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FCW : January and February 2017
DAVID WENNERGREN is executive vice president of operations and technology at the Professional Services Council. Commentary | DAVID WENNERGREN For career federal executives, the next several months will be a chal- lenging time. On Jan. 20, President Donald Trump took the oath of office, and a new cast of political appointees took the wheel at fed- eral agencies. However, although some Cabi- net secretaries and senior advisers have been announced, it will be a number of months before most of the 4,000 political appointments in the federal government are filled. During the interim, some career executives will move into “acting” roles to lead organizations until the new political team arrives. Regard- less of where a career employee works, it’s worth reminding our- selves about how to successfully navigate the awkward months of transition. • Accept that the cheese has been moved. As Spencer Johnson noted a number of years ago in his bestselling book “Who Moved My Cheese?,” some people are mysti- fied when they wake up to find that the firm foundations of their work life have shifted. It’s only natural that we prefer the security of the status quo, and yet change, like presidential elections, is inevitable. Accepting that a new team is com- ing to town with ideas, energy and a new agenda is a useful survival skill. It is unrealistic to think that incoming political appointees will want to sustain the status quo. At best, new ideas and initiatives will take priority; at worst, all existing work and current employees will be viewed with some level of dis- trust as the keepers of the previous team’s agenda. Accept it. Don’t let arrogance or intransigence alienate you from the incoming leadership team. It’s cru- cial to focus on outcomes and not be wed to the name of an initiative or its current process. President George W. Bush had a number of shared-services initiatives branded as “e-gov initiatives” and “lines of business.” They were set aside by the Obama administration, and time was lost before a new wave of shared-services efforts was launched. That is a normal occurrence. Be prepared for it and keep the goal in mind because the outcome matters much more than a program’s form or structure. • Get ahead of the new agenda. Because you’re trying to sell out- comes rather than current pro- grams, read up on the new admin- istration’s priorities. How can you rearticulate projects in light of the new agenda? The incoming administration has offered clues already by citing an imperative to renew the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, use data for better decision-making and provide more rapid access to commercial innovation. Wrap your work in the cloth of that new agenda. It will help you avoid having a good idea thrown out just because it doesn’t seem to fit with first-year priorities. • Stay in motion. Whatever you do as a career executive navigat- ing the transition, don’t sit still. Programs that have been around for awhile and have yet to deliver measurable results make easy tar- gets for leaders who want to free up resources for new initiatives. To borrow from the standard stock market disclaimer, past approvals are no indication of future commitment or support. Even the most enlightened new leaders will arrive with some type of explicit or implicit scorecard of work they want to stop, work they want to start and work they might be inclined to rebrand and continue. To sell the importance of ongo- ing projects, make sure you’ve delivered and that you have the data to prove it. Actions do indeed speak louder than words, and outcomes of merit can transcend political ideology. n How to thrive in the Trump administration Career federal executives can successfully navigate the awkward in-between time of a presidential transition by keeping a few key points in mind Actions do indeed speak louder than words, and outcomes of merit can transcend political ideology. 14 January/February 2017 FCW.COM 0217fcw_014.indd 14 1/24/17 9:30 AM
November and December 2016