Should Government Reorganize Itself? (Part V)

Should government use Legos to inspire its reorganization approach?

Structural reorganization initiatives – like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security — are slow, take an enormous amount of effort, and require years to become effective. Ultimately, the new structure becomes rigid and needs to be revisited. Many observers advocate creating more adaptable approaches that allow a mix and match of capabilities. What are some potential options for doing this?

Executive Branch Options

There are a variety of models for a “mix and match” approach to organizing and delivering services. Each uses a different lens for their focus – one creates a cross-agency environment, the second organizes around a customer group, and third focuses on a geographic area.

Cross-agency focus. Interestingly, the Defense Department may offer a model for an integrated approach that is a cross between traditional and virtual organizations. They call this approach the “joint operating environment.” In this environment, commanders in charge can draw a mix of different capabilities from the Army, Air Force, and Navy, depending on the specific needs of a particular military challenge. The military services each create packages of capabilities and a joint operating command can mix and match these packages – like Lego blocks — depending on its needs.

What if we created the equivalent to a joint operating command around major federal mission areas such as land management, the delivery of human services, trade and export functions, etc?

Customer focus. Another option might be to consider integrating just the delivery of services. The Canadians and Australians undertook this approach. Rather than reorganizing agencies, they co-located the delivery of services to customers into a new, separate agency dedicated to delivering services. The home agencies were still responsible for policy and funding, but they turned over their call centers, websites, and field offices to the central service delivery agency. This, of course, would require congressional approval to do this. But a variation of this has been undertaken recently in the U.S. government for businesses, via the Administration’s new trade initiative. It is called

Geographic focus. Another option might be to organize around targeted challenges in specific geographic areas. Oregon State does this. It created “regional solution centers” where multiple state agencies convene, along with community and private sector players, to address a mutually agreed upon objective, such as streamlining regulatory processes or better managing local natural resources.

This approach could build off of existing federal interagency forums, such the Federal Executive Boards.

Next: Are there legislative options other than (or in addition to) presidential reorganization authority?

Graphic Credit: Legos

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