Your Agency Operations

Managing the Risks in the Retained Organization: A Priority for New Leaders

By Karen Shrum, Liz Burokas, Katie Hilferty, and Jonathan Wigginton

The movement to shared services should continue to be a priority for the new leaders of our government. Shared services bring operational effectiveness, cost efficiencies, and increased customer service. The transition to shared services is a significant transformation for any leader and organization. It is also significant for the people working within that organization. As with any transformation, the human capital element should be top of mind. As leaders engage in the planning for and transition to a shared services operating model, they must consider the size and composition of the workforce. Their shared services workforce is a blended one: it consists of the staff that will operate the shared service center. It also includes the functions and services that do not transition, traditionally referred to as the retained organization.

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Practical Advice for Federal Executives Looking to Transition to a Shared Service Provider

This commentary offers practical guidance to political appointees whose agencies are interested in transitioning to a Shared Service Provider (SSP), whether for financial systems, Information Technology (IT), Human Resources (HR), or acquisition. Based on our experience and meetings held with Shared Service Providers and their customer agencies, we developed a list of key areas for consideration. While there are many steps required to complete a shared services transition, this commentary highlights some key areas that agencies need to get right in order to be successful and help the organization transition smoothly to an SSP. 

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An Introduction to Shared Services

In preparing to govern and lead their agencies, new political appointees will be exposed to the term Shared Service Provider (SSP). They will hear about the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) push toward an increased used SSPs.  Regarding SSPs, new appointees will need to make decisions that will have a lasting impact on their agency, their employees and their business functions. In this commentary, we provide an overview of shared services in the federal government, the guidance behind it, and suggested actions that new political leaders can consider taking to implement a shared service strategy.

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Questions to Ask About Your Tenured Workforce

As new executives come to Washington at the end of the Obama Administration and the start of the next Administration, they will need to pay special attention to what we have termed the “tenured workforce.”   We are defining the tenured workforce as individuals with 10-24 years of federal experience.  This group comprises 32% of the estimated 2 million federal employees. Approximately 18% hold supervisory positions. Individuals in this group are likely to have “grown up” in the ranks of government, or may have joined the government from private industry, later in their careers.  This group is crucial to making government work and to your success as a political executive.

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Advice to Appointees: Resolving the Operating/Investment Dilemma

During my 12 years of service as a Senate-confirmed political appointee in the Department of Defense (DoD), I regularly dealt with what I called my “operating/investment dilemma.”  How well you deal with your version of this dilemma may well determine the improvements in government that you will leave behind after your service.

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Implementing Performance Management in Government: Advice for Political Appointees

Based on our interviews with 42 Obama Administration appointees over the past four years, we developed many insights into what makes an effective manager in government. Three key skills to being an effective political executive are:

  • Understanding the "outputs" of the organization they are leading;
  • Developig metrics fro those outputs; and
  • Tracking those metrics

A key tool in tracking metrics is the use of Dashboards.  In our interviews, we saw many political appointees who were effectively using Dashboards as a management tool in running their organization.

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Progress Under Pressure: Shining Light on Leadership, Transformation Planning, and Positive Outcomes at the Veterans Benefits Administration

On April 8, 2013, the National Academy of Public Administration hosted the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey, as part of its Presidential Appointee Project Seminar Series. Under Secretary Hickey provided candid, impassioned and thoughtful remarks regarding the successes and challenges she has experienced to date as Under Secretary for Benefits, leading more than 20,000 employees in seven business lines among 56 regional offices nationwide. She provided clear evidence about the progress that VBA has made in transforming its operations over the last two years. Under Secretary Hickey also emphasized that more work still needs to be done and that VBA’s transformation journey will continue through 2015.

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Five Recommendations to Improve Veterans Healthcare During the Second Term of the Obama Administration

The looming epidemic in chronic diseases, accelerated by aging populations and increasing prosperity, is threatening to overwhelm healthcare budgets and economic growth across the globe. Today — half a century after the first polio vaccine, four decades after declaring war on cancer, 30 years after the emergence of AIDS and the elimination of smallpox — we have tamed the most devious scourges that humanity has ever faced. What threatens us now is managing what should be the “easy” stuff:

  • controlling our diet;
  • exercising;
  • drinking in moderation; and
  • taking our medicines.

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Drowning in Paperwork May Soon Be a Thing of the Past

Dysfunctional…burdensome…ineffective…onerous…duplicative. These are all words that have been used to describe the massive amount of paperwork required of a political appointee. And, if you have been nominated to a position requiring Senate confirmation, there will be an additional detailed questionnaire from the committee with jurisdiction over your nomination.

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Scaling a Fiscal Cliff and Other Contortions

There is little new under the sun. We can find close presidential races from the time of Thomas Jefferson to Al Gore. The contentiousness often spills over into governance. The divided Congress that we face will likely magnify the divide. Will this time be different? Who knows?

Still work must be done. What are some of the key priorities for the new term? How about this list:
  • Facing fiscal reality
  • Implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Assuring the rebuilding after Sandy
  • Rekindling the flame of federalism
You all saw the first three coming but may be surprised by the fourth. Let me try to convince you that they are all of one piece.

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Five Recommendations to New Political Executives on How to Effectively Use Auditors

After a long career as a financial statement auditor in the corporate sector, I accepted an opportunity to broaden my experiences to include auditing federal government financial statements. I have found the transition to be a fascinating adventure. Although the auditing and management skills I have honed over the years transferred easily to government, the differences in culture between the corporate community and federal government still remain striking to me on a daily basis.

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Advice for New Political Executives: Three Questions to Ask your Chief Information Security Officer

If you have previously served in government, most of the job titles you encounter will be somewhat familiar. There will be one exception. In recent years, another position has been added to the government C-Suite -- the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). The responsibilities of the CISO include:

  • monitoring the security of your organization’s data and infrastructure,
  • mitigating and remediating vulnerabilities, and
  • collaborating with others across government to deal with risks that originate outside your agency.

As you know, cybersecurity has been receiving much attention over the last several years.   Congress is now working on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

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