Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Lipnack’

Re-Designing Government

April 17, 2009

There have long been calls to reorganize the federal government and rethink its programs.  There is legislation proposed by several members of Congress requiring government-wide reviews of federal agencies and programs:   Jim Jordan (R-OH) (HR 477), Kevin Brady (R-TX) ( HR 393), and John Sullivan (R-OK) (HR 1023).  There is also legislation to be proposed on the Senate side by Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, chair and ranking member of the Budget Committee.   Their proposal focuses more on the reform of entitlement programs like Social Security.  These were the focus of President Obama’s call for fiscal responsibility by reshaping Social Security and Medicare.  The battle cry seems to be for a new “Hoover Commission” with “base closure authority” (a no-amendment, up-or-down vote in Congress).


So it is refreshing to see a proposal for a different approach.  Deloitte Public Leadership Institute has released “Government Reform’s Next Wave,” which provides a roadmap for reforming the federal government to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  It reaches beyond other studies of how to approach government reform by taking a new tack.


First, the research effort started with a review of past reform commissions and concluded that none of those approaches would work in today’s environment.  The researchers then convened a group of experts who reached consensus on “the need to start with a few major national priorities such as breaking our dependence on foreign oil and then work backward to determine the structure and systems necessary to accomplish these ambitious goals.”  This is almost the opposite approach of past reform efforts.


Second, there was agreement that Congress had a key role in ensuring success, but required a new institutional mechanism to enable it to “act on national priorities in a concerted way.”  The study recommended a congressional performance resolution, which would be akin to the existing budget resolution, and would focus on broad national goals that would in turn be turned into a reconciliation bill that addresses the elements of these goals via the traditional committee structure.


Would this work?  The politics aren’t clear at this point, but the possibility of rethinking government without reorganizing is more conceivable, given the use of technology to work across organizational boundaries.  The Lipnack-Stamps “virtual organization chart of the federal government” is a great example of this (it takes a minute to load, but move your cursor over the different agencies!).


Using Czars and Commissions to Govern

March 20, 2009

Happy first day of Spring! 


Yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget announced that Ed DeSeve has been appointed a special advisor to oversee the implementation of the Recovery Act.  DeSeve, a former deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, will work with Vice President Biden and his Recovery Act task force to ensure the government gets intended results, for the best value.


There have been several media articles commenting on the increased use of White House “czars” to lead different initiatives for the Obama Administration.  For example, the National Journal’s Amy Harder, raised concerns about a possible “executive power grab.”


There are different ways of looking at this.  This blog was launched two years ago, in part, to track the evolution of how we govern.  The initial post asked readers to comment on Professor Don Kettl’s provocative paper (which is now a book, “The Next Government of the United States”). Well, now it is the Next Government.  The traditional “Vending Machine” model of government that he describes doesn’t work any longer for the challenges we’re facing.  And Obama is adopting the new tools Kettl predicted would be needed to act boldly in an ever-changing environment.  But how do you keep track of a government that works across organizational boundaries?


The old approach was to reorganize government.  The new approach is to work with networks.  But how do you make sense of the dozens of connections?  Long-time network theorists, Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, have been puzzling over this in large corporations.  They’ve turned their attention to government.  Here’s how they’ve created a new “virtual” government organization chart (be patient, it takes a few moments for the software to load, and no, it’s not a virus).  It’s based on the published organization charts of agencies  . . . you can move your cursor to different agencies and you’ll see the connections between organizations recalibrate from that node’s perspective.


While that’s a neat visual, how can you use it “for real?”  Well, Lipnack and Stamps constructed a sample around the programs funded under the Recovery Act.  You can theoretically (once the data are available via the website) trace a grant or contract from the program all the way down to the recipient, and all the intervening connections.  The paths for accountability become clearer with these kinds of graphical depictions.  Maps “on the fly” like this can help both citizens and oversight organizations better understand what is happening – without having to formally reorganize government agencies.


Allowing greater agility in how the executive branch is governed, such as through task forces and other temporary structures, can allow quicker responsiveness.  Providing greater transparency and graphical visualization of complex information are new tools for providing public understanding and accountability.  And it seems President Obama is willing to use them!