We need our federal employees—career executives and managers—to be prepared for the upcoming transition to a new administration next year, and at the same time we need to increase the stature of federal employment. At a minimum, these transitions must refocus federal employees on a revised strategy or agenda. The 2016 presidential election will, as is typical, create a level of disruption while the political leadership of each agency transitions. Our career leaders are the stabilizing catalyst that must ensure the proverbial train keeps moving efficiently, effectively and on time.
The press has been concerned about the 66 percent retirement eligibility rate of the Senior Executive Service (SES) in the coming years. History shows that typically a little over 6.5 percent actually retire each year, but that number is growing (up to 7.6 percent in 2012). More importantly, the number of overall SES separations is now over 10 percent per year. With an average age of 54.2 for an SES, combined with significant political leadership disruption, pay freezes, low morale, and reduced productivity, these numbers may continue to increase. We have to make SES and all Federal employees want to stay, and feel they are contributing to our country.
Stability in our agencies is dependent on career executives to ensure decisions get made, quality work is performed, efficiency and effectiveness are maintained or improved, and the mission is achieved. The SES cadre, 3.5 percent of the workforce, are the leaders who must prepare agencies for transition and beyond.
The president’s announced SES program is a good start, but as we all know the proof is in the pudding. I urge OMB to take the development of today’s and tomorrow’s leaders very seriously, and have it carry over into the next administration. There is little time to lose to ensure stable leadership and improved effeteness while transitioning, especially in light of what the government is experiencing or about to experience in SES separations.
So what is it that OMB and agencies need to do right now? They must 1) prepare the leadership, and 2) provide clear guidance for how to support their agencies through the transition.
Preparing the Leadership
Begin a retention program. Create and implement a program that identifies high performing senior executives and offers retention incentives. Not to all SES, but those with proven capacity to truly lead people, programs, and resources; those who have shown a capacity to achieve results, efficiently and effectively.
Develop a valid SES selection process. In addition to the current selection criteria, assess for humility, self-confidence, balance, decision-making, propensity for action, history of effective results, care for employees and the willingness to guide and focus them appropriately toward achievement.
Ensure the president's program is effective. Engage a strong fact-based methodology to ensure the program is effective. Include level 4 or 5 evaluations of effectiveness and build it in from the beginning. Report out regularly. Run this out of OMB, not an agency.
Include an agency performance-based performance management system. Executives should be assessed based on results and the effectiveness of their organization. Each should have mission-linked outcome- based objectives. They also should have performance objectives which relate to the effectiveness of their organization.
Create regular interactive executives roundtables. Combine exemplar senior executives with successful private sector executives into a regular interactive and formal roundtable experience for existing and up-and-coming executives. Use the Senor Executive Association as a platform for this program. Use professional facilitators and invite guest speakers from outside and inside the government. Maintain a focus on achievement. Ensure a format which includes a high degree of interaction, providing one of the greatest experience-building tools.
Leaders support your agencies
OMB should provide guidance to executives on supporting their agencies.
Prepare for transition.Each Agency should develop and implement a transition plan, and update it as information becomes available. Include a change management program. Don’t wait or pass it off to the next administration; start communicating with employees now.
Also, given the increased separation actions that may continue to increase, OMB needs to act swiftly. In addition to retention of effective and seasoned leaders, identify and prepare “up-and-comers” for the SES ranks with vigor.
Don’t wait for Congress or the administration.Start now. Ensure each agency has a COO responsible for not just running the agency, but ensuring it is as efficient and effective as possible. Don’t wait for Congress to call for hearings about an overspent or ineffective program, find it and address it now. Identify root causes and fix them. Further, be prepared to demonstrate Agency effectiveness—with accurate demonstrable data showing effectiveness. No smoke and mirrors, and don’t succumb to or ignore risk; manage it.
Be known for being the best lead agency.Exemplar executives are critical to the stability and effectiveness of our government. Focus on repeatable performance and results. Develop and right-size effective resources. Demonstrate results and develop a culture of consistent performance, not a collusion of ineptness.
Career executives, you have the opportunity now to be prepared for the next Administration which will clearly shuffle in change, no matter which party is in power. An agency prepared for change is naturally efficient and effective. Think about what you can do right now to be ready.
Or you may view the Original Version of the Article at www.thehill.com.
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