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Interagency Management Councils—A Primer

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Tue Aug 09 2016

Interagency Management Councils—A Primer
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A lot of the challenges federal government agencies face are horizontal in nature, meaning they cut across organizations.  This is especially true for so-called mission-support functions—IT, human resources, contracting, finance, facilities management—which tend to look very similar regardless of the mission they are supporting.  However, all too often solutions to these challenges are vertical in nature, isolated within a particular agency or department. To break these solutions out of their silos, the federal government has created interagency management councils to help address these challenges at an enterprise-wide level. 

These councils bring together agencies and policymaking bodies to jointly diagnose shared challenges. What’s more, they determine what works best in solving problems across the board—as well as what doesn’t work.

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With that in mind, each of the core management functions in government has an interagency council, including the CFO Council for financial management, the CIO Council for IT, the CAO Council for contracting, the CHCO Council for human capital, the Performance Improvement Council for performance officers, and the President’s Management Council for management oversight (typically done by agency deputy secretaries in a chief operating officer role). Each serves the senior-most executives in their function (often referred to as CXOs) and their teams from cabinet-level agencies across government. 

All of these councils have been established over the last 25 years, beginning with the CFO Council in 1990 and culminating with the Performance Improvement Council in 2007. In each case the premise was the same: agencies needed a “safe space” to network with each other, share ideas, and even to vent about the common challenges they face. 

Yet it’s not just about getting the respective agencies to collaborate horizontally, it’s also to provide a forum for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to convene with agencies. OMB formulates most of the policies and management guidance impacting these mission-support areas. 

The councils and OMB strive for an approach where policy is prioritized, developed, and implemented not purely in a top-down way, but in a way that is collaborative with agencies. The rationale here is that the agencies are the ones who have to play out policies and management practices on the ground.  The more the agencies’ perspectives are incorporated into policies and implementation plans, the better the outcomes achieved: more effective policies, implemented faster and more comprehensively.

The Office of Executive Councils was set up in 2010 at GSA to advance this collaborative vision. We partner with the councils and OMB to deliver meaningful performance improvements through dedicated staff, meeting support, project management and analytical capabilities for interagency priorities. In a larger sense, our team serves as the “connective tissue” among agencies and with OMB, convening around difficult issues, helping to align priorities, identifying proven solutions and guiding their implementation across government. 

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For a deeper dive into this topic, join me September 7 at the Government Workforce Conference.

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