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January 2008

PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITIONS:

Déjà vu - Tactics - Historical - References

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PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITIONS

 

Regardless of which candidate and party wins the Presidential election in 2008, there will be a major transition to a new administration. The Presidential Transition Act, other laws, and precedents come into play, which we will highlight later in this article. Yet for agency executives, Federal personnel, and contractors, there are tactical issues that should be identified, planned, and acted upon.

 

Déjà vu

 

The immediacy of the 2008 election reminds me of my own work during the many months of preparation and follow-up to the transition in 2000. I was a contractor at Executive Office of the President during 1999 and 2000, and I participated in the team responsible for planning the digital transition. Later in 2000, I prepared the enterprise IT briefing that a departmental CIO was to use in briefing the incoming Presidential Transition Team. Following the inauguration, I remained at the department for some time and observed the early implementation of the transition.

 

This article is a way of sharing insights that may be useful in 2008 and beyond. It focuses primarily on tactics for agency Chief Information Officers and program investment managers.

 

TACTICS

 

So what picture are you going to present to the incoming Presidential Transition Team between December 2008 and January 2009? Below are ideas on how to prepare. Undoubtedly your agency is pursuing some of these action steps, but the overall list of tactics can be a good checklist nonetheless.

 

Tidy your portfolio. Investment managers of mutual funds and pension programs clean up their portfolios every year—normally before showcasing their performance in annual reports. It behooves agency managers to tidy their IT investment portfolios, so that they can showcase strong performance that is uncluttered by mistakes and disappointments.

 

It isn’t always possible to terminate a problematic investment immediately. But at minimum you can have a transition plan in place, which leads to consolidation, or the target architecture, or decommissioning. Such a plan should be specific, have a concrete business and technical solution, and include date-specific milestones.

 

There are powerful software tools to help your agency improve analysis, forecasting, and control of IT investment portfolios. But if they are not already implemented, you should not delay tidying your portfolio, using whatever information and disciplined processes that are immediately available.

 

Nail down achievements. So what has your agency accomplished for its billions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars in IT investments over the past several years? You should be able to answer this question at several levels:

 

  • How are IT services better for users and customers?
  • How has IT contributed to mission performance and program outcomes, as documented in evaluations and Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) reviews?
  • How is your management of IT investments saving money?
  • What is your track record for budget control and acquisition performance of IT?
  • What benefits can you validate and document from all of those Cost Benefit Analyses?

 You need metrics and documentation for your achievements. Hint: Don’t delay taking action to implement an improved performance management system and record keeping. For the transition briefing, you will want to document performance for at least Fiscal Year 2008.

 

Get to closure on problems.  Everyone has a few stinking problems that are no fun to solve, but it is better to solve as many of them as possible before the incoming administration. Make a list of them, and then check off those that can be resolved by November 30, 2008. Develop your Plan of Action and Milestones (POAM), and make it happen.  

 

Get your facts straight. Few things are more embarrassing than telling a Presidential Transition Team, “I don’t know.” Begin developing a briefing book with all of the key facts about agency IT and investments: budget, programs, projects, infrastructure, security, applications, users, status of plans, names of people responsible, organization, strategy, management processes, etc. Validate the accuracy of these facts, and have answers that are in plain English.

 

Know what needs to be done over the upcoming several years. Make a list of the 10 most important “Must Do’s” over the next several years. Explain the vision, rationale, cost, and action steps—briefly. If you can’t communicate where you’re headed, the next administration may well think that the IT organization needs a new management team.

 

Develop a communication plan. Develop a well-prepared plan for communication and information exchange with the Transition Team and the incoming Presidential Appointees. This includes:

 

  • Identifying information you need to share with them
  • Describing modes of presentation and who does the communicating
  • Planning how your own staff will be well informed and prepared to interact with the new leadership.

Take steps to make the transition as smooth as possible.  Continuity of government requires transition planning. Your agency mission and programs must continue seamlessly even as elected and appointive leadership changes.

You need a change management plan. How will you manage during the months when there will be unfilled vacancies in appointive positions? How will you be agile in adjusting to an administration’s refocusing of the management styles and priorities? How will you adapt your business processes to harmonize with change? How will you articulate legislative requirements for your mission and programs with a new administration?

Change Management is Part of the Presidential Transition Process 

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

 

As the Congressional Research Service observes in a report for Congress, there is a long history of transitions:

 

Since President George Washington first relinquished his office to incoming President John Adams in 1797, this peaceful transition, symbolizing both continuity and change, has demonstrated the stability of our system of government. Aside from the symbolic transfer of power, an orderly transition from the outgoing Administration to the incoming Administration is essential to ensure continuity in the working affairs of government.

 

Congress addressed some of the key issues through the The Presidential Transition Act of 2000, which is an update of previous legislation. As Dwight Ink, President Emeritus of the Institute of Public Administration, wrote before passage of the predecessor 1963 legislation, transitions were “hit-and-miss affairs that handicap a new president and his team in shifting from campaigning to governing, and create problems for the Congress.’’

 

REFERENCES FOR HOW THE PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WORKS

 

Responsibilities of the Outgoing Administration. The sitting President is expected to issue an executive order facilitating the transition, such as Executive Order 13176 issued on November 27, 2000 by William Clinton.  That Executive Order established a Presidential Transition Coordinating Council of incumbent officials. The Council coordinates assistance to the President-elect in fulfilling his/her responsibilities.

 

The Executive Order also defined specific roles, such as:

 

  • The Administrator of General Services, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, coordinates orientation activities for key prospective Presidential appointees.
  • The General Services Administrator, the Archivist of the United States, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management—develop a transition directory and provide information about government organization, authorities, functions, duties, responsibilities, and mission.
  • The White House Office of Presidential Personnel catalogues all positions filled by presidential appointment that require Senate confirmation.

Presidential Records. "Presidential records" means documentary materials, or any reasonably segregable portion thereof, created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22).  

http://www.archives.gov/about/laws/presidential-records.html

 

Specifically, the Presidential Records Act:

 

  • Defines and states public ownership of the records.
  • Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.
  • Allows the incumbent President to dispose of records that no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value, once he has obtained the views of the Archivist of the United States on the proposed disposal.
  • Requires that the President and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.
  • Establishes a process for restriction and public access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to Presidential records through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the Administration, but allows the President to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to twelve years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent Administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty-day notice period to the former and current Presidents..
  • Requires that Vice-Presidential records are to be treated in the same way as Presidential records.

Ownership. The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records; and such records shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter (§ 2202 of above referenced law).

 

Presidential Records Act Executive Order.  George W. Bush issued the current Executive Order regarding Presidential Records on November 1, 2001.

 

Logistics.  The General Services Administration has significant responsibilities in supporting the Presidential Transition.

 

Personnel Management. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is involved in the Presidential Transition.  

 

Ethics. A key component of transitions is ethics in government. 

 

Homeland Security. DHS has issued a contract for Presidential Transition Planning, according to Government Executive, October 3, 2007.


P2C2 GROUP

 

The P2C2 Group helps agencies and prime contractors leverage IT and program investments to achieve business results. Our services include planning, management consulting, documentation, analysis, and evaluation. Key strengths include conceptualizing, developing, synthesizing, writing, crunching numbers, analyzing, supporting new initiatives, and assisting with change.

 

We are management consultants performing tasks and projects with defined problems, scopes, deliverables, and schedules. Firm-fixed price contracts are our preferred mode of operation. We normally work in our own offices, although we go to client sites for meetings, workshops, presentations, consultations, and information collection.

 

It’s always nice to hear from readers, clients and potential clients, and friends. Drop me an e-mail sometime. Together we can make a difference for government and the public.

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I’m writing this article on Martin Luther King Day, which elicits mixed emotions and memories. In 1963, I was a graduate student working as faculty adviser to the daily student newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana. On the summer day of the “I Have a Dream Speech,” the teletype machines went nonstop with copy flowing from AP and UPI lines, supplemented with a few photographs sent laboriously from Washington over separate wires to a primitive rotary scanner.

 

Those were heady, jolting days of change, and the current presidential campaign rhetoric seems to echo a theme of change.

 

Today's thoughts of change are counterbalanced with more sober reflections. Change has a price. I still remember where I was on April 4, 1968 when I heard the news that Martin paid the price in Memphis.

 

I hope the presidential campaign of 2008 debates the options for change with great thought and care. Where we head as a country in future years will come with a price, regardless of which path we choose.

 

Best regards,

Jim Kendrick, PMP
Technology Management Consultant
P2C2 Group, Inc.
4101 Denfeld Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895
301-942-7985

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