Making Government Work for the American People: A Management Roadmap for the New Administration

During the past year, the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government joined together in sponsoring a series of day-long discussions to inform the next president and the new administration about critical management issues and actions that can strengthen government’s capacity to address the challenges facing our country.

Participants included current and former political and career leaders from the executive and legislative branches, subject-matter experts from the public and private sectors, and representatives from good-government organizations and the academic community. Each of the discussions focused on a key theme: Leadership Talent, Enterprise Government, Driving Innovation, Enhanced Decision-Making and Getting Things Done.

Through these discussions, accompanying reports and related research, we have developed a management roadmap for the next administration. We hope this report will help the new administration successfully transition to power and improve the federal government’s performance throughout the next president’s term.


Our next president will face many formidable challenges, from fighting terrorism and dealing with economic insecurity to curtailing health threats such as the Zika virus,and improving relations between citizens and the law enforcement community.

The American public will expect the president to solve these and numerous other pressing issues. Many will involve promises made during the campaign, while others will stem from new or unexpected problems. The agenda also may include big ideas, just as Dwight Eisenhower launched construction of the interstate highway system and John F. Kennedy boosted the space program that led to the moon landing and so much more.

Whether it’s solving difficult challenges or pressing forward with bold new plans, the difference between success and failure lies in implementation. Presidents and political appointees generally focus on the details of the policies and navigating the legislative process, giving less attention to how the agencies will implement and manage their initiatives. Meaningful change, and results that matter, require both a vision for what is possible and a management roadmap to get there.

Leadership starts at the top

Government is big, complex and fragmented, and navigating this enterprise requires a management roadmap designed to turn the president’s agenda into accomplishment.

The president is uniquely qualified to provide the vision and leadership and hold administration officials accountable for results. This will require a strong commitment from the president and active coordination by the White House, a task that can be driven by the Office of Management and Budget and the President’s Management Council, the organization of departmental deputy secretaries who serve as the chief operating officers within their agencies. But the PMC, chaired by OMB’s deputy director of management, needs to be properly resourced and given a firm, consistent role in the management arena, something that has not always occurred in the past.

As a central federal agency within the Executive Office of the President, OMB combines budget, management and policy and oversight functions. It can play a critical collaborative role by removing barriers and bringing agencies together to promote improved delivery of government services.

Success will start with the appointment of highly capable leaders who have strong management skills and can work together with experienced career government executives—and making sure those leaders are in place early in the president’s term. These leaders in turn need to collaborate with multiple agencies and stakeholders to tackle problems collectively, define clear decision-making processes and find innovative ways to achieve agency missions. In addition, success will require the White House to improve specific functional components of government, including human resources, financial management and acquisition, while creating performance goals tied to strategic priorities and holding leaders accountable.

Integrating the management roadmap into transition planning is critical

To get a head start, policy and management should be integrated in all phases of the presidential transition planning. If our next president expects to turn ideas into action, the transition is where that work begins.

Management also is an area where constructive bipartisan engagement is possible. On a host of issues, from providing quality care to veterans to ensuring the best balance of security and service at airports, there is strong bipartisan agreement about the need for effective government. Congress can be a powerful ally in creating alignment within and across agencies. The transition team and the new administration’s leaders should actively engage Congress in the development and rollout of the president’s management initiatives. Likewise, state and local governments, through which many federal services are actually delivered, need to be included as active partners in devising the management plan.

Recent administrations have taken steps to improve government management and performance, and on the legislative front, Congress has passed laws to reform financial management, make better use of data and focus on cross-agency initiatives. The administration should build on successful initiatives of its predecessors, take fresh ownership of the agenda with new ideas, and elevate the importance of effective management in meeting the needs of the American people.

A presidential management strategy is in many ways as significant as the president’s budget because it is the foundation for policy success and for translating budget priorities into effective results. In this report, we provide a roadmap for creating a robust management roadmap that includes four basic themes:


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


Achieve presidential priorities by managing government in a cross-agency, coordinated fashion versus a set of separate, disconnected agencies with disparate policy priorities, administrative functions and operational processes.


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


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.

Creating a management roadmap and making it a priority will be critical to the success of the new administration, especially given the mounting and complex challenges facing our government, the speed with which change is taking place and the need to govern effectively. Both in terms of government operations and political leadership, playing catch-up is always an ineffective strategy.