Transition Tips from the Frontlines

It’s Election Day! And as a government employee you probably had an extra sense of pride as you walked away from the polling station. No matter who’s name you bubbled next to, our nation will have a new president by the end of the day and the transition will officially be underway. In essence you get to pick your boss; not many other private sector folks get that opportunity.

However, with the ability to choose your new boss, government employees are also tasked with working through and thriving in the transition period.

So if you’re still not quite sure what the transition means for you? That’s okay— for this week’s DorobekINSIDER, we have gathered some valuable tips and stories from those who have been there in the public and private sectors to help you navigate the next few months.

  1. Remember your mission. Ventris Gibson, Director of the District of Columbia’s Human Resources department emphasized that your most important role as a civil servant is to provide citizens with your services no matter what is going on around you. “Regardless of who walks in as the incoming administration, we have to make sure that the mission of the agency or department continues as the primary accomplishment,” she said. Maintaining a motivated workforce through the transition ensures that citizen services are still seamlessly provided despite internal changes.
  1. Support the Senior Executive Service (SES). Former Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management at OMB, Shelley Metzenbaum recommended that current SES members should be discussing how to best incorporate incoming leadership now and continue those conversations into January. Additionally, new appointees are coming in from different backgrounds and places in their career so it is the responsibility of current senior civil servants to collect and present information to incoming leaders that will help them transition smoothly. She emphasized that these conversations should, “identify what goals, issues, outcomes and indicators an agency or organization is trying to influence and what set of tools have been used, whether or not they have works, and some pre-existing alternatives to consider.”
  1. Push policy early on. Dan Chenok, Executive Director of IBM Center for Business and Government explained that the first few months of an administration is when they are most powerful however, they are also most inept. He recommends breaking the learning curve and establish a framework to push policy early on. “It is important to think early about the processes by which key priorities are advanced in terms of decision that are made to implement them,” he said. All policy makers involved in the new administration must think and make decisions about who needs to be in the room, what information they need, and once a decision is made, how to quickly roll out and implement that policy.
  1. Staff your new principle smartly. Retired Manage Director at Deloitte Services, Ira Goldstein emphasized that the biggest key to success during transition season is being a good staffer. No matter who your new principle is you should work to understand what their goals are, how you can help them meet those goals and settle into their new role, and avoid showing disrespect for new leaders. Goldstein explained, “whether you love change or not it is inevitable and it does not go over well when you look like you regret having to make changes with a new leadership team.”
  1. Institutionalize collaboration. Chenok also suggests that there is a need for a more strategic approach to how various leaders interact and collaborate as the transition takes off. He explained, “each agency tends to look at problems separately, which creates inefficiency at the government level. A lot of burden at the institutional level could be reduced through better collaboration.” An example of collaboration that should take place during the transition and new administration are cross-agency councils can help create a systemic structure that that incorporates an enterprise framework and foster stronger relationships across agency leadership.

Inspired by these stories but still want a little more information about how you can navigate the transition at your agency? Check out all of GovLoop’s transition resources here.

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