October 08, 2008 09:30 ET

Center for The Business of Government Lays Out Key Imperatives for Managing the Presidential Transition and Governing in a New Administration

New Books Detail Biggest Challenges and How to Avoid Them

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 8, 2008) - The presidential transition team for the next administration should focus on key areas of expertise, and six imperatives to ensure success when governing in a new administration, according to two new books from the IBM Center for The Business of Government.

The authors, all veterans of government and public policy, interviewed hundreds of current and former government officials, public policy experts, academics and researchers to assemble the comprehensive guides detailing the shift from campaigning to confirmation and effective governing.

"While a new administration will usher in its own priorities, one constant remains -- a smooth transition is absolutely essential for the incoming administration to get off to a fast start -- and a poor one can cripple the administration's first year in office," said Jonathan Breul, Executive Director of the Center. "Improving the performance of government is a large and complex endeavor, but the keys to success remain relatively straightforward for those wise enough to consider them when newly navigating this unique terrain."

Required reading for those joining a new administration, the "Operator's Manual for the New Administration" and "Getting It Done" (Rowman & Littlefield), detail critical areas of expertise -- leadership, performance, people, money, contracting, technology, innovation and collaboration -- along with agency case studies to illustrate examples of effective government management.

In addition, the authors identify six imperatives that serve as the road map for success:

  • "What I meant to say was... " There is likely to be a gap in time (sometimes long) between nomination and confirmation. During this time period, learn as much about your agency as possible. In addition, be careful throughout this time period to avoid making commitments or decisions prior to being officially confirmed.

  • Get smart. While you have done your background research on your agency prior to confirmation, devote early days in office to learning more about your customers, your agency programs, and "flash points" that may cause problems down the road for an agency.

  • The urgency of now. As part of learning how your agency works, find out what needs quick action and what issues require further study. You will learn much from talking with your staff and stakeholders about how the agency is performing and what actions you need to take quickly.

  • It's the vision, stupid! A vision and a focused agenda will be crucial to your success in Washington. You will need to both communicate the vision and convey a sense of urgency to get it done.

  • Civil servants are people, too. A key ingredient to your success will be putting together a joint political/career team. Don't view your staff as two distinct camps. Avoid "political appointees only" meetings as much as possible. Your job is to get these two groups working together as one management team committed to a clear vision for the agency's goals.

  • Likeability works. All organizations -- public and private -- have stakeholders and a complex environment, but many observers think that government is harder because there are so many stakeholders. The key to your success will be succeeding (to a large extent) with all of them. Failure to work effectively with any one group can likely lessen your chances of success in government and possibly shorten your tenure.

The authors have established a blog -- -- to debate presidential transition issues and the mechanics of effective governing.

About the IBM Center for The Business of Government

The IBM Center for The Business of Government connects public management research with practice. Since 1989, it has helped public sector executives improve the effectiveness of government with practical ideas and original thinking. The Center sponsors independent research by top minds in academe and the nonprofit sector, and creates opportunities for dialogue on a broad range of public management topics. For more information on the Center visit

About the Authors

Jonathan D. Breul is the Executive Director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government. He was formerly the Senior Advisor in the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President, and served for nearly ten years as the U.S. delegate and elected vice chair of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Public Management Committee. He is the elected Fellow and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the National Academy Public Administration, a Principal of the Council for Excellence in Government, and an adjunct Professor at Georgetown University's Graduate Public Policy Institute. He holds a Master's of Public Administration from Northeastern University, and Bachelor of Arts from Colby College.

John M. Kamensky is a Senior Research Fellow for the IBM Center for The Business of Government. Prior to this, he worked at the Government Accountability Office for 16 years before serving for eight years as deputy director of Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government. Kamensky is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and received a Master's in Public Affairs from the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

G. Martin Wagner is a Senior Fellow at the IBM Center for The Business of Government. He most recently restructured and ran General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service -- the largest government organization delivering acquisition, technology and management services to federal agencies. He is a founding member of the CIO Council, and has worked effectively with agency program managers, CIOs, CAOs, CFOs, OMB, Congress and other industry heads. Wagner has undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics and engineering from Princeton University.

Mark A. Abramson is President of Leadership, Inc., a company specializing in government thought leadership. The former Executive Director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government, Abramson served as the first President of the Council for Excellence in Government in Washington, D.C., and is now a Principal of the Council. He was a contributing editor for Government Executive, and a member of the Board of Editors and Forum Editor for The Public Manager. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and is past President of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.

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