EY-What government does – US GPS book

What government does

How political executives manage

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While the public may perceive government as all about “policy,” the bulk of government work is about delivering specific services either directly to the American public or conducting activities on behalf of the nation.

To understand the challenges of political leadership and how top executives succeed in accomplishing an Administration’s objectives, business-in-government experts Paul R. Lawrence and Mark A. Abramson present the findings of a four-year study of top political appointees in the Obama Administration.

The 42 participants — deputy Secretaries and agency heads — provide case studies of how each approaches the management challenges and achieves the mission of their organization.

Full of behind-the-scenes insights and practical advice from government political executives on how they face management challenges in real time, What Government Does: How Political Executives Manage offers indispensable insights to current and prospective political appointees and everyone interested in understanding how leaders make government agencies more effective.

  • All jobs are not the same. While it may be readily apparent that being a government scientist is different from being a regulator, the authors found many examples of the presumption that all jobs are the same and that any smart person can fill any of them. This is not the case.
  • Identify the right set of experiences for the job. There is no doubt that nearly everyone on the long list for a Presidential appointment is clearly qualified, in the sense of having a distinguished professional career and impressive educational credentials. But do they have the right set of experiences for a specific job at the point in time when she or he is selected?
  • Experience matters for each job. A key job facing the White House Office of Presidential Personnel is determining the right set of experiences for a specific moment in an organization’s history. After that determination is made, finding people with the right set of experiences is crucial.

This new book, a follow-up to their previous book, Paths to Making a Difference: Leading in Government, is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

About the authors


Paul R. Lawrence, EY

Paul R. Lawrence is a leader in the Federal Government Consulting Practice of Ernst & Young LLP. He served as the Partner-in-Charge of our Initiative on Leadership program which resulted in the publication of this book. His work with government leaders has been featured on Federal News Radio and in publications such as Government Executive and The Public Manager. Read his full biography.


Mark A. Abramson

Mark A. Abramson is President of Leadership Inc., a company specializing in assisting leading corporations and non-profits in the development of thought leadership, including publications and events. He helped create the IBM Center for the Business of Government and was one of the founders of the Council for Excellence in Government. During his career as a public servant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Mr. Abramson became an active member in the public administration and public management communities.



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Paul R. Lawrence, EY

Paul R. Lawrence is a Principal in the Advisory Services practice of Ernst & Young LLP, and a leader in its Federal Government Consulting Practice. He served as the Partner-in-Charge of the EY “Initiative on Leadership,” which resulted in the publication of this book.

Mr. Lawrence has 25 years of experience working closely with government leaders. Prior to joining Ernst & Young LLP, Mr. Lawrence was a Vice President with Accenture, an Executive Director with the MITRE Corporation, a Vice President with IBM Business Consulting Services, and a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He has written extensively on technology, management, and government. He is the co-editor of Transforming Organizations and Learning the Ropes: Insights for Political Appointees. He has testified before Congress and several state legislatures. He serves on the Board of Advisors to the Economic Program at the University of Massachusetts and has served on the Board of Advisors of the Thomas Jefferson Public Policy Program at The College of William and Mary. He was twice selected by Federal Computer Week as one of the top 100 public service business leaders.

Mr. Lawrence earned his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Tech. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.