Evans, Barksdale honored with Azimuth Awards

A common criticism about the federal government is that it has a lot of problems. From too much red tape to its leaders focusing on their own agendas, agencies for many are easy targets for criticism.

But last night, the CIO Council honored two leaders for their ability to cut through red tape, push aside competing agendas and get important work done.

Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's administrator for E-government and IT, and Jim Barksdale, former CIO and chief operating officer at FedEx and president and CEO at Netscape Communications, received the eighth annual Azimuth Award for government and industry for their ongoing commitment to improving the way the government uses technology.

The Azimuths'handed out each year at the FOSE trade show in Washington sponsored by PostNewsweek Tech Media, the parent company of Government Computer news'recognize two individuals for their extraordinary contributions toward improving the mission of government through technology.

'The person we are honoring is a person with passion,' said OMB deputy director for management Clay Johnson, who introduced Evans before the award. 'No one has more of a commitment to results; no one has more energy; no one is more focused on the goal at hand. When this person says this is the goal, this is the goal. And no one has more first-hand experience with you all in this room than Karen Evans. It is my privilege to recognize Karen Evans.'

Evans, who took over as OMB administrator in October 2003, shepherded the 25 E-government initiatives from development to implementation, oversaw the next phase of E-government in the form of the six Lines of Businesses initiatives, helped move agency enterprise architectures to become effective under OMB's evaluation criteria, and pushed for the implementation of earned-value management to improve overall project management.

'This is the CIO Council's way of congratulating and thanking you for leadership,' Johnson said. 'I know it sounds like everyone loves Karen, but that is not always true. They sometimes cuss at you because they think they can do something better themselves or want to go their own way. But you are a fantastic leader with enduring passion and credibility. You have taken our commitment to heights of professionalism the American people deserve.'

Evans was overwhelmed and showed an emotional side during her acceptance speech.

'I talk to Clay often about how I thank the administration for the opportunity to do this job,' she said, choking back the tears. 'I always think about how I can do the job better or different. I know I'm relentless. Everything I do is reflected in the work you do and it is an honor to represent your work to the administration.'

Barksdale, like Evans, sees the problems many agencies face as opportunities to improve mission performance. He looked back on his time with Netscape as a metaphor on how to get things done in government.

When he got to the Internet browser company in 1996, he admittedly was a 'little bit long in the tooth.' He was working with about 25 people and they were all 'under the age of 12 and were some of the smartest people' he has ever worked with. 'But they wanted to prove it every time.'

Barksdale instituted three 'snake rules' at Netscape for addressing problems:
  1. If there is a problem, don't send an e-mail or have a meeting, solve it. Kill the snake when you first see it.

  2. Once the decision is made, don't continue to argue about it. Don't play with dead snakes.

  3. All great opportunities start out as problems or snakes.

'If there are no problems, then no one will make money or take the time to solve them,' he said. 'You people [in government] live in a world with problems and I envy the work you do. I hope you look at the problems as opportunities because we need you to solve them.'

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