Bob Stone
Author & Speaker

Workshops & Seminars
Confessions of a Civil Servant
The Ethics Challenge

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Bob and his partner, Mick Ukleja, just finished a new book,The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World.  Read more about it by clicking the link above.

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Lessons in Changing America's Military and Govenment

A Book by Bob Stone

Preface to the Paperback Edition

I’ve been on a perpetual book tour of sorts since the hardcover edition came out a year ago—a book tour not to sell books but ideas, and to engage hearts and minds over public service. So I spend my time mostly doing two things: lecturing to students and doing workshops for government leaders at all levels.

I’ve been delighted by my reception. Students of public administration are hungry to learn about public service. They are leaning toward public service because they want to do important things, but they’re not sure. They’re full of questions:

    Is government just too bureaucratic for a person to get things done?
    Do I have to wait years to make a contribution?
    Can I say what I think?

And the big question: Can I make a difference?

I’ve been able to reassure them on all these questions, and have left all my sessions more convinced than before of the need for this book, and of its utility in the classroom.
The hardcover edition is already being used as a text at several universities. Here are reactions from a few of the professors using Confessions of a Civil Servant in their courses:

 “My students are enjoying this book so much I have decided to use it again next semester.”
—Veronica Cruz, SUNY-Albany

 "This book richly depicts Bob Stone’s experiences in public service. Stone’s passion for innovation and positive change in government and his courageous and caring leadership are evident throughout the book. My students raved about this book!”
—Gary S. Marshall, University of Nebraska, Omaha

“What it’s really like to be a civil servant and to try and create change in the bureaucracy. It is a wonderful read and filled with important lessons for anyone in any big organization.”
—Elaine Kamarck, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Taken as a whole the book gives a rich picture of one person’s 30-year journey in government service. It describes successes, failures, mistakes, and learnings, and most important, the possibilities of making a difference.

But taken chapter by chapter the book can be the basis for classroom discussions or essays that get students deeply engaged and teaching themselves. At the end of each chapter the theme of the chapter is repeated, followed by the lessons from the chapter. By getting students to discuss the themes and lessons, the teacher can help the students get the most out of the book and learn many of the most important issues in public administration.

Where to start depends on the subject matter of the course. For example, if the subject is government regulation, Chapters 2 (Shrinking regulations) and 11 (Strengthening the regulatory process) would be highly relevant. If the subject is innovation, then Chapters 9 (Encouraging and protecting innovators) and 14(Getting past the barriers to change) would be relevant. A review of the Table of Contents will give the reader more ideas.

But what government needs most is better bosses! The most important lesson in the book is that public service requires leadership, and leadership can be taught. That’s why Chapter Fifteen (Ten Lessons in Leadership) is the most important chapter. I’ve conducted dozens of lectures and workshops for government leaders built around this chapter. These workshops have been the most exciting and rewarding experiences of all. Participants have been fully engaged, and hungry for insights into how they might become better leaders in public service.

Mid-career public servants and senior executives are most in need of—and most receptive to—the lessons in leadership, because, I believe, they have been most subjected to bad leadership during their career. Study of Chapter 15 can help in two ways: it can turn around people who have learned and practiced the old Theory X management style, and it can increase the confidence of people who want to be a different kind of leader but fear that it’s not the most effective way to lead.  It is!

If students of public administration and people already in government learn nothing more than the lessons of Chapter 15, they will be far better prepared for public service than I was.

Copyright 2008 by Bob Stone. All rights reserved.