THE BLOG
05/28/2013 10:00 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2013

Re-thinking the "Business" of Government

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There's no denying that change comes late -- often too late -- in the overburdened public sector. Over the last five years, I have spent a fair amount of time at the offices of multiple key federal agencies in Washington, D.C. It has been my observation from talking to public sector executives and operational leaders that the greatest inhibitor to change stems from the environment that drives the "business" of government.

Government executives are challenged to achieve efficiencies and streamline operations while running complex, multi-faceted organizations -- all in an environment of conflicting political agendas, cumbersome policies and intense competition for dwindling shares of the appropriations budget. This shines a light on the need to focus on management solutions that enable service innovations, cut costs while delivering stellar citizen services.

Although one can cite pockets of innovation in government, the public sector generally lags behind the private sector in adopting cost-effective solutions to the challenges faced. The U.S. continues to spend more than any other nation on education, yet falls short when measured by academic achievement. The U.S. allocates more than any other country to health care, but still ranks in the bottom half of industrialized countries when it comes to life expectancy and infant mortality. Meanwhile, budget deficits and financial shortfalls have taken their toll on U.S. infrastructure policy, while emerging-market competitors like China, Brazil and India more aggressively fund long-term public spending initiatives.

In every corner of the globe, government initiatives and solutions must be built and executed to connect the dots between investment and value creation.

As with any organization, it's vital to:

  • clearly define the mission and vision;
  • effectively create a value driven advancement roadmap;
  • design a future state with execution options and scenarios;
  • and then proactively manage and validate the actual results.

That's sounds simple enough, but many government agencies struggle to implement organizational structures and governance processes that result in a structured approach to decision-making, a defined strategy and aligned activities to drive the required outcomes. Moreover, government agencies grapple with defining, executing and communicating value created from program initiatives and mission goals.

Creating and Preserving Value

The U.S. government has no shortage of programs and initiatives -- particularly technology-based projects -- that could benefit from better management practices and a more focused approach to driving outcomes. All the focus on technology and modernization won't lead to transformation without the right management practices. The problem isn't apathetic employees or bad intentions. The persistent problem stems from numerous inefficiencies caused by non-converged oversight. Key among them are management silos, deficient accountability structures and spending programs that fail to deliver value as promised.

These inefficiencies are less a reflection of the performance of dedicated public servants, but more a reflection on the extremely challenging environment of government itself. The challenges of orchestrating the 'business' of government are numerous, and it falls to leadership to promote viable solutions to mitigate the issues impeding successful outcomes.

By developing multi-disciplinary management capabilities that bring together organizations, decision structures, processes and technology, a public services organization can create an environment for collaborative change, service innovation and efficiency. Government agencies can learn from successful companies, and what they do differently compared to their less savvy and profitable competition.

Successful organizations:

  • Identify Prioritized Roadmaps: for service innovation, program execution, operational transparency
  • Collaboratively develop execution scenarios with interconnected blueprints showing inter-dependencies
  • Analyze and manage on-going investments, program progress, and value creation

Execution of repeatable success comes from establishing a seamless management approach or a converged framework. It begins with agency priorities and goals and connects all the way through financial investment and program implementation. The converged management framework provides a structured approach that unifies decision-making from the agency leadership to the project management team. It creates collaborative organizational capabilities that can be grouped in the following four functional areas:

  • Governance & Organization -- Integrates the interests of all stakeholders to provide strategic direction and mature management practices.
  • Strategic Investment Management -- Maintains the ability to deliver critical public services and enhance national security by identifying and minimizing non-strategic spending and connecting agency goals with financial investments.
  • Strategy & Planning -- Establishes and validates strategy grounded in financial practices and performance measurement within the framework of government requirements.
  • Strategic Enterprise Architecture -- Outlines the business, process and technology models required to execute operational agency goals.

Collaborative Management

An operating blueprint provides two strategic enablers: 360-degree enterprise models; and impact analyses and scenarios for true value creation. The 360-degree models can be of a process, an organization or a technology with the ability to proactively visualize the end-to-end goals and execution strategies before and during the implementation of costly and often irreversible strategies that can hamper goals. In government, as in business, these models create the opportunity to ask "what-if" and test scenarios that help vet problems and issues ahead of major financial commitments. Impact analyses and scenarios create multiple output scenarios, evaluate the end-to-end impact of each scenario, and arrive at the optimal solution.

An operating blueprint allows everyone in an enterprise to work together based on converged intelligence of new and emerging service delivery models, execution capabilities and drives cost and process efficiencies - without negatively impacting citizen service.

Make no mistake, every government is a big organization with a huge budget, a complex management hierarchy and diverse, sometimes conflicting stakeholders. And any large organization in today's complex global environment requires collaborative execution. Unless you collaborate on the development of a strategy, as well as the operational execution of that strategy, the organization will fail to create value. Therefore, every public service agency must create a collaborative management structure driven from an interconnected 360-degree enterprise model to execute the operational plan.

Conclusion

It's no secret that public agencies often operate like 'satellite republics', with little or no integrated communication. That leaves the end user -- the citizen -- with a marginalized level of public service. Every major organization in today's complex and constantly changing marketplace requires collaborative execution. As with the private sector, all public agencies are functioning within a global marketplace -- the key difference lies in the constituencies it serves.

In the same manner that a company bears responsibility in answering to the company shareholders, a pubic agency is accountable to its stakeholders -- primarily the citizens that depend on an agency's critical services. At the end of the day, how a country is managed is by far the most important operation of all.

For more by Faisal Hoque, click here.