Mapping a Management Agenda for 2017 Starts Now

Early transition planning is critical for a new administration.

The IBM Center for The Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service recently hosted a group of experts from academia and several former senior officials from administrations of both parties to frame key management issues and opportunities for the next presidential term.

The discussion, facilitated by former Veterans Affairs Department deputy secretary Scott Gould, was part of a multipronged Ready to Govern (#Ready2Govern) initiative to improve the transfer of power and knowledge between administrations. The effort includes an education component for transition teams around four sets of activities: improving the transition process, gaining congressional support for efficient appointments in a new administration, preparing appointees to succeed in their new roles and creating a Management Roadmap that will help the next administration develop an agenda and drive sustained improvement in government’s capacity and effectiveness.

The management and leadership priorities discussed will inform the content for the Management Roadmap, a set of findings and recommendations for the next president and senior advisers. Leading up to the last several elections, the IBM Center has brought together innovative thinkers—who have produced over 300 reports since 1998 that address challenges and practical actions for leaders—to draw out important focal points for the next four years. Getting It Done, an updated overview of how new leaders in Washington can succeed, is now a staple for providing onboarding education to many new political appointees.

The Management Roadmap effort will build on these experiences to recommend a set of competencies needed to achieve key mission and policy goals in and across agencies. Here are three critical success factors:

  • Early planning. In order to leverage the momentum that accompanies a new administration, planning ahead to bring on a management team prepared from day one can make an enormous difference. Too often, new leaders enter the transition process without having carefully considered the elements of governing, and numerous administrations have taken months to place skilled leaders into position. The rhythm and priorities of a campaign are not often closely aligned with actions needed to lead and manage a broad and complex set of agencies and programs. Early planning can be beneficial to a successful management handoff, since a new team can build on success and learn valuable lessons from current leaders.

  • A good management structure. From day one through the end of the presidential term, an administration should establish management frameworks and governance structures that foster efficient and informed decision-making. Without such structures, the immense breadth and depth of government activities becomes hard to oversee, and small problems can turn into large failures before leaders have a chance to react. Leveraging and linking efforts of cross-agency networks like the President’s Management Council, which support agency and interagency objectives, and functional organizations like the councils for Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Acquisition Officers can pay enormous dividends in the implementation of good management practices.

  • Linking management to outcomes. Any new administration enters office with a set of priorities that the president has articulated throughout the campaign and transition period, which evolve over the term in office. Leaders who understand and can leverage effective management tools and practices are better prepared to act on these priorities and drive measurable and positive program results. In contrast, when management becomes an afterthought or a compliance exercise, poor performance and ineffective delivery often occur. The current administration’s cross-agency priority goals, as well as the prior administration’s performance agenda, demonstrate the importance of linking sound management to substantive outcomes. Building on such approaches in the first days and months in office can accelerate achievement of mission and policy goals.

The roundtable participants discussed a variety of areas where these three principles could be applied to enhance effectiveness, including:

  • Developing and managing leadership talent in government

  • Harnessing innovation to improve outcomes and productivity

  • Strengthening decision-making processes

  • Establishing strong and collaborative governance networks

A distinguishing characteristic of the Management Roadmap will be to identify how to achieve measurable success across key priorities, not just what can be done to address those areas. The roundtable participants helped focus this discussion on actions that can be carried forward in each area, gaps that exist in building management capacity to address that area, new opportunities that an incoming administration can leverage, and paths to implementation that bring together existing and innovative ideas.

In the coming months, the IBM Center and the Partnership will delve more deeply into these topics and share the results of forthcoming roundtables to build support and momentum for strong management, a principal enabler of a successful transition to the next administration.

(Image via yvon52/Shutterstock.com)