Teaching a Hippo to Dance
The most brilliant policies will fail if government does not attract talented people and free them to do their best work.
Four years ago, I left Silicon Valley to accept a presidential appointment as a White House fellow. After undergoing months of interviews and obtaining a top-secret security clearance, I moved to Washington, D.C., to join a class of 12 nonpartisan White House fellows and to work in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. After my fellowship ended I stayed on, caught up in the challenging work of improving the nation’s trade policies. My old business-school friends and my colleagues at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company were perplexed. Why would anyone want to serve in the federal government, the epitome of everything that is slow, bureaucratic, andopaque?
There, in a nutshell, is a major problem confronting American government in the 21st century: how to attract talented youngpeople—not just to the prestigious jobs that bring you face to face with a cabinet secretary or the president but to the line jobs that exist across the civil service. It is not just a recruiting challenge. Government will only attract the people it needs when it refashions itself so that public servants can serve the publiceffectively.
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Amy Wilkinson, a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is writing a book about the next generation of leadership.more from this author >>