Decision-making is an everyday part of life. Often in government, however, administrators are faced with complex decisions, which involve several interrelated issues. Many times, unspoken tradeoffs are made in the final determination. Hopefully, the decision-maker(s) lands on a course of action that best addresses all the key issues in light of the tradeoffs, while sufficiently accounting for each issue’s importance relative to the broader, overarching objective. If they have framed the problem well from the outset, included the right individuals in the process, and worked through the challenges in an insightful manner then the chances of this is much more likely. But when multiple competing and interrelated issues are involved, how do you keep all these items straight? How do you discern which of the factors at hand is most important? And how can administrators have reasonable assurance that the decision they make is consistent with the issues at hand? Take for example, the decision the Department of Veteran Affairs faces in how to prioritize a plethora of much needed IT modernization projects in light of a very constrained IT budget and a history of less than stellar IT project performance. How do they know, except after-the-fact, that they have not slighted a critical need for improved financial reporting in light of another important need to provide benefits to our veterans (of which I am also one)? Or what about the Department of Labor, does every objective in the strategic plan carry the same weight in reality? As a consequence, if there is misalignment between the realities of how the agencies resources are applied and the criticality of the factors affecting the problem they are ultimately trying to solve, then effectiveness and progress towards the goal will be less than desired!
Recently, a team I was a part of tackled a very similar issue, as we sought to develop a very useful methodology and application to help government agencies achieve higher levels of program integrity, as it relates to government funded grant programs. We slowly recognized that if the accessibility, effectiveness, and stewardship of grant programs is to be elevated to a superior level, then the systemic issues that adversely impact individual grant programs must not only be “understood”, within some reasonable and realistic framework – they have to also be “prioritized” within the broader context of the program. We know that resources are limited and we can only do so much at a time with what we have. How did we solve this dilemma? View the attached file to learn more.
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