Collaborating Across Agencies

It is probably not surprising that the secrets to effective collaborative efforts across federal agencies are the same as the keys to good projects within agencies. But it bears saying again, and the GAO did just that in its recent report “Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms.”

The seven keys (and these are lifted directly from the report) are:

  • Outcomes and Accountability: Have short-term and long-term outcomes been clearly defined? Is there a way to track and monitor their progress?
  • Bridging Organizational Cultures: What are the missions and organizational cultures of the participating agencies? Have agencies agreed on common terminology and definitions? 
  • Leadership: How will leadership be sustained over the long-term? If leadership is shared, have roles and responsibilities been clearly identified and agreed upon?
  • Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities: Have participating agencies clarified roles and responsibilities? 
  • Participants: Have all relevant participants been included? Do they have the ability to commit resources for their agency?
  • Resources: How will the collaborative mechanism be funded and staffed? Have online collaboration tools been developed? 
  • Written Guidance and Agreements: If appropriate, have participating agencies documented their agreement regarding how they will be collaborating? Have they developed ways to continually update and monitor these agreements? 

It is no surprise to me that these same seven elements come up again in some of the frameworks we use at TCG for good projects: the Project Management Body of Knowledge from the Project Management Institute, and the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model for Software Development). Good ideas are good ideas.

The GAO report’s impetus was the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), and its own findings about duplication and overlap in government programs. The results are based on GAO’s study of the literature, research into its own analyses of successful and unsuccessful projects over the years, and interviews with collaboration experts.