So what might be on the management agenda of the next President of the United States? Some top thinkers at the IBM Center for The Business of Government think tank have been doing what they do best, thinking about that, and came up with what they see as the Top 10 Challenges Facing Public Managers (.pdf), especially the incoming president. Briefly, those challengers are:
"The nation is at risk of drowning in debt," says the IBM Center, almost in unison with the rest of us. Between looming recession, soaring health care costs, foreclosures and a mass of suddenly retiring Baby Boomers threatening to finish off the Social Security system, what ever is a new president to do?
Cirsis of Competence
Do modern federal government workers share the "this is my career" work ethic of the now-retiring Baby Boomer generation? Maybe not. "'Generation Y' has a strong service ethic, but not necessarily in public service," suggests the IBM Center. Forget about Secretaries of State or Attorney Generals. We're talking about the 1.7 million federal government workers you'll never hear of, but actually make the government work for us... or fail us. We're talking, for example, about air traffic controllers, more of whom are now retiring than being hired and trained. Sure a Secretary of State is important, but no Secretary of State will never make sure your westbound 737 doesn't slam into an eastbound 737.
Cellular phone, satellite and computer technology have brought us to the day when a constant stream of information from around the world can fill our heads if we choose to let it in. Nowhere is the information overload more evident than in government, where data from our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the military, all the federal agencies and every news source on the planet stream into the White House 24/7/365. If all that data is carefully and sanely analyzed, checked for accuracy and wisely dealt with, great things can come from it. Otherwise, suffice it to say, mistakes will be made.
Governing Without Boundaries
Flash! The world is even less flat than before. The U.S. government can no longer assume that even long-stable foreign governments will react predictably to a international events. "Government is currently organized based on a presumption that the world is relatively stable and predictable, and that government's work can be rooted in large-scale, repeatable routines." That mid-20th century, corporate thinking won't work today, says the IBM Center. "As a result, government is increasingly turning to non-hierarchical ways of doing business, often called 'collaborative networks' and 'boundary-less organizations.'" Can the new president convince the government to accept and deal with the fact that what worked just fine yesterday, may result in disaster today?
E-Government Is Only the Beginning
When the first White House web site went live on Oct. 21, 1994, only 10 percent of the U.S. public had internet access. Today, information technology - the Internet - stands as the most widely traveled path between government and citizen. Yet the continued tendency of federal agencies to internalize "their" information remains a roadblock. The new president will need to encourage, if not flat-out force, the federal agencies to standardize their online information delivery systems to best serve the people.