Overview of the Blog

The IBM Center launched this blog in April 2007 to spark a dialogue on the 2008-2009 Presidential Transition and to identify the toughest management challenges facing future government leaders.

As background to this on-line dialog, the IBM Center sponsored two thought leadership forums, one in 2005 and the other in 2006, to explore these issues.  Drs. Donald Kettl and Steve Kelman shared their insights with the forums.  We subsequently published them as “Reflections on 21st Century Government Management.”

Dr. Kettl’s essay was the lead discussion piece for the first forum, held at the Aspen Institute near Queenstown, Maryland in June 2005. His essay posits that changing boundaries – between levels of government, between public and private sectors, and between the US and other countries – are profoundly influencing how the federal government works. He says that the next president will face very different challenge than when the current president took office. He observed that the next president must address three management issues to be successful:

  • Address the imperative to create knowledge-driven agencies.
  • Create the capacity for government to respond to the increase in non-routine problems, like terrorism, hurricanes, or health emergencies.
  • Respond to the growing need for non-hierarchical solutions to public problems.

The participants in that forum discussed his essay and nominated three additional issues they think will be the toughest management challenges facing government leaders in the coming 5-10 years. These include:

  • Using networks to organize for routine and non-routine problems.
  • Using a “center-edge” approach to govern through a “network of networks.”
  • Engaging citizens in new roles to solve public problems.

Dr. Kelman’s essay was the lead discussion piece for the second forum, also held at the Aspen Institute, in November 2006. He reflected on the progress of the government over the past two decades to become more performance- and results-oriented, warning that there are many who still want to reverse this trend. However, in his “forecasting” role, he assumes that the next president will not neglect past progress and will face the following five management reform challenges:

  • Increase the use of performance management approaches.
  • Improve contract management.
  • Expand the use of inter-organizational collaboration to achieve results.
  • Increase the use of competition and choice as ways of more effectively delivering services.
  • Reform the budget process to increase efficiency.

A completely different set of participants discussed his essay and nominated four management reform challenges they think will face government leaders in coming years. These include:

  • Creating, managing, and leading a highly capable, blended workforce.
  • Achieving results-focused performance management.
  • Managing information, transparency and communication, both internally and externally.
  • Managing multi-party program delivery and outcome improvement.

We would like to invite you to comment on the content of the initial essays by Kettl and Kelman, and/or offer your additional insights. We’ve invited the original participants in the two forums to contribute as well.


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