FCW Commentary: Who cares if you wear a hoodie or a suit? It’s the mission that matters most

“I read Steve Kelman’s recent blog post, ‘Two tech titans take on 18F and USDS,’ with more than passing interest. I respect Bob Woods and Ed Meagher, and they raise some good points. But I think they missed some big changes that happened in the last four years, especially with 18F.

I should know, as I ran the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) from June 2017 until October 2019. My first big task after being sworn in as the FAS commissioner was to take a completely separate organization at GSA, the Technology Transformation Service (TTS, which includes 18F), and merge it into FAS. The marching orders were to make peace between the hoodies and the suits. Like so many stories where technology is in the headline, this one is really about people, culture, and organizational alignment…”

“To begin creating a shared culture, we stood up an in-house integration team and kicked off a series of confidence-building sprints across eight functional areas, dubbed ‘Joining Forces,’ designed to bring TTS into FAS. Those eight teams paired leaders from FAS and TTS together in pursuit of the common objective to align people and processes in areas like procurement authority and customer relationship management. Over time, we also made some personnel moves, taking leaders from TTS and placing them into new leadership roles in other parts of FAS.

The Joining Forces sprints enabled us to start acting like teammates with a shared set of top-level goals. If someone from TTS needed to work an issue with the General Counsel, they often enlisted the help of the FAS chief of staff. The same went for things like blog posts and speaking events that needed agency-level approval. As part of FAS, the ‘hoodies’ were plugged into an established set of business processes that gave the overseers and institutionalists a sense of assurance.

One anecdote from late 2017 demonstrates the progress made in getting leaders from FAS and TTS to work together. Dave Zvenyach, the whip-smart 18F alum who is now back at GSA as the Director of TTS, and Erv Koehler, a tough-as-nails career SES, gave a joint presentation on customer relationship management to the entire leadership team at an offsite. Zvenyach, a recovering lawyer who often wore a hoodie, put on a shirt and tie for the occasion. Koehler, always dressed formally, donned a hoodie. It was the perfect pre-planned wardrobe malfunction that signaled, ‘I’m okay, you’re okay, so let’s focus on how we can best work together.’…” Read the full article here.

Source: Who cares if you wear a hoodie or a suit? It’s the mission that matters most – By Alan Thomas, February 22, 2021. FCW.


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