You were a senior executive for nearly 30 years in the private sector. Can you talk a little about the differences and similarities with the public sector?
In terms of similarities, I am pleased to say I found strong mission-focused leaders and dedicated hard-working colleagues at both Johnson & Johnson and here at DHS. People here care deeply about the mission and strive to fulfill their responsibilities. Whether you are in private industry or government, success requires trust, collaboration, and mission focus.
In terms of differences, I find the bureaucracy in the federal government presents different challenges than in the private sector. For example, in the government, hiring, procurement, and budget processes are typically more complex and can be lengthier than in private industry. To that end, we need to continue to strive to streamline processes, while retaining fairness, transparency, and accountability.
In the end, however, change, including new collaborations, is challenging in any workplace. You need to help people understand the value of working together until they actually experience and see it. Once they do it and see the benefit, you will see the culture change whether you’re in the public sector or private industry.
There’s also the belief that federal leaders are far more constrained by regulations. Do you find that that’s true, or does the private sector have its own web of laws and rules?
I think, fundamentally, there’s more regulation and statutes to follow in government. In some ways, these are more constraining. However, I understand the purposes they are intended to serve.
You do need to figure out how to navigate these processes. This is an area for me where personal one-on-one collaboration is essential. Having colleagues who are familiar with the structure and the regulations—what is real and what it myth—is instrumental to my success. If it weren’t for my colleagues’ guidance and open, candid discussion, my work would be much, much tougher.
And we can’t let the web of laws and regulations become an excuse for not taking action and making progress.
For more insight from DHS Under Secretary Russ Deyo, be sure to check out the May issue of The Public Manager.