Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The new president will need a management plan to turn promises into reality

September 22, 2016 David Eagles

Bloomberg Government regularly publishes insights, opinions and best practices from our community of senior leaders and decision-makers. This column is written by David Eagles, director of Presidential Transitions for the Partnership for Public Service.

On the campaign trail, the presidential candidates paint a vivid picture of what America will be like if they win. But if the next administration comes into office without a plan to implement its policies and programs, it will be courting failure.

Presidents and political appointees generally focus on the details of policies and navigating the legislative process, giving less attention to how agencies will carry out and manage those initiatives. Inattention to management can have serious consequences, with missteps sidetracking presidential priorities, creating political fallout and increasing public mistrust of government.

Past presidents have realized the importance of management at different times in their administrations. President George W. Bush announced his management agenda at the beginning of his administration, a set of five initiatives to improve the management operations of major agencies. While President Obama made some management changes in his first term, he didn’t release a formal management agenda until 2013, five years into his presidency.

Our next president needs to enter the White House with a management roadmap in hand. During the past year, the Partnership for Public Service and IBM Center for The Business of Government held lengthy discussions with a wide range of experts to determine the key management opportunities that should be adopted by the next administration.

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From these discussions, we issued a report, “Making Government Work for the American People: A Management Roadmap for the New Administration,” which recommends that the next administration focus on the following four management areas:

Leveraging the government’s executive talent: Use federal senior leadership, including joint teams of political appointees and career executives, to drive the administration’s priorities and manage government operations effectively.

Treating government as an integrated enterprise: Achieve presidential priorities by managing government in a cross-agency, coordinated fashion rather than as a set of separate, disconnected agencies with disparate policy priorities.

Harnessing the power of innovation: Create, sustain and integrate disciplined and replicable models of innovation by using data and technology to drive better customer service and improve outcomes.

Organizing decision-making to achieve results: Articulate and implement a defined approach to decision-making, within agencies and between agencies and the White House that covers routine decisions, new initiatives and unanticipated events. Use regular evidence-based reviews as a framework for driving decisions and focus not only on what needs to be done, but even more importantly on how best to do it.

Good management is not an end unto itself. It is a means by which ideas become accomplishments. Starting the next administration with a management roadmap will increase the chances of policy successes and lessen the chances of setbacks that can derail a presidency.