The IRS is in trouble, deep trouble. With over 100,000 employees and a budget exceeding $12 billion, the government agency may be the largest organization in crisis in America today. It is also the most visible turnaround project so far in 2013, corporate or government.
The IRS’ relatively new Acting Commissioner, Mr. Daniel Werfel, is under tremendous pressure by both the White House and Congress to demonstrate leadership in restructuring the IRS in rapid-fire fashion.
With about a month on the job, he has a big road ahead of him – he was appointed to his acting position effective May 22, 2013.
In about a week from now Mr. Werfel is to provide Congress and the White House a comprehensive 30-day report on his interim findings at the IRS. The findings will certainly be illuminating.
Democrats and Republicans seem to bicker all the time. This time both parties are on the same page – they want Mr. Werfel to succeed in a job that many have described as being ‘the most thankless job in America’.
And while most in main-street America probably don’t know of Mr. Werfel, they want him to succeed too (your author does not intend to propose the idea that Americans want the IRS to succeed in all of its endeavors).
America has some of the world’s greatest turnaround stories in private industry, but in government….let’s just say we don’t have a lot of examples to point to.
The business world has a lot of case studies, examples, and CEO’s that can talk about what it means to do a turnaround. Mr. Werfel might want to consider borrowing some concepts from the business world and apply them to the task before him at the IRS.
He may want to consider the possibility that the same people who hired him for this project are the same people who created the crisis in the first place. This possibility should always be on his mind. A good turnaround specialist always knows who the ultimate constituency really is. In this case, his ultimate constituency is the American people.
When you are anointed as the turnaround specialist you get some weird perks. One of those perks is that Mr. Werfel gets the right to poke around everywhere in the IRS. His first couple of months in office may be the best time for him to play the ‘dumb boss’ roll – by observing the critical actors in the organization.
In corporate America the best turnaround specialists are usually grounded in strong ethical foundations. To outsiders it may seem that corporate turnaround specialists are anything but ethical, but behind the scenes these individuals bank on their long-term reputations. It will be important for Mr. Werfel to ensure that he maintains his moral compass as he proceeds with a government turnaround.
Transparency will also be key.
When one is asked to clean up a bad situation, it is always best to be 100% open with everybody. Be transparent. Be open with your constituents, be open with your organization, and be open with those that made the mistakes. The more transparent you are, the more people will see you as an agent of positive change rather than a ‘blame redirection specialist’.
Sure, there will debates and arguments about strategy. There will be internal enemies. There will be allies made. But Mr. Werfel must be absolutely prepared for the truth, because it will come out sooner or later. He must be prepared to hear the truth, deal with it, and report on it.
The last thing that Mr. Werfel should remember is that nobody will give him genuine thanks – not even the people who hired him. Even if Mr. Werfel does the best of jobs, they won’t say thanks beyond the public niceties.
But what Mr. Werfel should be confident of knowing is this: if he completes a successful turnaround of the IRS, he will be in demand by more large corporations than he could ever possibly imagine.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com