Domestic Department Nations

Governments everywhere face a daunting paradox. On the one hand, they operate in an increasingly complex environment and must deliver on an expanded set of policy objectives. In a world characterized by macroeconomic uncertainty, rapid social change, and technological innovation, citizens’ expectations of what government ought to deliver are rising. On the other hand, governments are hampered by unsustainable debt burdens and shrinking budgets. The good news is that governments can deliver the performance their citizens need and expect-and, indeed, some have begun to do so. Based on our research into hundreds of cases of government innovation around the world, our experience working with governments, and numerous conversations with leaders and thinkers, we conclude that what works today is a more disciplined, systematic approach to solving public-sector problems-in short, government by design.

Government by design calls on public-sector leaders to favor the rational and the analytical over the purely ideological and to be willing to abandon tools and techniques that no longer work. Four principles are at its core: the use of better evidence for decision making, greater engagement and empowerment of citizens, thoughtful investments in expertise and skill building, and closer collaboration with the private and social sectors. Each of these principles is central to creating more effective yet affordable government.

The value at stake is staggering: prior research suggests that improvements in government performance could amount to as much as one-trillion dollars in increased productivity and cost savings by 2019 in the G8 countries alone. Through government by design, public-sector leaders can move beyond partisan debates and politicized headlines, and make true progress on society’s most pressing problems.

Thriving Over the Long Haul

Employees are among the public sector’s most valuable assets. Unfortunately, many governments fail to get the most out of their people—they don’t invest enough in developing their employees’ skills and expertise. For instance, although government agencies have started to embrace “lean” principles such as value-stream mapping and Six Sigma process improvement, many are unable to sustain the impact from these initiatives because they haven’t been deliberate about building internal capabilities. Sometimes, the problem is that governments invest in the wrong kind of training.

The convergence of the public, private, and social sectors means that government leaders will increasingly need to be “tri-sector athletes,” adept in operating at the intersections of these sectors. And they will need to embrace new forms of organization and service delivery that are rooted in partnership.


Executive Leadership

Mr. David Solomon

Mr. David Solomon

Related Practices

We focus on improving the efficiency of government institutions and aligning system incentives to prioritize the delivery of high-quality, high-value healthcare.

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