In a report published this morning, the non-profit, non-partisan Partnership for Public Service and McKinsey & Co. call out major obstacles and key recommendations about how “executive mobility increases the government’s ability to fulfill cross-agency missions.” In other words, the cross-fertilization of top talent from office to office, agency to agency, or even sector to sector is critical to delivering on our government’s promise to its citizens.
Contrary to popular belief and current use, the SES was actually designed to facilitate the fluid movement of human capital, allowing employees to gain an “enterprise-wide perspective” that would inform their thinking about big-picture issues and hone their leadership skills in a way that allows them to parachute in, get results, and then move on to their next post — kind of like the State Department’s Foreign Service. Yet only 8% of federal employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES) have worked at more than one agency during their time in the SES.
So, what happened? In short, a number of government-wide, agency-level, and individual barriers over the last 30+ years have taken the teeth out of what could have been an elite cadre of high performers at the highest levels of government (in the same way that the PMF program has not lived up to its full potential, either).
On page 11, the authors point out a fundamental shift that must take place to overcome these long-standing institutional barriers: “viewing executives not as agency-specific resources but as national assets.” There also hasn’t been a purposeful effort to centrally coordinate executive mobility across the U.S. government, allowing inter-governmental rotations or cross-agency placements to happen in ways other than chance or word-of-mouth.
The report proposes five solutions for reversing the trend of executive stagnation, ranging from building mobility into SES selection criteria to investing in early-tenure mobility programs (like Candidate Development Programs). Creating incentives and removing disincentives will take creativity and commitment from several groups, including the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council.
What do you think? Will a more agile Senior Executive Service help achieve agencies to achieve their missions?
For the full report, click here: http://bit.ly/yIGSar
Andy Lowenthal is a public sector strategy consultant. Follow him on Twitter.