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The 7 Do’s and Don’ts of Transition

(Image via Tom Grundy/

Election’s over…now what? It's time for the transition.

With the election in the rearview mirror, you know as well as I do that the fun is only just beginning. The federal government’s obligatory ritual is upon us and with less than eighty days to prepare, a lot of change is underway as we enter President Obama's second term.

We will be speaking with the experts on administration transitions to find key lessons learned to help you navigate the weeks and months ahead. Keep an eye out for our ongoing coverage – but in the meantime, check out video from our conference in September. Patricia McGinnis, former President and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government and current professor of practice at The George Washington University moderated a panel discussion entitled, “Strategies for Navigating Transition: What to Expect After the Election,” featuring:

  • Hon Clay Johnson III, Former Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget, 2003-2008
  • RADM John Acton,  Executive Director, Leader Development, Department of Homeland Security
  • Lisa Brown, Acting Chief Performance Officer, Office of Management and Budget

During the 2008 transition, the Partnership for Public Service presented some Do’s and Don’ts for Department of Education officials seeking guidance as the new administration took office. Here is what they had to say:

The Seven “Don’ts,” or, How Not to Survive:

  1. Start with, “That’s not going to work because…”
  2. Be a “yes” man or woman
  3. Criticize the former political team
  4. Be ready to tell the new team what they need to do
  5. Hide potential problems (not bad news)
  6. Wait out any changes with which you disagree
  7. Assume all your assumptions about the new team are correct

The Seven “Do’s,” or How to Thrive:

  1. Learn about any new priorities, goals, etc.
  2. Be open to and ready for change – listen first
  3. Be honest about problems or “landmines”
  4. Anticipate questions and have constructive answers
  5. Develop suggestions to address external criticisms
  6. Assume the best until proven wrong
  7. Focus on the desired end result/outcome and work backward to figure out how best to get there

Read more about surviving transition here.

What tips do you have for navigating during periods of transition? 

(Image via Tom Grundy/

Bryan Klopack is the Executive Director of Research and Analysis for the Government Executive Media Group (GEMG). In addition to leading the organization’s research arm, The Government Business Council (, he also serves as the Program Chair for the Excellence In Government LIVE event and editor of Excellence In Government ONLINE blog, Promising Practices. Prior to joining Government Executive Media Group in 2008, Bryan worked for the non-profit The Council for Excellence in Government after completing a Public Affairs Fellowship and a brief stint working in the U.S. Senate.

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