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A New President’s Preparation-Crash Course

This interview is part of a new DorobekINSIDER mini series with experts looking to help shape a management platform for the new administration. Check out all of the stories in the new series, Good Government Management, here.

 Have you ever taken a crash course? You know-those courses that tell you the need-to-knows so that you can dive into a more experienced course? They are our starting points upon which we prepare ourselves for the journey ahead. The same could be said when it comes to the transition papers prepared for the incoming administration. These papers are the president’s crash course.

Mike Howell, Senior Director for the Institute for Innovation and Special Projects at the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC), and Dave McClure, Chief Strategist at the Varus Group and Executive Vice Chair at the IAC, sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program to discuss the managerial importance of the transition papers and what they should entail.

Presidential elections mean new leadership. New leadership means change and when it comes to change it takes a team to implement the changes government-wide. “It is a multitude of levers that have to be pulled and pushed in different directions in order to get the entirety of the federal government to begin to move and to operate in a different way,” McClure said.

Transition teams require personal insight from existing leadership. “The transition teams are looking for really good assessments of the existing challenges in government, whether it is across government as a whole or by specific agencies,” McClure pointed out. Right now, ACT-IAC is starting to frame the issues, analyze them, come up with recommendations, and then share them with the various campaigns at several different phases (i.e. pre-convention, post-convention, and post election). “The hope is that each of those windows is going to raise the consciousness and the awareness for some proactive thinking and planning on the part of the transition teams so that they’re better prepared to take action as soon as possible,” Howell explained.

ACT-IAC is also playing a big role in the process of making transition papers for the incoming administration. ACT-IAC pulled volunteers from their membership to work on advisory papers for the incoming administration, which led to eight teams that consist of over 190 volunteers from both government and industry.

“Collectively, those nearly 200 people have literally thousands of years of experience and advice to offer,” Howell said. Most of these volunteers are primarily in the management arena and are covering topics, such as cybersecurity, acquisition, the workforce, and performance measurement and management. The transition teams “won’t rely upon them [the transition papers] exclusively since they always do their own due diligence and, therefore, do their own analysis. But it definitely accelerates things,” McClure stated.

However, there are two big-ticket items the ACT-IAC wishes to stress to candidates. “There ought to be relentless focus on quality of service being performed. Whoever comes in needs to focus on delivering quality service from government, no matter who the customer is: FEMA disaster response staff, veteran’s care, food inspectors, etc.,” McClure highlighted.

Secondly, McClure shared that innovation is a major area of focus for ACT-IAC and their transition papers. “One of the biggest problems in every government innovation and reform agenda isn’t the lack of great ideas or great laboratory experiments, but the fact that it isn’t government wide.”

In other words, the incoming administration should focus on how best to create a government-wide culture of innovation. “We often treat innovation as an end to itself, but really it is a means to a better end. It is a level for change and it is an instrument that you use to try to make something else happen,” McClure said.

Although transition papers are not the ‘end all be all’, they play an important role in helping the incoming leadership start off on the right foot. For there is no greater gift than the passing off of knowledge.

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