Academic journal article The Public Manager

Toward a High Performing Open Government: Examples from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among Others Illustrate the Benefits of Open Government

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Toward a High Performing Open Government: Examples from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among Others Illustrate the Benefits of Open Government

Article excerpt

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On the first day of his administration, President Obama issued the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government: "My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government ... I direct ... the development ... of recommendations for an Open Government Directive."

Participation and transparency aren't just politically appealing to the electorate. Several studies show there is a direct correlation between the level of government staff-citizen engagement and the level of government staff job satisfaction, government agency performance, and citizen satisfaction and trust in the given agency. Additionally, most students of open government (OG) innovation agree there are new types of benefits for government managers who engage the public more actively.

The trade-off, however, is that to capture these benefits, public managers must also address internal management practices and controls that were originally developed to address the mission in a hierarchical, agency-as-lone-actor manner. This shift is both challenging and transformative.

Shifts Due to Open Government

Open government is triggering new trends in agency management. Managers are finding ways to capture public benefits and drive organizational performance through open, transparent, and participatory innovation.

Internal Management Shift #1

Open government is re-orienting the programmatic and operational focus from managing "within agency" to managing "between the agency and external stakeholders." A challenge to accomplishing this shift is that many management structures and practices were developed to deliver agency-level operational programs as stand-alone initiatives within the agency mission only.

Most program managers are accustomed to justifying and assessing their program's effectiveness only against internal agency goals. The ability to manage and maximize external relationships is so essential that federal executive leadership development programs are adopting interagency collaboration leadership as a key criterion for skill development of future leaders.

Also, by diversifying and deepening the forms of external engagement (see Table 1), open government innovators are optimizing stakeholder relationships for maximum business impact.

Internal Management Shift #2

Re-orienting government institutions to be more transparent, participatory, and collaborative has substantial operational control implications. Leading open, participatory systems shifts the degree of direct control an agency has over the accomplishment of the mission.

As shown in Table 2, key differences between change triggered by hierarchical (top-down) and open (outside-in) innovation affects who initiates the change, how parties reach buy-in, and how the change shapes existing practices and processes.

Many current hierarchical decision-making processes and structures are still dominated by internally oriented incentives and decision makers housed within organizational silos, and structures are constrained by differing interests, authority, skills, knowledge. The challenge open engagement brings to the agency's management processes is that it is driven by different incentives not aligned with the internal processes, needs, or personalities.

Advances in technology make it easier than ever before to obtain very specific knowledge of stakeholder opinions and preferences about the performance of a public program or service. This knowledge can be hugely transformational, altering traditional processes and job roles profoundly.

For example, public servants who specify conditions of satisfaction for public programs or goals will not only have their traditional expert opinion to rely on, but specific, quantified, dynamic public feedback. …

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