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How to Ace the Presidential Transition

Transitions can be scary. When they come with about 4,000 new employees and nearly 4 trillion dollars in annual spending, transitions can be really scary.

That’s why we heard from David Eagles, Director of the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service, at this year’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Eagles and his team have been prepping for the upcoming administration change, in order to make that large transition a little less scary. In fact, he thinks of the transition as a potentially positive event.

“Change is really an opportunity,” he said. It’s a time to make big policy changes and lay the groundwork for the next generation of public servants to succeed.

“But it’s easy for folks to get nervous, to sit on their hands and think about what's going to happen but doing nothing,” Eagles warned. However, failing to prepare for the transition will only makes it more difficult to manage and produces less positive results.

“It's always been big and complicated and dangerous, but if it's managed strategically it's the greatest opportunity to manage government more effectively,” Eagles said.

So how do you turn the challenges of a transition into an opportunity for government? Eagles said every current public servant has a part to play in turning their agency’s transition into a positive experience. While most corporations have entire teams or even other companies to manage their mergers and acquisitions, government’s transition will largely be executed by current employees with little experience managing such a big, rapid change.

Thankfully, Eagles recommended a number of best practices to our audience of public servants, to help them shepherd in the next administration. Those included:

  • Keep “the trains running” by ensuring mission-critical activities are executed flawlessly
  • Be honest about problems or “landmines” with new staff
  • Anticipate questions and be prepared to respond to them with constructive answers
  • Be proactive – take the opportunity to participate in the conversation
  • Prepare to help gather materials and data for transition agency review teams
  • Assist your boss as she or he potentially takes on an acting role in the absence of political appointees

Transitions can be a challenge. But by preparing your team, your leaders, and incoming employees with as much information and training as possible, it can be also be an opportunity.

This blog post is a recap of a session that took place at the recent Next Generation of Government Summit. Want to see more great insights that came out of NextGen? Head here.

Image: Flickr/Adrian Gray

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