miércoles, 16 de octubre de 2013

Working in government as a unique enterprise

Governments are for solving the society challenges. But the challenges that governments nowadays face are quite more complex than in the past. Now the big challenges are interconnected, an individual agency cannot solve them using only its internal capabilities. It is needed collaboration between agencies, government layers and the stakeholders to tackle them and expect success in the task.

The obvious consequence is the need for governments to work as a unique enterprise an not as a group of disconnected silos. It is a huge effort and requires an approach to solving the challenges different than the "business-as-usual" way of working, but it is possible. It happens every time a nation face a disaster: floods, train accidents, earthquakes, .... The western countries are currently facing an economic disaster, so it should be easy to extend the spirit that appear in governments after a disaster to its daily routine.

A first warning. Working as an enterprise does not mean the centralization of everything. An excess of centralisation poses its own problems in the form of bureaucratisation. It is more about rcognising our own limitations and the need to work together.

The best way to foster the change of culture needed to work as a unique enterprise in a government is with a public commitment. The highest the political backing of this commitment, the more quicker the adoption of a cross-cutting culture to every aspect of government life.

The cornerstone for the government commitment towards this new way of working could be the development a chart of cross-cutting objectives, no more than 16 with a responsible for its fulfillment. Let´s call this form of government an objective oriented government.

Objectives that shall be defined in a clear manner using plain English in order to be understood by all the citizens, because obviously the objectives would be published. The responsible for the fulfillment of each of them would not be the top-level in a chain based on command-and-control, but a broker of the internal and external skills for achieving the objective.

Once established the chart of objectives, it should be taken as the centre of the government activities. Take as an example the submission of the budgets. There would not be department budgets at the top but objectives budgets, each of them with a portfolio of projects with its own budget.  The publication of the budget in an objective oriented manner would not only foster the change of culture in the government, but it would also allow the citizens to have a clear picture of which are the priorities of the government. The more money is putting to fulfill an objective, the more important it is.

An objective oriented government or working in government as a unique enterprise would have other advantages. For example, the evaluation of its performance would be easier. It would be a child play to develop a public scoreboard, including for each objective the state of advance of each project of its portfolio.

It is needed to break the silo culture in governments in order to have more effective governments. Working in government as a unique enterprise is one way to reach this objective.

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