Best Practices and Leading Practices in Collaboration
GAO has identified a set of essential and complementary practices that provide a sound foundation for Collaboration. Running through these practices are a number of factors such as leadership, trust, and organizational culture that are necessary elements for a collaborative working relationship.
Achieving important national outcomes, such as food safety, local economic development, environmental restoration, and homeland security, requires coordinated and collaborative efforts of a number of programs spread across the federal government, other levels of government, and private and nonprofit sectors. Agencies face a range of challenges and barriers when they attempt to work collaboratively.
Agencies can enhance and sustain their collaborative efforts by engaging in the eight practices identified below. (GAO-06-15) Agencies should:
- Define and articulate a common outcome.
- Establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies.
- Identify and address needs by leveraging resources.
- Agree on roles and responsibilities.
- Establish compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agency boundaries.
- Develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results.
- Reinforce agency accountability for collaborative efforts through agency plans and reports.
- Reinforce individual accountability for collaborative efforts through performance management systems.
Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing interagency task forces (GAO-12-1022). These mechanisms can be used to address a range of purposes including policy development; program implementation; oversight and monitoring; information sharing and communication; and building organizational capacity, such as staffing and training. Frequently, agencies use more than one mechanism to address an issue. For example, climate change is a complex, crosscutting issue, which involves many collaborative mechanisms in the Executive Office of the President and interagency groups throughout government.
Although collaborative mechanisms differ in complexity and scope, they all benefit from certain key features, which raise issues to consider when implementing these mechanisms. For example:
- 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?
In order to successfully address the key issues to consider above related to outcomes and accountability, leadership, and resources, agencies have used a range of implementation approaches in select interagency groups. (GAO-14-220).
GAO-16-509: Published: May 20, 2016. Publicly Released: May 20, 2016.
The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate with agencies to develop cross-agency priority (CAP) goals, which are 4-year outcome-oriented goals covering a number of complex or high-risk management and mission issues.Examples of CAP goals and goal statements For the current set of CAP goals covering the period from 2014-2018, OMB and...
GAO-14-220: Published: Feb 14, 2014. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 2014.
The interagency groups GAO selected and expert practitioners—including those who received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award—have used a range of approaches to address some of the key considerations for implementing interagency collaborative mechanisms, related to defining outcomes; measuring performance and ensuring accountability; establishing leadership approaches; and using resource...
GAO-12-1022: Published: Sep 27, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 2012.
Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing interagency task forces. These mechanisms can be used to address a range of purposes including policy development; program implementation; oversight and monitoring; information sharing and commun...
GAO-09-1011T: Published: Sep 24, 2009. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 2009.
Since 1997, periodic GAO surveys indicate that overall, federal managers have more performance information available, but have not made greater use of this information for decision making. To understand the barriers and opportunities for more widespread use, GAO was asked to (1) examine key management practices in an agency in which managers' reported use of performance information has improved; (...
GAO-06-15: Published: Oct 21, 2005. Publicly Released: Oct 21, 2005.
The federal government faces a series of challenges in the 21st century that will be difficult, if not impossible, for any single agency to address alone. Many issues cut across more than one agency and their actions are not well coordinated. Moreover, agencies face a range of barriers when they attempt to work collaboratively. This report identifies key practices that can help enhance and sustain...