innovations; figure out how to apply them in your situation.

  • Major reforms come from outside the system, rarely from within the bureaucracy.

  • Every day we face choices. Take a long-term view in making them.

  • Over the next few years I see two major opportunities for government:

    The Internet and laws such as the Federal Funds Accountability and Transparency Act offer dramatic opportunities to let the sun shine in on government spending. If information is published in greater detail on a monthly basis and the public starts to scrutinize it, there could be dramatic shifts in incentives.

    A second major opportunity for government reform is in clarifying roles, missions and responsibilities of government, an urgent issue that must be addressed if we are to see the fruits of recent reforms.

    Mark Forman was the first administrator for e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget. He is now a principal with KPMG LLC of New York.

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