Posts Tagged ‘Charles Heckscher’

Collaborative Governance

July 6, 2009

4th of July FireworksI spent part of my 4th of July weekend reading a new book by Beth Noveck, the White House staffer helping lead President Obama’s Open Government initiative.  The book, “Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful,” provides useful insights into both potential open government initiatives the new administration might undertake, as well as some possible underlying principles that may be reflected in the open government directive currently under development.  A quick note:  it’s not all about wikis!

She says:  ““. . . it is vital to have leaders committed to fundamentally redesigning the working of government and the relationship of government to the citizenry.”  She proposes that government institutions be dramatically redesigned, with a focus on collaborative governance that uses open technology, open standards, and innovative practices.

Distinguishing Between Representative and Collaborative Democracy.  While she advocates participative democracy (in contrast to direct democracy or representatives democracy) as an organizing principle, she makes a distinction between different types of participation: deliberative democracy and collaborative democracy.

“While both deliberation and collaboration may be group-based, deliberative democracy suffers from a lack of imagination in that it fails to acknowledge the importance of connecting diverse skills, as well as diverse viewpoints, to public policy.  Whereas diverse viewpoints might make for a more lively conversation, diverse skills are essential to collaboration.

“Deliberation measures the quality of democracy on the basis of the procedural uniformity and equality of inputs.  Collaboration shifts the focus to the effectiveness of decisionmaking and outputs.

“Deliberation requires an agenda for orderly discussion. Collaboration requires breaking down a problem into component parts that can be parceled out and assigned to members of the public and officials. . . . .

“Deliberation is focused on opinion formation and the general will (or sometimes on achieving consensus). Consensus is desirable as an end unto itself.  Collaboration is a means to an end.  Hence the emphasis is not on the participation for its own sake but on inviting experts . . . to engage in information gathering, information evaluation and measurement, and the development of specific solutions for implementation.

In the end, she notes: “Deliberation focuses on self-expression.  Collaboration focuses on participation.”

She concludes:  “If governance is thought of as a granular and focused set of practices, ways can be designed to delegate greater power to citizens to gather facts, spend money, and participate in making decisions.. . . by organizing collaboration, government keeps itself at the center of decisionmaking as the neutral arbiter in the public interest and also benefits from the contributions of those outside government.”

Putting Collaborative Democracy to Work. Later in her book, she raises ideas the Obama Administration might undertake based on collaborative governance principles, include policy “jams” and wikis, a “network braintrust” that would be a corps of experts to help develop agendas of new innovations, and creating “collaborative governance labs.”   Some of her ideas have already been put into practice, such as the President’s Open for Questions, where the public poses questions on-line that they then vote on and the highest rating questions are answered by the President.  These models are also being reflected among agencies, as well.

Related Writings.  Interestingly, I drafted a (little noticed!) white paper last year for the National Academy of Public Administration on potential directions the winning presidential candidate might take, depending on what philosophical values he or she might bring to the job.  I had noted that moving toward a more collaborative enterprise was one possibility, but that it would require developing a clear set of common purposes and developing the institutional mechanisms to engage organizations and individuals in “peer-to-peer”-types of arrangements.  It seems the Obama Administration is taking such steps.

Dr. Noveck is the only academic exploring the concept of collaborative governance.  Dr. Don Kettl’s book, “The Next Government of the United States” begins to build the case  for this approach.  In addition, Rutgers professor Charles Heckscher has explored this trend in private sector organizations.  He says that the collaborative approach challenges the values of both the hierarchical and market-based approaches to governance, but that:  “. . . . those who hold the value of democracy as primary will be dissatisfied with the collaborative model:  it does not imply equal rights to power or processes of majority rule. . .. .it does involve a radical challenge to hierarchy.” The use of power must be justified on the basis of common purpose, not position.  The collaborative model is also not the same as meritocracy, because that implies that those with the most merit rise to power.  Collaboration minimizes the concept of “position” and doesn’t have much use for the concept of general merit – it focuses instead on contribution – which is a value common among the Millennial Generation.

At this writing, the open government directive is still being drafted.  The third phase of citizen involvement, which allows citizens to draft and vote on each other’s proposals, ends today and White House staff will begin the drafting in earnest.  It’ll be interesting to see what direction they take!

Government Reform: Collaborative Perspective

August 21, 2008
John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of Government

John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of Government

A fourth perspective of what constitutes good public management, is what I dub the Collaborative perspective.  It is growing in practice and is increasingly reported in the academic literature as a new way of thinking about how large enterprises, or institutions, work. For an adherent to the Collaborative perspective, good public management would mean developing a clear set of common purposes and developing the institutional mechanisms to engage organizations and individuals in “peer-to-peer”-types of arrangements. It does not fit neatly in any of the three more accepted models described earlier.

As described by Professor Charles Heckscher, a “collaborative enterprise” is comprised of both a formal hierarchical network and a relatively formalized peer network. It operates both within a market and within a network of alliance relationships that are much like those that can evolve in the Civil Society perspective – extended relationships that cross hierarchical boundaries. In the public sector, this perspective has been developed in Canada as part of its “horizontal government” initiative and in the United Kingdom under its “joined up government” initiative. In the U.S., agencies like the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control are pioneering the Collaborative approach.

Part of the reason for the slow adoption rate of the Collaborative perspective in the U.S. has been the need to be responsive to diverse accountability and funding agents (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency is accountable to more than 70 congressional committees and subcommittees). Also, the career track of those who engage in collaborative efforts is still vague in comparison to the career track of employees who engage in traditional bureaucracies.

Collaborative organizations are centered on the knowledge and skills needed to address flexible tasks that are hard to define in advance. In contrast, the traditional hierarchical organization is product-oriented and addresses standardized and routine tasks that are predictable in nature.

The principal characteristics of a collaborative approach include:

  • * People who are interdependent with one another and are intolerant of those who do not pull their own weight.
  • * People who see “performance” as the most important attribute of contribution where the important question is not position or status but “what can you contribute to the mission?”
  • * Trust being based on the belief that everyone is working toward a collective goal.
  • * The central organizing principle is seen as the mission or collective purpose, not the agency or hierarchy.
  • * Flexible boundaries between levels of government, as well as between government private, and non-profit organizations, are good.

Central values in a collaborative approach to governance include:

  • * A focus on the capability for contribution, not an individual’s formal position in an organization.
  • * Dialogue and openness.
  • * Helpfulness towards others, often demonstrated by the transparent, or free, sharing of information
  • * Openness to the outside
  • * Embracing diversity of capabilities.

There are three sets of practices that help create a collaborative social infrastructure:

  • * Creating shared purpose, building and maintaining a unifying sense of purpose by fostering one-way and two-way dialogue – similar to the Civil Society perspective – and creating shared vision and value statements.
  • * Organizing and formalizing peer or associated relationships by creating linking roles between organizations; providing information transparency; using explicit, not implicit, processes and common platforms; developing negotiation skills and systems within agencies; and replacing informal personal relationships with systematic process management skills focused on performance and capability.
  • * Connecting these systems to the outside world by increasing planning and sensing efforts, developing planning and priority-setting approaches, and combining sensing and planning efforts.

Heckscher says that the collaborative approach challenges the values of both the hierarchical and market-based approaches:

“. . . . those who hold the value of democracy as primary will be dissatisfied with the collaborative model: it does not imply equal rights to power or processes of majority rule. . .. .it does involve a radical challenge to hierarchy.”

The use of power must be justified on the basis of common purpose, not position. The collaborative model is also not the same as meritocracy, because that implies that those with the most merit rise to power. Collaboration minimizes the concept of “position” and doesn’t have much use for the concept of general merit – it focuses instead on contribution.

Options the Next President Might Consider for Achieving
“Good Public Management” From a Collaborative Perspective

A president who subscribes to a Collaborative perspective might support initiatives such as:

  • * Continuing the development of the Lines of Business, shared services, and enterprise architecture initiatives to ensure a common administrative and technical backbone to support cross-organizational collaboration.
  • * Using the Key National Indicators Initiative as an impetus for identifying, creating consensus around, and organizing Administration priorities around outcomes.
  • * Extending the use of Presidential National Strategies as a way to articulate a government-wide focus on key priorities. National strategies are currently being used by the current Administration as a tool for pursuing outcomes that reach across federal agencies, as well as states, localities, and non-governmental organizations. A president in a future Administration would use them as the organizing building blocks for acting collaboratively on these strategies. For example, he or she might create a new White House Council – such as a National Performance Council – to guide nationwide outcome achievements in key national areas such as housing, healthcare, or environment. Its operations might be based on an adaptation of Baltimore’s Citi-stat or the Washington State “Government Management Accountability and Performance” system.
  • * Encouraging the use of Web 2.0 tools as a way of creating communities of practice and grass-roots action networks inside government, across agency boundaries, much like the Intelligence Community is doing today.

“Not My Mission” Syndrome

February 6, 2008

John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of GovernmentThe bureaucratic culture is increasingly failing to address key national challenges. Professor Don Kettl has observed: “The current conduct of American government is a poor match for the problems it must solve.”

This is reinforced by a series of recent news stories, which I’ve characterized as “It’s Not My Mission” syndrome:

· The Defense Department has been confronting the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq. It created the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to tackle that problem. That Organization was given billions to find ways to disable the devices before they exploded. An alternative is to stop the bombers from planting them. But that’s the job of military intelligence, not JIEDDO.

· Homeland Security is spending billions to build fences and secure the border, especially in the south because of illegal immigrants. However, it is not in its mission to discourage illegal immigrants from wanting to cross the border in the first place –that responsiblity belongs to another agency.

· Food safety agencies have jurisdiction over different types of food, so as the Government Accountability Office has noted, different agencies inspect the production of pizzas with meat than those with just cheese.

Some of these examples are serious, others are just aggravating. The next president will be faced with finding ways to get the government to make a difference for the country. Likely it will not be through reorganization, creating new agencies, or creating more bureaucracy. But getting agencies to collaborate is not easy – ensuring accountability is always an issue, sharing resources is difficult, and administrative or legislative constraints are sometimes a problem.

Dr. Charles Hecksher, who has examined this same problem in the business world, notes that corporations in the 20th century successfully created strategies to master scope and scale in order to produce and distribute for mass consumer market. It was product-oriented, and was suited to the efficiencies associated with hierarchical organizations. Government copied this model. But this requires more collaborative organizations that allow adaptability and the ability to handle complexity. This is a solutions orientation.

The challenge for the next President is to get the government to move to a solutions orientation.


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