Open Gov Partnership Approach: Office of Policy Development (Post 6 of 8 in Series)

Motivation: Policy development is the process by which an organization translates its vision for the future into actionable decisions in the hopes that those decisions will result in desired outcomes. Therefore the Office of Policy Development (ODP) within any organization resides at the intersection of vision and implementation. The ODP is typically a cross-departmental organization that defines how issues are defined, investigates potential solutions to each issue, and makes recommendations to leadership based upon extensive research. Given the breadth of issues that the ODP may confront, the term “policy” can take many forms. Policies may include:

  • Significant direction for an entire organization to adjust or adhere to
  • A set of multiple directions that revolve around a given strategic plan
  • A review of a given organizational function along with recommendations and suggestions for improvement based upon that review
  • Amendments to current policies that enhance or extend the authority of a given plan, process, or organization

Regardless of the form a policy may take, each ODP is motivated to ensure that an organization maintains a strategic direction that continually “moves the needle” towards the accomplishment of desired goals and objectives.

Approach: As Open Gov programs are initiated each ODP must first understand the strategic goals and objectives expected by the organization; highlight where regulatory guidelines may shape implementation; and where policies need to be developed in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Open Gov strategic plan. Most ODP offices may consider the following high-level questions when implementing an Open Gov program:

  1. What are the issues that we are trying to solve with Open Government principles?
  2. What are the options available to our organization to solve those issues
  3. What other entities should be involved to ensure buy-in, coordination, and effective implementation?
  4. Which solutions best align with and enhance the organizations’ strategic plan?
  5. How do we implement and measure the performance of those solutions?
  6. What internal policies must be developed to ensure the goals of the solution are met?
  7. Once the solution is implemented, what adjustments should be made to relevant policies to make them more effective?

This high level approach will require discussion with all stakeholders, including the CFO, CIO, OPA, HR, and OGC offices. However, it’s the responsibility of the ODP to ensure the open government plan aligns with strategic goals and internal policies are developed to encourage that direction.

Partner’s Bottom Line: The OPD is responsible for ensuring that significant Departmental efforts align with the Department’s overall strategic plan. Open Gov is no different—the Open Gov plan must also align with the Department’s strategic plan and the OPD is responsible for ensuring that occurs. Also, if internal policies are not in place to guide implementation, the initiative may never realize its intended goal. OPD’s must be proactive is recognizing what existing policies must be revised and what new policies must be created to institutionalize the Open Government Plan. As each policy is developed, the ODP may also want to consider the following:

  • Stay a step ahead. The ODP should be a proactive and not a reactive organization. As times change, policies will undoubtedly change with it. However, the strength of an ODP lies in its ability to foresee potential issues and develop policies that can ensure the progressive movement of an organization.
  • Associate recommendations with risks. Every policy recommendation is intended to serve an organization for the greater good. However, like all decisions there are certain risks that naturally come from choosing a given option. The ODP must develop policies that achieve the objective of the organization but with the understanding that certain opportunity costs are associated by choosing a given option. A good ODP excels at considering a series of reasonable strategic solutions and choosing the best answer that will achieve objectives, while acknowledging risks.
  • Remain unbiased. Given the inherent power a cross-organizational body like the ODP can wield, it’s imperative that all policy analysts and developers remain unbiased in their research. While a strategic plan in clearly aimed at achieving a given goal(s), the path to achieving that goal should not be hindered by personal objectives. Rather, each policy analyst/developer must make decisions that minimize risks while maximizing the efficacy of the policy decision.
  • Work closely with the General Counsel (OGC). The Open Gov plan, while aligning with the strategic plan, must also adhere to statutory and regulatory authority. The OGC is a crucial partner when understanding legal authority and boundaries. If policies are not developed that will adhere to regulatory and statutory authority rework will be required to ensure the initiative resides within those boundaries. Work with the OGC early and often!