Fourth Quarter Blues

As this term winds down, career employees must stay in the game.

The fourth quarter of an administration can be problematic for career civil servants. Many of the starting players and regulars begin to leave. Substitutions become frequent and agency teams start to lose energy as plans and missions wind up in a holding pattern. As the Bush administration approaches the end of its game, many will focus on the 2008 election and beyond, when a new team will head to Washington. It's no wonder so many managers and executives catch the fourth quarter blues. Here are three rules to keep you in the game.

1. Stay focused; you still have a job to do. Regardless of what you read in the newspapers, the American public has not sent you a message. They might have sent your bosses a message, but they expect you to keep doing your job. Citizens expect continuity in government and the continued delivery of high-quality service.

The administration might be slowing down at the policy level, but there can be no slowdowns on the career side of government. There will be fewer new initiatives and less excitement in the halls, but your job has not changed. Statutory laws still must be administered. The agency's strategic plan has not gone away, and you have an obligation to complete it as successfully as you can. In fact, you might even need to put extra effort into bringing initiatives such as the President's Management Agenda to fruition in the fourth quarter.

2. Use your time wisely. You have an opportunity to start thinking and planning for the next administration, which will begin on Jan. 20, 2009. This is a good time to assess the state of your organization. Have you updated your workforce plan? Do you have the right staffing mix for the remainder of the decade, or should you hire people with certain skill sets? Does the agency's strategic plan need a review?

Creative thinking and planning is vital for the next game. Don't waste time simply waiting for the next team to show up and give you a new plan. You should have an agenda to present to them. The new team will appreciate your guidance.

3. If you are appointed in an acting capacity, take the position seriously. Career civil servants often are named as acting officials until a new political appointee arrives, which can take a long time, if ever at this point in the administration. Even in these unsettled times, it is critical to assess the state of your organization and attempt to actually improve it during your tenure. Acting officials tend to avoid tough decisions. If you have a tough personnel decision to make, make it, and if you have to sign off on a controversial new regulation, do it, instead of handing off a pile of unfinished business. It's always easier to wait for the guy in charge. But quarterbacks don't quit calling plays just because they might not start in the next quarter. There is simply too much to do, and the stakes are too high to wait for the next person to show up.

It's natural and understandable to catch the fourth quarter blues. But it is unacceptable to stay in a funk for the next two years. Take time to review your strategy, catch your breath and stay in the game. There is still much to do.

Mark A. Abramson is president of Leadership Inc., a firm specializing in creating thought leadership on government management. He served as the first executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government and the first president of the Council for Excellence in Government. He can be reached at mark.abramson@us.ibm.com.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.