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Six Helpful Resources for New Federal Leaders

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The IBM Center’s newly-released “Next Four Years” Resource Center updates its 2009 Presidential Transition materials for new political appointees.  But it offers more in the way of other good government imperatives that will challenge leaders tomorrow.

There are six “go to” topics in the IBM Center’s Resource Center for incoming new political appointees as well as for veteran career executives preparing for the new year ahead:

Topic 1:  Helping New Leaders Succeed.  The IBM Center has updated its two most popular books for new leaders in government:

  • The Operator’s Manual for the Next Administration” describes, in a series of short, 2-page memos, how new leaders can get a quick handle on the basics of government operations:  leadership, performance, people, money, and more. Each memo is followed by a series of links to relevant reports published by the Center over the past 15 years.
  • Getting It Done: A Guide for New Executives,” is based on practical advice from previous, successful politically-appointed government executives.  It is divided into two parts.  The first part outlines six “To Dos” on getting started, such as “before confirmation, be careful about acting like you’re in charge.”  The second part offers advice on how to deal successfully with the 14 sets of stakeholders that executives must deal with – written by people who have held those positions.  For example, former White House aide Paul Weinstein writes about how to work with White House Policy Councils.

Topic 2:  Leveraging “CXO” Business Support Functions to Help Program Managers Succeed.  Federal agencies have acquired a series of “chiefs” in recent years – chief financial officers, chief information officers, etc.  They generally work three “hats:” (1) provide services to internal agency customers, (2) ensure compliance with governmentwide requirements, and (3) provide strategic advice to agency leaders.  Each of these “hats” involves different roles and supports different customers.  From the agency mission perspective, having the chiefs support mission managers effectively – and in an integrated fashion – becomes a key challenge for agency leaders. (here is a link to a longer PDF article on this topic).

Topic 3:  Managing Cross-Agency Collaboration.  Technology has significantly reduced the technical and organizational barriers to cross-agency collaboration.  In fact, the Obama Administration has undertaken a number of cross-agency initiatives that leverage these tools. While there continue to be legal, institutional, and budgetary challenges, there are lessons that can be learned from past efforts. A recent Government Accountability Office report details the success factors around a dozen effective ways to organize and implement collaborative efforts.  (here is a link to a longer PDF article on this topic).

Topic 4:  Harnessing Citizen Input to Manage More Effectively.  Social media will likely play a bigger role in citizens’ participation in government in coming years.  We envision it will be more widespread, more actionable, and government will be more open. For example, the website lists the social media links of more than 200 federal agencies and offices.  Americans should see not only an increase in conversations but in actionable information and implementable innovation in coming years, like –e-petitions, and  (here is a link to a longer PDF article on this topic).

Topic 5:  Refining Intelligence Community Reforms.  The past decade has seen significant rethinking of how our country organizes its intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts. The effort is still a work in progress, but the emphasis is now on refining how the five “intelligence disciplines” (signals, human, open source, geospatial, and measurement & signatures) work together as integrated intelligence strategies. Tinkering with organizational and budgetary authorities won’t be the answer; collaboration, greater sharing, and better analytics will likely be the key drivers to reforms over the next few years. (here is a link to a longer PDF article on this topic).

Topic 6:  Creating a “Faster Government.”  When government agencies are able to do their work faster, it improves mission effectiveness and costs less – in money, time, and effort.  By faster, we mean:

  • making “time” a key performance metric in government efficiency and effectiveness initiatives
  • using technology and leveraging innovation to automate repetitive tasks.
  • accelerating the delivery of government goods and services through process innovation that redesigns business processes to require fewer steps -- e.g., moving from 10 signatures to 3.
  • finding new ways to perform a given set of tasks more quickly, such as through Lean Six Sigma, where you move from an assembly line approach to a parallel process.
  • creating interactive services for citizens so they can solve their own problems, rather than having to ask the government for information and help.  For example, creating a nutrition website rather than sending out physical signs to be posted in school cafeterias.
  • using predictive analytics to reduce or eliminate entire processes – for example to prevent improper payments from being made reduces the need for resources to investigate and reclaim payments   

An IBM Center report is forthcoming with a series of essays on real-world examples of ways to act on these “fast gov” principles. 

This is the last in a series of blog posts on Federal Government Reform Resources.  Here are links to the earlier posts:

Image via Dan Thornberg/

John M. Kamensky is a Senior Research Fellow for the IBM Center for the Business of Government. He previously served as deputy director of Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government, a special assistant at the Office of Management and Budget, and as an assistant director at the Government Accountability Office. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and received a Masters in Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

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