Lane V. Erickson/

3 Tips to Help Federal Leaders Prepare for a New Congress

How to field data and hearing requests so you can focus on strategy.

What will the new Congress mean for federal leaders? Even with a new Republican majority in the Senate, we won’t see much of a difference in policy. We’ll most likely experience stalemate/status quo for the next two years. The politics, however, will change. The level of scrutiny for federal leaders will increase with more hearings, investigations and oversight across the board. So what can a federal leader do in this situation? Here are three things:

1. Get your data drill and congressional testimony processes down. The federal government spends an inordinate amount of money asking for information from itself. Agencies, offices and programs often have to spend hundreds and in some cases thousands of person hours collecting and vetting the information needed to respond to questions for the record, data requests and hearing preparation. This can add up to thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for some programs and agencies.

Another hidden cost is the time and attention of senior people who should be implementing programs and focusing on strategy. They often need to contribute to and review anything going out of the agency, office, or program. If you streamline your processes and deploy tools to help automate those processes, you can get your costs and the distractions down.

2. Stay close to your customer. The best line of defense any federal leader has is the ability to show impact on a key customer need or requirement. Your best advocate is a happy customer telling a congressional committee how important your work is. It’s hard to argue with customers. Make sure you have defined requirements and can show the breadcrumbs leading from those requirements to your projects and investments.

3. Outreach, outreach, outreach. In a time of stalemate, many leaders chose to burrow in and hide. They hope they can weather the storm unnoticed. In actuality, times of stalemate make it all the more important to get your message out. You need a strong customer and stakeholder community that knows and appreciates what you are doing as mentioned in Tip 1 to maintain a stable budget. When it comes to distributing resources in a constrained environment, the programs with better outreach usually win.

The next Congress might not be productive in terms of policy, but it will be active politically. The federal leaders that prepare for this reality will come out in better shape. We’d like to hear what your strategies for dealing with increased scrutiny are.

(Image via Lane V. Erickson/