You’ve heard it before. “Greater collaboration in the public sector is needed to enable delivery of essential public services.” Another platitude? Like the need for everyone to work together on a bi-partisan basis? Or the need for world peace?
Yes, you’ve heard it but it’s still true. Unfortunately, when the need for effective networking is greatest federal agencies have failed to harness such synergies. According to 2011 Federal Viewpoint survey results, agreement that “the people I work with cooperate to get the job done” is down 11% since 2008, while agreement that “employees in my work unit share knowledge with each other” has declined by 3%. Across the workforce of 2.1 million public servants, these seemingly small changes translate into substantial lags in productivity and innovation.
The meager returns from recent social media investments illustrate an important lesson: simply building it will not get them to come. That is, constructing an elaborate communication infrastructure is not in and of itself enough to drive collaborative effort. Instead, government leaders must find ways to reward, financially and otherwise, real outcomes from effective cooperation. From this, greater networking, and importantly, real results, from these associations, will grow.
This is about making priorities and communicating them. If collaboration is important, communicate it and yes, incentivize it. Belief in mission is fundamental; incentives and sanctions are essential as well. It’s tough out there being a public servant these days. It’s a rough voyage. The seas are terrible and wolf packs are lurking, waiting to take you and your agency down. The sooner we start working together – moving in convoys – the better off we all will be.