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US Federal Government Transitions

Government transitions—from one administration, or one term, to the next—are immense and complex undertakings. Newly elected leaders have only 75 days to shift abruptly from campaigning to governing. For first-term presidents, their team must also master the intricacies of the federal agencies as they prepare to assume responsibility for the executive branch. In a change of administration, hundreds of federal leaders—who oversee critical missions protecting the nation, delivering citizen services, and managing essential resources—must turn over simultaneously, with no break in delivery. Incumbents also must manage significant changes if reelected; over the last two decades, on average over 40 percent of a president’s Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, and undersecretaries change in the first six months of a second term.

For nearly 70 years, we have helped support presidential transitions. As part of our commitment to good governance, we have provided non-partisan support for federal leaders of all parties as they ensure continuity of operations during the critical transition period. In this time we have developed insights into what works, and we continue to conduct independent research to help new leaders and their teams with best practices, lessons learned, and off-the-shelf approaches that can be tailored to the unique circumstance of each transition.

Running a Federal Transition


Seven tips for success for new chiefs of staff at federal government agencies

– Incoming chiefs of staff have a wide array of responsibilities to fulfill and need to define clear objectives for their tenure. These seven tips can help them successfully execute their roles.

Navigating the first 100 days: Lessons from former US cabinet members

– Five management steps can help new US executive federal appointees ensure a successful first 100 days in office.

Managing presidential transitions: Eight tips for taking care of the team

– People are your best asset in a transition. Eight best practices can help you to ensure that your team functions at the highest level during the short transition period.

Managing presidential transitions: Five tips for agency review teams

– Agency review teams are often the largest function of governmental-transition organizations and critical for continuity of government. A few best practices can help maximize their effectiveness.

Moving teams from campaign to transition: Five things to get right

– How the shift from campaigning to transitioning is managed can set the foundation for an administration.

Government transitions during crisis: How new leaders can take charge

– Transfers of power are complex—in times of crises, especially so. Here are seven lessons for leaders at all levels of government transitioning into new roles.

How to lead a successful government transition

– The government transition period between an outgoing and an incoming government leader is a remarkable opportunity to capitalize on the momentum of the election and lay the foundation for success. A six-step approach can set an incoming administration on the right path.

Leading in the Public Sector


From transition to transformation

– Public-sector leaders generally don’t have a lot of time to make the changes they want. But there is an approach to speed up the process.

Scaling digital in the public sector: Building blocks for the future

– The upcoming government transition presents public-sector leaders with the opportunity to establish processes for successfully scaling digital technologies.

Increasing decision-making velocity: Five steps for government leaders

– Government leaders can challenge the norms of how their organizations work and dramatically increase their decision-making speed and agility.

How public-sector tech leaders can speed up the journey to the cloud

– Moving to the cloud is fraught with challenges. By answering five questions up front, public-sector leaders can ease and accelerate the journey.

Building the tech-enabled government of the future—a ‘Day 1’ list of common pitfalls

– If you can recognize and avoid them, you can make your programs more successful—quickly. Start on your very first day.

Transforming the US government’s approach to hiring digital talent

– Attracting digital talent to government jobs has been a challenge, with consequences felt throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Leaders can rethink their approach to build resilience for future crises.

Rethinking public-sector contract negotiations to secure value for taxpayers

– Key negotiation practices can result in significant cost savings in public-sector procurement.
Blog Post

Fitter, flatter, faster: How unstructuring your organization can unlock massive value

– Organizing for the future requires adopting an operating model that is more dynamic, more flexible, and less structured than most companies use today. Following five steps can help companies unlock value by making their structure more agile.

Lessons from the military for COVID-time leadership

– “Mission command” and other military principles can guide policy makers and business leaders thrust into crisis.

Decision making in the age of urgency

– Decision making takes up a lot of time, much of it used ineffectively. New survey results offer lessons for making quick, high-quality decisions that support outperformance.

Advice from Silicon Valley: How tech-sector practices can promote innovation in government

– Public-sector leaders recently met with leaders from the region’s most innovative companies to learn about their culture of innovation firsthand. Here’s what they heard.

Elements of a successful government transformation

– Five essential disciplines can more than triple the success rate of public-sector change efforts.

Insights by topic


When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?

– Europe and the United States have entered the endemic stage of the COVID-19 outbreak: the virus is widespread, is significantly less fatal than it was in 2020, and is spurring only limited changes in public behavior. These endemic conditions are likely to continue through the summer and autumn, unless and until immunity-evading new variants emerge. As immunity wanes, however, the next stage remains highly uncertain. In this update, we discuss the outlook, the current and potential future use of boosters and therapeutics, and the shifts in response strategies to the COVID-19 crisis around the world. We also introduce the McKinsey COVID-19 Immunity Index—a tool for understanding a community’s current level of risk from the disease.
Article - McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility

Building supportive ecosystems for Black-owned US businesses

– The right business ecosystems can mitigate or negate the effects of structural obstacles to business building for Black business owners—and add $290 billion in business equity.

Fighting identity theft in benefit claims and payments

– US government agencies are using analytics to mitigate fraud at scale and ensure benefits get into the hands of citizens who need them most.

Women in the Workplace 2022

– Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same. To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies need to go beyond table stakes. That’s according to the latest Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.Org.
Interactive - McKinsey Quarterly

The 1.5-degree challenge

– Holding warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels could limit the most dangerous and irreversible effects of climate change.

Reimagining the postpandemic economic future

– As the COVID-19 crisis continues to devastate US lives and livelihoods, policy makers are challenged to emerge from it in a way that lays a foundation for a strong, healthy economy in the long run.
Report - McKinsey Global Institute

Risk, resilience, and rebalancing in global value chains

– Companies need an understanding of their exposure, vulnerabilities, and potential losses to inform resilience strategies.

Insights on racial and ethnic health inequity in the context of COVID-19

– McKinsey’s Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare shares insights on underlying health inequities that contribute to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and vulnerable populations.

Reimagining infrastructure in the United States: How to build better

– Infrastructure agencies need to prepare for two very different scenarios—a sharp rise in funding or a precipitous drop.

A government blueprint to adapt the ecosystem to the future of work

– Digital and artificial intelligence technologies will likely have a substantial economic and social impact. Governments can act now to create shared prosperity and better lives for all citizens.
Report - McKinsey Global Institute

Making it in America: Revitalizing US manufacturing

– The erosion of US manufacturing isn’t a foregone conclusion. The decade ahead—with increased demand, new technology, and value chain optimization—will give the sector a chance to turn around.

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