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Are you speaking my language? How to become bureaucratically multi-cultural

“Today the big issues facing our government do not fall neatly into one agency’s mission. Food safety laws for example are regulated by 15 different agencies and teams. In order to find real solutions we need an enterprise approach,” said Ron Sanders.

But the problem is government doesn’t collaboration very effectively or easily.

Sanders is a Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and served as the US Intelligence Community’s (IC) Associate Director of National Intelligence and first chief human capital officer.

Booz Allen Hamilton and the Partnership for Public Service teamed up to create, Building the Enterprise: Nine Strategies for a More Integrated, Effective Government. The goal was simple, create strategies to build an enterprise infrastructure so government could collaborate more effectively.

Sanders told me that they started the report back in 2012 before the Presidential election.

“Lots of people have been doing lots of things to improvement management within agencies. What we found was a bit of a vacuum when it came to collections of agencies working together towards some common goal, because government is stove-piped and vertically aligned,” said Sanders.

Why is the synergy missing?

  1. Few people are paying attention to the inter-agency challenge
  2. You have to pay attention to these issues if you want the big issues to be solved

GPRMA required the Administration to come up with a set of cross-agency goals. “That’s a great start, but there are only 14, and some are fairly modest,” said Sanders. “The bottom-line for this report is that cross-agency goals need to be SOP in government. We have to build an infrastructure to deal with problems in the enterprise.”

That sounds so simple, why isn’t it?

“Every agency has its own language. You have to bureaucratically multi-cultural to be able to understand all of those languages and to be able to operate amongst them,” said Sanders.

The Pat Tamburrino Example

Tamburrino served as the Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. He was a member of an inter-agency task force on Veterans employment.

“It was a great objective that all the stakeholders agreed on. But as they all sat around the table, they all defined the problem differently. They each viewed the problem from the lens of their own mission. Couple that different mindset with different oversight and appropriations committees, different chains of command and different budgets and collaboration becomes increasingly difficult. Frankly there are more impediments to collaboration than enablers,” said Sanders.

9 strategies for enterprise success:

  1. Develop an enterprise performance plan with senior-level commitment to drive cross-agency goals and missions
  2. Build portfolios of programs aligned against the enterprise plan’s goals
  3. Designate and empower enterprise goal leaders
  4. Develop career enterprise executives to lead cross-cutting missions and functions
  5. Establish an independent office of evaluation to assess enterprise performance
  6. Manage information technology as a true enterprise resource
  7. Take shared services to scale
  8. Adopt an enterprise approach to the acquisition of goods and services
  9. Build an enterprise civil service system

Check back out part two of our interview with Ron Sanders where we go in-depth on the nine strategies.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

What an intriguing idea: Career Enterprise Executives. High level change agents that methodically move from agency to agency to solve the toughest problems. Very cool. I like it.