Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clear goals and cross-agency working

How do we get government organisations to work together effectively in pursuit of broad governmental goals? This is one of the major challenges of governing and, of course, not a new one. The US Government has announced its Clear Goals initiative which sets out a series of cross-agency goals - fourteen in fact - which seek to drive improvements in governmental performance. The goals range from energy efficiency through to the cybersecurity and sustainability.

I'll be visiting Washington DC in April-May with colleagues as part of the Strengthening the Performance Framework project we are undertaking with the Australian Public Service Commission and will have the chance to talk with people about how these cross-agency goals trickle down into individual agencies, and then into the performance management of individuals and groups.

The practitioner and scholarly literature is full of stories of the complexity of doing this in practice; of how the goals of the agencies tend to take priority, especially where what we have called the supporting architecture of the public sector system reinforces such behaviour (see my article with colleagues You Win Some, You Lose Some which reports on attempts to engender inter-agency collaboration in the Australian context). Having clear goals, a common purpose, or a shared mission is critical to enacting cross-agency working; however failure to address the systemic barriers that other aspects of government systems and structures embed can lead to an inability to deliver on the broader goals of government.

Such issues will be central to the new book I am working on for Routledge titled Crossing Boundaries in Public Management and Policy. This will bring together authors from across the world on the to address the theory and practice of working across boundaries.

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