Election 2016: Creating a ‘Roadmap’ for Next Administration

Low angle view of the White House, Washington DC, USA

Photo by Partnership for Public Service/Ready to Govern

As U.S. presidential candidates focus their attention on the November 2016 election, a select group of academics, government leaders and other stakeholders is concentrating on what happens after the win.

The IBM Center for the Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service, both based in Washington, D.C., have launched a “management roadmap initiative” to develop recommendations for effective management in the transition of power—and transfer of knowledge—between administrations.

Four faculty members from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs were invited to take part in the work of the Ready to Govern initiative to discuss and put forth administrative processes that should be continued and opportunities that should be developed for best management practices for the incoming administration.

David Van Slyke

David Van Slyke

“The focus is really how can we help a new administration understand that you can’t get good policy implemented if you don’t think about management,” says David M. Van Slyke, the Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government Policy and a professor of public administration and international affairs, who attended the initiative’s initial roundtable discussion.

“The candidates need to think about the agency and stakeholder environment, what good public management is and what needs to be on the management roadmap,” he says.

Candidates may not typically be elected based on their expertise in and style of public management but their campaign promises may fall flat without knowledge of how to implement them.


Tina Nabatchi

“Bureaucracy—not in a pejorative sense but in a public management sense—really drives the effectiveness of the federal government and what the president specifically can accomplish during his or her term,” says Tina Nabatchi, associate professor of public administration and international affairs, who is also participating in the initiative.

Nabatchi and Van Slyke were joined at the April 24 event in Washington, D.C., by Ines Mergel, associate professor of public administration and international affairs, and Sean O’Keefe G’78, University Professor and the Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership.

The session was an overarching discussion to prioritize what would make up the management roadmap for further discussion.

“Almost two years before the new administration comes in, we brainstormed about the public management innovations that a new administration should keep—or are worth transitioning—and we came up with the themes, which will set the stage for several follow-up meetings,” Mergel says.

Collective network


Ines Mergel

Both the IBM Center, a think tank dedicated to public management and policy implementation research, and the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization that works with federal agencies to help make government more efficient, had undertaken the work before in previous elections. This is the first time they’ve partnered in the work to engage their collective network.

The initiative’s work will also help inform members of the new administration, political appointees who may have expertise in some areas or may have worked in the government, but are now new to a department or agency.

O’Keefe, who was appointed deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget at the start of President George W. Bush’s administration and was later the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, can attest to the need for full disclosure and prioritization of challenges in times of transition. He learned the day after the inauguration in 2001 about a $5 billion overrun in funding the construction of the International Space Station.

“This is one of the things that would have surfaced in this kind of transition process,” O’Keefe says. “It took a year and a lot of hard work, but we dealt with it. But everything else had to be put to the side.”


Sean O'Keefe

Smooth transition

The work of transitioning to the next administration was made somewhat easier for the 2012 election by the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010. The law enables candidates nominated by the two major parties to have access to specific government resources to begin an open, formal transition process before the election, rather than the two months between Election Day and inauguration.

“It has always proven to be a major challenge in the first year of administration just to get organized; this process now will alleviate that,” O’Keefe says.

The Ready to Govern initiative adds to that process, offering priorities on key theme areas that were developed during the roundtable discussions, including developing human talent, harnessing innovation, strengthening decision-making processes and establishing collaborative governance networks.

For Mergel, the discussions surrounding innovation and technology were parallel to her own work. She taught her first class at the Maxwell School on the successful use of new technologies, such as the use of data and social media during President Obama’s campaign in 2008.

“I then designed my whole research program around the federal government’s use of new technologies and innovative management practices,” Mergel says. “This roundtable was kind of a culmination of what I’ve been studying during the last eight years. I would really like to see the positive elements of these new technologies and practices transition into the next administration.”

President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, Nov. 10, 2008.  White House photo by Eric Draper

In November 2008, then-President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama met in the Oval Office of the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper

Further details

Smaller subgroups are being created by the IBM Center and the Partnership for Public Service to elicit further details on the themes. The Maxwell faculty members expect to continue to participate in the work, which is all voluntary.

Recommendations will then be made available as a resource to candidates in various forms, whether as an executive summary, briefing, podcasts or reports, among other forms.

“That’s what we hope for—that there’s an opportunity to translate our research into practice to make it actionable to both policymakers and leaders,” Van Slyke says.

The contingent from the Maxwell School was the largest representative group from the few other higher education institutions that were also invited to participate.

The business of government

The faculty members say it was exciting to be part of helping frame an informed discussion about the daily business of government in service to its citizens.

“For the Maxwell School, this is what we’re all about—teaching the next generation how to be effective public administrators and public servants working on these kinds of issues and challenges,” O’Keefe says. “This was an invitation to practice what we preach.”

Nabatchi also appreciates being able to create awareness around the topic of public management and bureaucracy, which for many has a negative connotation.

“Bureaucracy is critical to our progress as a nation. We can’t build public roads without bureaucracy; we can’t manage our economic systems without bureaucracy; we can’t administer foreign affairs without bureaucracy,” she says. “I want people to see public management as a necessity and not assume that bureaucracy is bad, but instead ask how can we make it better.”

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