Gov 2.0 advocates claim that their various projects in social networking and open government will, of course, lead to improved performance from government agencies and more satisfactory citizen engagement. But where is the proof? As Poister, Pitts, and Edwards (2010) conclude from their analysis of the last twenty years of strategic management in the public sector, there is very little evidence that strategic management leads to performance improvement.
Gov 2.0 fits in with the definition of strategic management because Gov 2.0 deals with the fundamental ways of how agencies operate and fulfill their missions. So the history of past strategic management efforts applies to Gov. 2.0 projects. And as this history shows, there is little empirical evidence that exists to establish whether past projects were successful and just how they were successful (if that is the case).
Why does this matter to Gov. 2.0 practitioners? It is difficult to point to past strategic management projects to persuade decision makers to implement new projects and to learn from past projects. Thus, Gov 2.0 practitioners should do three things:
1) Locate and relentlessly promote early successes in Gov 2.0. Write up case studies and share lessons learned as widely as possible. GovLoop does a great job with this but Gov 2.0 practitioners should seek out as many channels and opportunities as possible to tell the story of Gov 2.0.
2) Include academics in Gov 2.0 projects. At the very least, let public administration researchers know about your projects. Include researchers in the planning (even if they are just observers). And think about ways to generate empirical data such as surveys, interviews, etc.
3) A major research trend in public administration theory is the renewed study of administrative limits. Governments are cash-strapped while citizens expect more services (Hood, 2010). When describing the benefits of Gov 2.0 projects, demonstrate how the project addresses these limits. Again, what empirical data was generated that proves the project alleviated one or more administrative limit?
In support of the above, I also want to encourage Gov 2.0 practitioners to add a new type of analysis to their projects. Traditional measures such as Return on Investment and balanced scorecard are important but Value Network Analysis should be considered. Almost every Gov 2.0 project deals with some type of social networking technology but traditional measures cannot fully capture the effectiveness of these technologies. As Allee (2009) argues:
“The basic challenge of the network orientation is the same challenge we have been dealing with in organizations for two decades with the focus on business processes: the world of human interactions and the world of business transactions are treated as two completely different worlds. Human interactions are dealt with in organizational charts, team charters, performance reviews, organizational culture, change management, and training. Business transactions are managed in the world of process maps, workflow systems, applications, and technology.“
I fully believe that Gov 2.0 has the power to transform government for the better. Gov 2.0 practitioners have a unique opportunity to provide the evidence for how effective Gov 2.0 is and to guide future government strategic management efforts.
Allee, V. (2009). Value creating networks: Organizational issues and challenges. The Learning Organization Special Issue on Social Networks and Social Networking 6:6. 427-442. [further information at valuenetworks.com]
Hood, C. (2010). Can we? Administrative limits revisited. Public Administration Review. 527-534.
Poister, T.H., Pitts, D.W., & Edwards, L.H. (2010). Strategic management research in the public sector: A review, synthesis, and future directions. The American Review of Public Administration, 40: 5. 522-545.