At the National Academy of Public Administration, project director Myra Shiplett works on congressionally mandated studies of agency policies and procedures. NAPA also works with federal agencies to evaluate their programs and determine what can be improved for the sake of the citizens the agencies serve. Shiplett also serves on NAPA's board of directors.
About Myra Shiplett
Early in her career, Shiplett worked as an intern with the Federal Trade Commission. While there, a highly unfavorable report about the FTC's performance was released, and Shiplett ended up spending the next decade reforming the organization. From there, she worked for various government agencies looking to improve the quality of their workforce and products, moving from the Office of Personnel Management to the Federal Housing Finance Agency and more. Later, Shiplett moved to the private sector, ultimately starting a consulting firm that works with developing countries on judicial and corruption reform. She also spent two decades as a member of the Senior Executive Service.
What are some ways your work at NAPA differs from your private sector roles?
NAPA's focus is to help government agencies improve the quality of their products and services to our citizens. The focus is on practical, implementable recommendations that are cost effective. And the focus is on best use of taxpayer funds. There is a nobility about working for the good of our country that is both motivating and inspiring.
Are there common questions or issues that come up often among the agencies you work with? What are some of them?
Yes, there are common themes. They include how to:
- think creatively about both problem identification and problem solution
- recruit and retain well-educated, creative, flexible, and engaged employees
- establish a work environment and culture that is creative, demanding, and flexible enough to use employee talents to the maximum benefit of the organization and the individual.
In your view, what are some of the most important things government can do to improve effectiveness?
First, hire smart, talented employees; train and develop smart, talented leaders. And listen to employees because the people who do the work often know what works well and what needs to improve (and these folks usually also have creative, cost-effective solutions to identified problems).
A second highly effective tool is crowdsourcing. Public organizations frequently have very complicated issues and problems that need to be solved. Why not include our citizens among those whom we ask to suggest solutions to the problems? Not only can we get very creative answers, but we can give individual citizens a very real way to participate in their government.
With the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give the version of yourself that was just starting out?
Work for an organization—whether public or private sector—whose mission and functions you can believe in. Nothing can be worse than going to work every day to do something that is boring or that you cannot believe in. If you reach a point at which the work is no longer exciting, challenging, and worthy of your intellectual and physical efforts, find a new job if at all possible. If you are a leader, mentor and listen to your employees. They have wisdom and experience that can benefit the organization.