It's a long shot

Thomas R. Temin

Here in Washington, sports fans are abuzz with speculation over whether Michael Jordan will play basketball again, this time, presumably, for the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards are a fairly pathetic franchise in the National Basketball Association, having gone through several years of player and coaching staff turnover and losing records. Their spiffiest asset is a handsome downtown arena.

A couple of years ago, the Wizards brought Jordan in to shake things up. But as the Wizards' president of basketball operations, he hasn't yet succeeded in turning around the moribund franchise.

Meanwhile, fans have invested their hopes and dreams in Jordan, whether he remains a manager and part owner or takes the court as a player. But none of it absolves the rest of the team from getting its house in order to rise from being a laughingstock. Multitalented though he is, Jordan cannot single-handedly create a winning basketball team.

This is also true of a governmentwide chief information officer, a position President Bush has yet to decide whether to create and fill. Important as this question may seem at the moment, I don't think it matters a great deal in the long run. A governmentwide CIO would be a political appointee. Appointees come and go; agency problems persist.

Therefore, agency career executives, including CIOs, must not suspend their ongoing efforts to improve systems procurement and deployment while awaiting some sort of white knight.

Children often wish they had a ray gun that would make difficult people disappear, and so their problems. Or at times of stress they invent fantastical figures that can bring happiness. Grown-ups can't afford such fantasies. Being a grown-up means, in part, being realistic about life's ongoing challenges. A person may pray to a particular deity but must act as if everything depended on oneself.

This is what CIOs and program managers must do. In theory, a governmentwide CIO is an interesting concept. But in reality, you can't assume such a person will save you from the hard choices and long-term work of deploying information technology successfully.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: [email protected]


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