Multi-Sector Workforce Collaboration: Sourcing for Improved Performance: The Multi-Sector Workforce Will Operate More Effectively by Establishing a Shared Understanding of Functional Dynamics

By Denholm, Diane; Kangas, Phil | The Public Manager, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Multi-Sector Workforce Collaboration: Sourcing for Improved Performance: The Multi-Sector Workforce Will Operate More Effectively by Establishing a Shared Understanding of Functional Dynamics


Denholm, Diane, Kangas, Phil, The Public Manager


Over the past several decades, the workforce delivering federal government services has changed dramatically. While government spending has increased, so has the use of non-federal resources to achieve mission results. Federal government organizations increasingly have engaged contractor, grantee, volunteer, state and local government, or other service delivery teams to get the job done--creating what some have called a "multi-sector" workforce. Inherent in this approach to service delivery are issues related to performance accountability, acceptable risk, and accurate cost comparisons of alternatives.

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The Obama Administration has sought to encourage better management of this multi-sector workforce by asking agencies to conduct a pilot program to insource work that may have been inappropriately sourced to an external organization. The administration is poised to issue a much broader roll-out of this initiative to address multi-sector workforce management.

Federal public managers who try to balance their multi-sector workforce, illustrated in Figure 1, need additional guidance on how the strategy of the organization and the work itself drive the selection of the appropriate delivery option. Managing the collaboration across multiple sectors is potentially a new skill area for managers. As public managers consider which work requires federal performance, they need to be able to evaluate the extent to which that work is a core capability required of their mission, whether that work includes an exercise of government authority, and the long-term implications of using non-federal providers.

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Understanding these factors will help appropriately align functions to sectors and will maximize public sector collaboration by engendering an environment free of conflicts of interest. Furthermore, consistent definitions for work characteristics will help create better working relationships across sectors by establishing a consistent understanding

of the appropriate roles each sector can play in mission performance.

Collaboration among those responsible for the mission optimizes organizational performance. One key element of creating a collaborative environment is aligning work requirements to the most appropriate sector for operational performance. Accurately assessing the level of government authority and core-to-mission aspects of work will help determine the appropriate sector (public, private, nonprofit, and so forth) for the work. Regardless of the categorization, however, collaboration across these groups is essential for successful mission delivery.

Recent Developments and Drivers

The Presidential Memorandum on Government Contracting, issued in March 2009, directed the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to clarify when outsourcing is appropriate for federal agencies. This requirement is consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2009, which directed OMB to develop criteria for agencies to identify functions that should only be performed by federal employees.

Section 321 required that OMB:

* create a single, consistent definition for the term "inherently governmental function" that could be applied to all agencies

* develop criteria for identifying critical functions with respect to the agency's mission and structure

* develop criteria for determining positions dedicated to critical functions that should be reserved for federal employees to ensure the organization maintains control of its mission and operations

* provide criteria for identifying agency personnel with responsibility for maintaining sufficient organic expertise and technical capability within the agency and guiding internal activities

* issue clear regulations addressing the definition of "inherently governmental function" and the development of criteria for critical functions. …

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