Policy Consolidation: Seven Critical Success Factors pinpoints “Leadership and executive sponsorship to set the vision” as the first element of a successful policy consolidation initiative. Visionary leaders motivate staff to exceed expectations. Articulating a well-defined vision can align stakeholders, create enthusiasm, serve as a basis for strategic planning and importantly, engender loyalty and commitment.
But executing a vision takes time, some say a ten-year horizon is appropriate to achieve the desired future state. So, how do you execute a vision if you don’t have ten or even five years? This challenge exists in the federal government where literally thousands of leadership positions are filled by political appointees.
In general, political appointee tenure is significantly shorter than corporate leadership tenure. In a commentary posted on Political Appointee Project’s website James P. Pfiffner states, “The average time in office of political appointees is 2.5 years, with 25% staying fewer than 18 months.” This is barely enough time to understand the basic operations of a federal agency – let alone to set and achieve a vision. And, as Pfiffner notes, “These approximately 3000 political appointees have policy making or policy related duties for helping Presidents direct executive branch policies.”
Policy consolidation, the process of condensing and clarifying existing policy, is achievable in a relatively short time frame of one to two and a half years. And, since it is not about creating new policy, but reorganizing and consolidating existing policy, it is politically neutral. Policy consolidation is an endeavor that benefits policy users and makers alike and is an opportunity for leaders to create a legacy.
A successful policy consolidation benefits all stakeholders. One key benefit for internal stakeholders is the resulting reduction in the number of policy artifacts that need to be updated and maintained – freeing up resources for other mission-critical work. Additionally, policy consolidation can play a critical role in agency transformation as it signals change and achieves transformation goals of increasing efficiency while at the same time improving customer service.
For external stakeholders policy consolidation minimizes dependency on layers of old policy artifacts that can be difficult to interpret and follow. For users of the Agency’s services or customers, clear policy is easier to execute, makes training of new staff easier and saves time in implementation.
This is not to suggest that policy consolidation is easy to accomplish. Far from it. It requires commitment from internal subject matter experts (SMEs) to spend an extensive amount of time actually consolidating the policy into a new streamlined format, and it requires collaboration across functions within the agency. These challenges point back to the importance of leadership, executive sponsorship and vision.
Policy consolidation is an achievable vision for government leaders as it is possible to establish and realize the vision, communicate the benefits and support agency transformation all within the average tenure of two and a half years.