joined-up government

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applying the component-based approach

what are the building blocks of effective government?

Most citizens pay little attention to the way Government is structured. Apart from professional politicians, civil servants, and a few journalists, who cares whether Health and Social Security are managed by one Government department or two?  If we are often cynical about mergers between commercial enterprises, justified by grand but usually spurious claims of synergy and shareholder value, then perhaps we can be even more cynical about mergers between state departments.  Why on earth was the department for Environment, Transport and the Regions put together, cynics asked, except simply to create a suitable job for John Prescott?

The component-based approach, described in Richard Veryard's book on the Component-Based Business, provides an important set of principles for dividing any enterprise into sensible components, and wiring them for effective collaboration.

Veryard Projects provides consultancy and training in this area.  Please contact us.

component-based development -> component-based business

Competing notions of joined-up government

veryard projects > component-based business > joined-up government > competing notions

There seem to be several different definitions in play, even within the UK Government.
Technological Focus on the wiring that connects different parts of Government, as well as providing electronic services to the citizen. E-Government. This is what you get from the Office of the e-Envoy. Seen as a cost-saving and efficiency measure by the UK Treasury. 
Accountability Focus on joined-up information.  This is implied by certain Canadian sources. Documents and Links on Accountability
Policy Focus on formulating and implementing cross-cutting policy. This is what you get from the Performance and Innovation Unit, which reports directly to the British Prime Minister. (See a report called Wiring It Up, dated January 2000.)
This is what you get from Geoff Mulgan, one of New Labour's leading thinkers. See his contribution to Research.  Among the tactics for joined-up government, he mentions:
  • joined-up budgets for areas, client groups and problems;
  • joined-up policy-making;
  • joined-up data management, standards, and use of digital signatures; and
  • joint training of officials and ministers (which he thinks may be one of the most powerful tools for changing behaviour).

component-based development -> component-based business

Collaboration and Cross-Cutting

veryard projects > component-based business > joined-up government > cross-cutting

In traditional Government organizations, as in some large commercial enterprises, each department formulates and implements its own policies, with little reference to one another. Although departments are willing to collaborate to some degree, this will always take second place to pursuing the department's own agenda.

With any given organization structure, dividing responsibilities into separate departments or components of government, there will be some holes or blind spots - things that cannot be done, perhaps even things that cannot even be articulated, because they are not accessible within that structure.

When a changing political environment makes it impossible to ignore these holes, when a particular hole or cluster of holes is identified, and when political activity is mobilized, the traditional response is to reconfigure the departments to remove the holes. Often this involves merging two or three departments into one, or moving a unit sideways from one department to another.

However, this solution is expensive, disruptive and slow.  It often fails to effectively address the original problem, and almost inevitably introduces an entirely new set of holes.

The strategy of joined-up government changes the way that the components of government collaborate with one another.  Collaboration is given a new label - cross-cutting - and a new respect.

Within Whitehall, several new units have been formed to improve the coherence of policy-making, including the Social Exclusion Unit, the Performance and Innovation Unit, and the Women’s Unit.

component-based development -> component-based business

Joined-up government - people issues

veryard projects > component-based business > joined-up government > people issues

Given the escalation of demanding change, it is not surprising that poor morale is reported among civil servants. Apart from the most senior policy makers, few can fully comprehend the new demands facing Government departments, and few can contemplate present and future changes without anxiety.

Technology change management involves a careful balance between assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation Overall management of a diverse set of technological solutions to ensure fitness
  • Fitness with one another
  • Fitness with overall policy objectives
  • Fitness with the capacity and culture of the organization and people
Accommodation Overall management of the organization and people to make best use of the available or mandated technical solutions.
  • Adjustment of organizational structures and procedures
  • Individual and organizational learning
  • Pacing change to the current capacity of the organization - while developing future capacity
  • Feedback to policy and planning

Veryard Projects is a small UK-based organization with considerable consulting experience in technology change management.  Our associates have worked in a wide range of commercial organizations as well as in public service organizations (health, police, etc.).  Please contact us.


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This page last updated on March 18th, 2002
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