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Confessions of a Civil Servant: Lessons in Changing America's Government and Military Paperback – July 26, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1st Pbk Ed edition (July 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742527654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742527652
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Stone shares interesting and often entertaining anecdotes about his long career in government, during which be became known as the 'Energizer-in-Chief' for his efforts to help the military and civilian agencies run more efficiently. Stone explains how he overcame challenges in his own career and ends each chapter with a section listing several lessons learned. (Amelia Gruber Govexec.Com)

Great concepts here for supervisors everywhere--in governments, in the military, and in the business world. Read and heed. You'll be happy you did. (General Bill Creech)

A handy how-to handbook about what managers can do to move the mountain that is the government. Students and scholars alike will find it a provocative guide for transforming theory into results. (Kettl, Donald F.)

This is, simply, the best text ever on 'making it in government.' That is, getting BIG Things Done That Matter. This may also be the best text ever on large-scale organization change. Anywhere. (Tom Peters)

Bob Stone has been there and done that. Yet he came away from 30 years of federal service not as a cynical ex-bureaucrat, but as an idealist, full of ideas for reinventing government, some of which he put into practice in the Clinton-Gore White House, and the rest of which he put into this book. (James Pinkerton)

When I got to the Pentagon and met Bob, I found that this 'nerdy engineer' made great sense and what he was advocating was not heresy but a healthy dose of common sense. I became a fan of his and vowed that I would do everything possible to support his crusade for eliminating dumb regulations. No one I know understands the issues of transforming the military better than he does. If you are a military professional who truly cares about troops, then this book is especially for you. (General Dennis Reimer)

For any officer who aspires to senior leadership in the military services one of the things to be learned and mastered is to understand how bureaucracies work and how to unleash the creative power of both the civilian and military workforces you will be called upon to lead. Bob Stone's book is a compelling first-person account of the work that has been done over the last eighteen years. It is an excellent primer. In an era in which transformation is the big buzzword, it is useful to see what has and has not worked in the past. I highly recommend this book to officers, government civilians, and academics who want to expand their understanding of the military and the government. (General Ron Fogleman)

Stone's entertaining memoir also offers practical lessons in large-scale organizational change drawn from his 30 years in government service. (The Business Reader)

Stone's entertaining memoir also offers practical lessons in large-scale organizational change drawn from his 30 years in government service and his tenure as head of Al Gore's Reinvent Government initiative. (Baltimore Daily Record)

Each chapter presents entertaining stories and offers a summary of practical managerial lessons that individual public servants can learn. (Public Administration Review)

Stone's book demonstrates that bureaucracies are not immovable and that with persistence and good humor a public servant can make a real difference to improve our government and our democratic society. Several of my students reconsidered their career paths after reading it. (Catherine Burke)

Why does a chemical engineer embedded in the Pentagon wage guerrilla warfare against bureaucracy? How does he do it? Read this candid, engaging, and funny account to understand--and to join the ranks. (Richard Danzig)

A 'must-read,' hard to put down. The lessons Bob learned can be applied almost anywhere. A refreshing, instructive addition that will be of value to those who simply cannot live with the status quo. (David Luther)

Bob Stone's work in Reinventing Government broke new ground in managing big change. This valuable book captures what Bob learned. (James Champy)

About the Author

Bob Stone is a partner with the Public Strategies Group, a small consulting firm that advises governments around the world that seek to provide effective and efficient services to its citizens. During a 30-year career as a civil servant, Stone started a quality revolution at the Pentagon and later formed and led Al Gore's National Performance Review team at the White House.

More About the Author

Bob Stone is an internationally known author and speaker on ethical leadership and on leading change. His new book, just out, is The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World, with Mick Ukleja.

Bob's seminar, The Ethics Challenge: Essential Skills for Leading and Living, is unlike any mandatory ethics training: no talk about bribery, fraud, or conflict of interest. He covers what it means to behave ethically, and how that differs from merely behaving legally or in compliance with the rules. Bob starts with the basics: keep your word and follow the Golden Rule. He finishes with three essential skills for living and leading. These skills are easy to describe, not so easy to live, but living them will sharpen your ethical sensitivity and make it easier to keep strong and to follow your good intentions.

Bob teaches business ethics at the University of Redlands. and serves on the Governing Council of the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach.

He served for twelve years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installations, where he radically decentralized authority, cut regulations, made excellence the new standard, and occasionally got into hot water. He then spent six years at the White House leading Al Gore's effort to reinvent government.

Tom Peters called Bob's first book, Confessions of a Civil Servant: Lessons in Changing America's Government and Military, "maybe the best text ever on large scale organizational change. Anywhere."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Leora Krygier on July 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This tell-it-like-it-was gem about the author's thirty years of public service is nothing less than remarkable. Adroitly written with good humor, Stone's quiet, but dogged steadfast nature is wonderfully evident in every page and makes you count your lucky stars that people like him actually join the ranks of our government. These experiences should serve as a guide for future generations of civil servants tackling the often thankless and misunderstood job of government service. But more than that - there is a lesson plan for all of us who navigate the treacherous waters of small and big organizations alike. I for one, plan to give this book to my twenty-one-year-old college graduate to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By chuck lofy on July 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"This is an exhilarating book, full of spirit and spark. It vividly and
passionately describes the author's groundbreaking, bureaucracy-busting work
as head of the National Performance Review. Ignited by Tom Peter's In Search
of Excellence,
Stone became Al Gore's right hand in working to reinvent government. His
book is filled with wonderful stories of revolutionaries from every rank and
level. It contains many great tidbits of advice and wisdom. The author used
to refer to himself as Energizer in Chief. His book is just that: an
energizer. It breathes the soul of civic revolution. It is full of fun as
well, an easy read. Stone is totally devoted to action that breaks down
ridiculous and often absurd barriers from getting the job done right. But
the book is full of humanity as well, as when Stone decides to retire so he
can live closer to his young grandchildren. If you want to touch clear,
decisive, humane leadership, if your soul needs a spark to re-ignite itself,
run -don't walk- to get this book."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Dodd on April 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
This excellent book is a light and easy read filled with many personal stories and observations from a career civil servant who `fought the good fight' to apply common sense and effective business practices to the federal government for thirty years. Anyone with any government experience, or business experience dealing with government organizations, will enjoy this book and probably get some ideas about how to overcome government bureaucracy and over-regulation.

If you are looking for new business, management, or leadership concepts, theories, or practices, you will be disappointed. What was new, and what made this book interesting and inspiring to me, was how Stone repeatedly applied sound business, management, and leadership concepts, theories, and practices to government organizations that had been institutionally insulated from such `distractions.' Stone's constant mantra of putting customers first, empowering employees, and cutting red tape helped lead many federal government organizations to a paradigm shift from a focus on regulations and violations to customers and helping them with compliance, and even the practice of federal agencies partnering with businesses to achieve mutually supporting goals.

As a retired career Marine officer, I particularly enjoyed reading about his efforts in the Department of Defense. His very first chapter, "Tackling a Job When You Haven't a Clue," clearly set the tone for the rest of the book with its honesty and humility. His initial experiences in the Pentagon (where he initially did not have a clue) were very similar to many of the jobs I had during my Marine career, and now with most of the government and military projects I have supported as a contractor. The lessons at the end of this chapter, and at the end of the next thirteen chapters (of sixteen total), were `right on target' and did a great job focusing on the main points to be learned from his stories and observations.
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Format: Paperback
Very few longtime civil servants write their memoirs. This book shows that this is a mistake. The author makes the every day conflicts of civil service life live and breathe and shows how they can be overcome to serve great purposes in the public interest.

Introduction writer Tom Peters quotes Peter Drucker's aphorism that "Ninety percent of what we call 'management' consists of making it difficult to get things done." He produces "12 Lessons in Stone" which summarize his approaches. Stone used (1) Demos and Models; (2) Heroes; (3) Stories and Storytellers; (4) Chroniclers; (5) Cheerleaders and Recognition; (6) New Language; (7) Seekers (of change); (8) Protectors (of innovators); (9) Support Groups; (10) End Runs (around hierarchies)/Pull (from outsiders) Strategy; (11) Field/"Real People" Focus, and (12) Speed to push his goals forward.

The author himself describes his goals as "decentralization, deregulation, and devolution of authority in a value-centered organization." These were goals gradually developed after years of frustration mixed with achievement in the Defense Department, to which he had been recruited by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis in 1969. He quickly clashed with the centralization of all authority for planning imposed during the seven plus years of Secretary Robert McNamara.

His first work was to research the question of how big the army should be. He led successful efforts to change the evaluation formula from on tons of artillery ammunition fired times lethal area per ton to one that applied informed military judgements to the weapons on both sides, what the army dubbed the Weighted Effect Indicators/Weighted Unit Value method.
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