January 2016
Issue Map
The Public Manager

Examining Lingering Issues in Government

Monday, January 11, 2016

Along with the chat with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, this issue explores two critical topics that are affecting federal agencies: waning interest in the Senior Executive Service (SES) and culture change.

Steve Lenkart's On the Horizon article examines the troubling trend that few people in government want to be federal senior executives, and the majority of the current crop of SES employees are eligible to retire, leaving a huge need for leadership in the coming years. Along with poor incentives and high risk, many potential SES candidates are turned off by the slow hiring process, overly complex application process, and Congress's micromanagement.


Lenkart, an agency liaison at the Senior Executives Association, gives some valuable recommendations for improving the SES recruitment climate, including succession planning, mentoring, and other leadership development programs that "will encourage and prepare high-potential candidates for future SES vacancies."

Culture change is one of those challenging topics that everyone knows is important but few know how to achieve. The federal government—and the workforce in general—is wrought with change, and to excel in that environment, agencies must create a culture that is flexible, adaptable, and innovative.

In the Perspectives article, Beth Beck offers tips to help change flourish in your agency, including advice on how to identify potential naysayers early and create ways to alleviate their pain points. William R. Dougan shares a case study about a change initiative at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire. Dissatisfied with the state of affairs, employees, managers, and the union joined together to craft a "Declaration of Excellence" that lays out a vision and the guiding principles of the shipyard—such as values, beliefs, and attitudes that the workforce should strive to achieve.


This example illustrates that it is possible to implement significant culture changes within government agencies. It is not easy, and can take years to fully implement, but by including many in the initial change initiative, buy-in can happen.

Paula Ketter
Editor, The Public Manager
[email protected]

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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