Strategy Implementation in Government

In my opinion, government organizations are among the most complex – because they are driven by very specific yet often open-ended missions…where success may not be easily measured, where efficiency is a secondary objective, and where matrix organizations result in lines of authority and accountability that may not be so clear and consistent.  Responsible spending of funds in such an environment – to accomplish strategic objectives – can be extremely difficult and challenging. This article explores strategy implementation in government – the challenges and pitfalls, and some of the key drivers to think about that might help improve effectiveness.

This is the fourth of a series of four articles on the subject of strategy implementation, where we explore the dynamics and challenges of taking a strategy through the implementation stage.  This article, Part 4 in the series, Strategy Implementation in Government, dives into the unique problems of implementing strategies within a government organization. Part 1 looks at Strategy Implementation on Programs – where a subset of the strategy is implemented in a broad but well-defined initiative.  Part 2, Strategy Implementation on Projects, looks at the challenges of timing, tying back to strategy, and measuring progress and effectiveness. Part 3 in the series, Strategy Implementation in Businesses, focuses on the complexities of structuring and managing a business in a new strategic direction.  

Here are just a few of the key areas requiring attention to more effectively implement strategies in government environments:

  • Manage the Matrix – On of the reasons government organizations are so complex is matrix organization.  In other words, there are multiple lines of authority, where in essence any individual has multiple bosses.  Much or most of this cannot be changed…but projects and programs within the matrix can be isolated and defined as much as possible ‘below the radar’ where, while they are subject to the authorities inherent in the matrix, they also provide some room to get something done more freely.
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME) and Authoritative Support – Often projects and programs in government are limited in capability to get things done within the organization.  While technical SMEs are helpful on the team, sponsorship or some degree of connectedness to individuals with authority is indispensable to having the ability to get things done – like removing obstacles – in a crunch.
  • Contract Flexibility – There are a variety of contract vehicles available, and it’s good to have a ‘portfolio’ of them in place to bring some flexibility when situations demand it.  There will be needs for more – or fewer – resources. There are times to define statements of work in detail – and others more broadly. Keeping the implementation of the strategy in mind, you need to maintain a certain degree of flexibility to have enough control.
  • Stability of Leadership – Like any organization, there is a certain amount of movement around – and things change when someone new in authority comes in.  This is especially true in military organizations, where changes occur every one to three years. To keep things moving toward strategic goals that are independent of the personnel in place, you need to identify the risks to the project or program and a way to minimize.
  • Timing of Funding – You need to line up funding with the milestones associated with strategic implementation – or run the risk of not having the resources in place when you most need them.  This may lead to ‘over resourcing’ – but whatever it takes, you need the resources in place to meet the timelines.

If you are in charge of a government-related unit, have you identified the specialized risks you might encounter and put a plan in place?

This Post is Part of the Series: Strategy Implementation

This is a series of four articles on the subject of strategy implementation, where we explore the dynamics and challenges of taking a strategy through the implementation stage.

Strategy Implementation on Programs
Strategy Implementation on Projects
Strategy Implementation on Businesses
Strategy Implementation in Government