Center Blog

Agency Review Teams: Looking for Treasure

March 9, 2016

Teresa Lewandowski, Fellow, Partnership for Public Service

Agency review teams are the archaeologists of presidential transitions.

These teams research and gather information to understand the functions of the federal government’s departments and agencies. Their role is to learn about the structure, priorities, challenges and culture of federal agencies—initially through open sources like agency and media websites and, after the election, by direct contact within the agency.

This requires significant internal preparations to develop and prepare the review teams to work with agency transition liaisons and career employees, and to get a clear understanding of the issues that the new administration will face.

By July or early August, agency review team leads should be identified and working with a handful of staff to prepare to enter the agencies post-election. The formal agency review process will begin immediately after the election and last through to the inauguration.

Once they’ve done their excavating, they’ll compile and present their findings to the incoming administration and the designated political appointees. By providing this information, review teams simplify the transition for the new management.

The major focuses of an agency review team include:

  • Providing an overview of agency organization and structure
  • Uncovering the agency’s priority issues
  • Finding potential administrative and management challenges
  • Keeping track of key upcoming decisions and actions
  • Identifying top-performing agency employees who could be assets to the incoming administration
  • Determining what skills incoming leaders need to develop to be successful

The review teams must focus on the weaknesses and problem areas, but also unearth the agency’s best practices and successful programs that should continue into the new administration.

When agency review teams do their jobs well, the treasures they uncover will be destined for top officials to help them do their jobs, not to a dusty government warehouse.

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