In 1992, during a break in selecting the winners of the “Federal 100” (Fed100) Awards, several
of the judges fell into a discussion of “unsung heroes” they thought the awards were
overlooking. The judges included Chief Information Officers from federal agencies and officials
from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While they valued recognizing individual
excellence, the judges felt they were ignoring the teams that worked together to enable the
success the awards were honoring. They also noted that while they were paying tribute to
innovation, they were missing the opportunity to explain that innovation in a way that could be
understood and used by others.
To address these concerns, the judges recruited the editor and publisher of the prestigious and widely read Government Executive magazine to help launch a new awards program called the Government Technology Leadership Awards (GTLA). GTLA nominations required detailed stories and endorsements from top leaders of the agency where the team worked affirming the importance of what the team had accomplished. The endorsement letters from top executives often marked the first time the senior leaders had even heard of the team that was being nominated. Regardless of whether nominated teams won the award, simply gaining the attention of top management motivated them to achieve even greater accomplishments and also often led to additional resources being made available toward that end.
Over the next 12 years, more than 160 teams in federal, state, local, and international government organizations were recognized and feted at huge award ceremonies. Their innovative accomplishments were described in detail in the pages of Government Executive so that others could learn from the experience of the award winners.