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Vertical Accountability in a Horizontal World

Friday, June 24, 2016
by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

I spend a lot of my time in the policy innovation and experimentation ecosystem by virtue of my work (See: Sharing my work ... My actual work). It’s a complex environment; there are a number of players and a lot of moving pieces. While I'm confident that the work is lining up and that we are all rowing in the same direction I can't shake the feeling that cracking the horizontal governance nut is the key to ensuring that we all collectively arrive at our shared destination.

Alignment on philosophy and scope at the top is important, as is agreement on operations and trajectory at the working level but those things are malleable, rooted in personal relationships and small ‘p’ politics. My fear – I suppose – is that while the spaces in-between our vertical accountabilities (silos) are filled with good will they are also incredibly ill-defined; in short it’s where collaboration falls down.

When something falls into them, who is responsible, who stretches to cover the ground, what happens if the gaps are perceived as larger on one side of the divide than the other – and most importantly – if push comes to shove who’s actually accountable for what?

Vertical accountabilities are increasingly rubbing up against the realities of a horizontal world; we ought to be thinking more carefully about how we reconcile the two because the friction between them has permeated almost every aspect of our business.