Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Last Friday, the IBM Center for The Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service had the honor of co-hosting a group of leading experts from academe, as well as several former senior officials from Administrations of both parties, to frame key management issues and opportunities for the next Presidential term.

Last week’s discussion commenced one part of a multi-pronged Ready to Govern (#Ready2Govern) initiative, through which the Partnership seeks 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, congressional support for efficient appointments in a new administration, preparing appointees to succeed in their new roles, and the creation of a “Management Roadmap” – the subject of Friday’s session, to develop an agenda intended to help the next administration drive sustained improvement in government’s capacity and effectiveness. 

The IBM Center is pleased to collaborate with the Partnership to help the next Administration get off to a strong start, and build sustained management excellence thereafter.  We are grateful for the many distinguished thought leaders who contributed their time and insights last week, and to former Deputy Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Scott Gould for his expert facilitation of the session.

The management and leadership priorities discussed by Friday’s expert roundtable will inform the content for the Management Roadmap, a set of findings and recommendations to the next President and senior advisors; the IBM Center’s website has information about the Roadmap.  Prior to each of the past several election years, the Center has brought together innovative thinkers from our esteemed group of authors -- who have produced over 300 reports since 1998 that address many challenges and practical actions for leaders -- to help draw out important focal points for the next four years.  In addition, the Center’s updated overview of how a new leader in Washington can succeed, Getting It Done, is now a staple in the Partnership’s onboarding education for many new political appointees.

The Management Roadmap effort will build on these experiences to recommend a set of competencies that can enable government to achieve key mission and policy goals in and across agencies.  Last week’s initial discussion built on three critical success factors:

  • Early planning is critical.  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 in the past, new leaders have entered the transition process without having carefully considered the elements of governing, and numerous administrations have taken months to place skilled management 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 also benefits from a successful management “handoff” with the current Administration, since a new team can build on success and learn valuable lessons from current leaders.
  • Management is crucial to the success of an administration.  Good management can set an administration up for success in achieving policy and political priorities, while reducing risks.   From Day One through the end of a Presidential term, an Administration will enable stronger performance by establishing management frameworks and governance structures that foster efficient and informed decision making.  Without such structures, the immense breadth and depth of government activities becomes especially 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 that support agency and interagency objectives, such as a the President’s Management Council, 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.
  • Management drives effective delivery of mission outcomes and programs.   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 course of a term in office.  Leaders who understand and can leverage effective management tools and practices are better prepared to execute on these priorities and see 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 with 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 talked through a variety of areas where these three principles could be applied to enhance effectiveness for a new Administration.  These areas include:

  • developing and managing leadership talent in government,
  •  harnessing innovation to improve outcomes and productivity,
  • strengthening decision making processes, and
  • establishing strong and collaborative governance networks. 

In these and other areas, 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 to focus this discussion on current and past 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 Center and the Partnership will delve more deeply into these topics, as refined based on input from experts.  We will share the results of forthcoming Roundtables with other groups engaged in transition planning and with the public, to build support and momentum for strong management as a principal enabler of success for the transition to the new Administration.   We look forward to the results of this process as a key input for that Administration as it gets Ready to Govern.