Operationalizing Smart Power To Meet Today's Government Challenges


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Government agencies have been given the imperative to do more with less, and so must rely on mission partners to carry out resource-intensive activities. Organizations that learn mission-integration techniques will be seen as innovators as the notion of smart power becomes increasingly influential.

This new viewpoint written by SVP Roger Cressey, Principal Michael Delurey, and Senior Associates Jon Allen and Cheryl Steele explains how Smart Power provides an integrated, collaborative approach to achieve the level of coordination needed to meet today's government challenges.

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Operationalizing Smart Power To Meet Today's Government Challenges

  1. 1. Operationalizing Smart PowerTo Meet Today’s Government ChallengesbyRoger Cresseycressey_roger@bah.comMike Delureydelurey_mike@bah.comJon Allenallen_jonathan@bah.comCheryl Steelesteele_cheryl@bah.com
  2. 2. Operationalizing Smart PowerTo Meet Todays Government ChallengesIntroduction vertical domains, and creating a networked operationalThe most pressing challenges the government faces are model—horizontal integration—to meet their businesslarge and complex, and all require the use of the nation’s needs. Smart power is the functional equivalent ofinstruments of national power to address them in a timely government embracing that model for a discrete set ofand effective manner. While this concept is generally mission areas, predominantly those addressing complexaccepted, the major obstacle to putting the concept into geopolitical issues.action is how multiple federal organizations can work A mission area is a likely candidate for smart power if ittogether efficiently and effectively to tackle today’s highly is beyond the normal capability of a single department orcomplex problems. agency—due to scope or scale—and is of such importanceAs the need for inter-agency and department cooperation that it requires the full suite of instruments of nationalhas become more urgent over the last decade, a growing power. If that test is met, then a vertically integratedbody of theory has emerged. One idea that has been operating model is unlikely to work and there must begaining particular attention is “smart power,” a concept methods to reach across departments and agencies.developed by Joseph Nye and embraced by top government Another attribute of a mission that requires smart powerofficials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is the absence of a clear starting point. This is becauseSecretary of Defense Robert Gates. Though there has been such missions have an innate complexity. There are highmuch discussion of what smart power is and why it is so expectations, but they are well defined—and it is hard toimportant, there has been little discussion of how the US know exactly where to begin.government might bring it into action. When government faces a challenge that cuts across aThrough our extensive work with the government over number of departments and agencies, it has a choice:the years, Booz Allen has gained a number of important divide the mission into individual organizations—which mayinsights into how organizations can achieve the level of be simpler, but less efficient and effective—or respect thecoordination they need to address seemingly intractable complexity and pursue an integrated mission—what Nyeproblems. We have developed a series of practical and others refer to as smart power.approaches to the thorny challenges involved, such astechniques to integrate federal missions and to create an Although there is growing support in government forenvironment in which mission leadership is truly shared. smart power, there is also a fair amount of skepticismThese insights and approaches are particularly valuable in about whether the government call fulfill its smart poweroperationalizing the growing body of theory on interagency promise. A recent survey of federal executives found mostcooperation, including the ideas behind smart power. are enthusiastic about the possibilities of smart power— but many are not confident the government can actuallyIn essence, smart power theory suggests that for certain operationalize its missions using this theory. Nearly halfmissions the government should move away from its of those polled said they believed the federal governmentvertically integrated mode into a horizontally integrated could do no more than “somewhat implement” smart poweroperating model that is more analogous to the business solutions, and another 11 percent said the governmentworld. Many businesses learned long ago that they can does not have the ability to implement smart powerbe more effective and efficient by looking outside their solutions at all. 1
  3. 3. This gap—between the desire for smart power and the considered judiciously. The intent of smart power is not pessimism about its chances of success—emphasizes to be “the standard way of operating” or to upend the the need for practical approaches that can be of real use way government handles day-to-day operations. Rather, to organizations. We believe, based on our experience it is a tailored approach to a discrete number of high- working with government, that the US government can impact activities. Deciding whether a particular mission operationalize smart power. Government leadership must qualifies is the first major challenge to operationalizing address three main challenges. The first task is to establish smart power. whether the mission area is truly a candidate for smart Organizations can apply a straightforward filter test by power. The next step is to identify which organizations asking, if the mission require that the full suite have a role to play, and should participate. Finally, there of capabilities in the federal government be brought must be mechanisms in place to overcome the inevitable to bear in four arenas: political, military, economic, obstacles that will appear. Our work in related areas over and social? If so, then the mission is a candidate for the years has demonstrated very clearly the importance smart power. of an effective impediment-based planning mechanism at the outset, so that participants will have guideposts and guidelines through which to work through obstacles and Finding the Right Team Once organizations identify a mission as appropriate conflict. This is the lion’s share of the effort—through these for a smart power approach, the next challenge is approaches, smart power can move beyond the theoretical, to identify which federal departments and agencies and into the realm of the practical. that leadership and organizations must engage. This is rarely easy. Too many organizations may come The Filter Test forward—some, perhaps because they have Any ambitious effort to horizontally integrate mission excess capacity, others because of political activity is resource-intensive and so must be Exhibit 1 | Operationalized Smart Power Operationalized Smart Power Understanding of the large scale geo-political issues facing the federal government Research, Thinking, Ideas, Concepts Large Complex Challenge Impediment-based planning Policy, Strategy and Planning Management, Mission to identify where things can and Budgeting People and Culture Information Integration go wrong, and take steps to Technology Operations prevent a future breakdown Finding the Stakeholder map of Identify federal agencies affected with an Right Team affected agencies interest in the smart power issue Military, Political, Social, and Analyzed the challenge to see if it meets The Filter Test Economic test the conditions for a smart power approach Source: Booz Allen Hamilton2
  4. 4. considerations. That can make the process unwieldy, the differences represented by these five criticalmore costly, and time-consuming. Alternatively, areas, or simply assuming them away, puts successorganizations that should be important players may at risk. Organizations must address each of the fivehold back, reluctant to get involved. In either case, the elements if smart power is to succeed, as they areoverall effort will be less effective and efficient, and closely interrelated and integrate these five elementsthe mission will have a lower chance of success. simultaneously, rather than handled sequentially. Similar to the dials or gauges in an aircraft cockpit—allThe goal is to bring together the right team. must be managed at the same time if the plane is toOrganizations can gain valuable insight by looking stay in the air, and ignored at ones peril.at the earlier filter test of whether a mission was acandidate for smart power. Because that test looks At the same time, organizations must implement smartat the capabilities that are required, it can help give power approaches in advance—rather than in thecritical insight to creating a map of departments and heat of the moment—so that misalignments, cultureagencies that should play a role in the mission, and clashes and other issues can be resolved well before ahelp identify the optimal composition for the team. smart power challenge arises. Perhaps the most common misconception aboutMission Integration mission integration is that it primarily, if not exclusively,The third and most difficult challenge in involves information sharing. While numerousoperationalizing smart power lies in overcoming the government studies have emphasized that informationhost of obstacles to interagency and department sharing is essential for shared-mission success,cooperation. This is not a challenge unique to smart focusing on this aspect alone can lead agenciespower, but addressing it is essential to applying to develop overly simple solutions—most oftena smart power approach. Our long experience in technology “fixes.” However, this leaves the largerhelping federal agencies integrate mission functions mission integration challenges mostly unaddressed.in the interagency arena has shown us that the mosteffective way to ensure success is through impediment- When multiple organizations seek to work together inbased planning techniques. The goal is to identify a complex mission, two problems will inevitably arise:where things are likely to go wrong, and take steps there will be both conflicts and gaps in each of thenow to prevent a future breakdown. organizational components. For example, the various organizations might have strategies that align andWe have found that the key to mission integration lies complement each other. More typically, the strategiesin aligning organizations across five organizational will be in conflict—not because one organizationcomponents: or another is trying to gain control, but because• Policy, Strategy, and Planning they simply do not know what the others are doing. Conflicts create tension in whatever manner they arise,• Management and Budgeting and can limit mission success.• People and Culture Perhaps even more problematic are the gaps that• Information Technology occur when organizations come together—gaps that arise because the new mission area is not well• Operations understood or accounted for in an agency’s currentOne can find potential “failure points” of applying a planning. An organization may try to share some partsmart power approach within these components. In of a mission, only to find that it does not have theany interagency effort, there will be conflicting policies policies or the technology—or even the organizationalbetween agencies, or a clash of cultures. Ignoring culture—to work with one or more of its partners. 3
  5. 5. Unless organizations are able to bridge these gaps, of bureaucracies to use metrics that look at how the mission will flounder, and the organization cannot well individual departments and agencies fulfill their realize the promise of smart power. missions as standalones—not by how well they collaborate on a larger, shared mission. One outcome Within an individual organization, leaders can resolve is that organizations are less likely to discover the such conflicts and gaps. A chief characteristic of capabilities of others—and so may not even consider the smart power approach is that no single entity how they might cooperate on shared missions. can dictate solutions or exercise complete decision- making authority, and no single organization has Other management and budgeting pitfalls include control of the information or the levers of power. The nonsupportive reporting requirements, which typically traditional command-and-control, executive-agent style vary from organization to organization. Participants in a of governance, does not apply. For organizations to smart power challenge may not have the mechanism to truly integrate their missions, they must find new and report on shared resources, and may be reluctant innovative ways to reconcile the conflicts, and bridge to collaborate because they are worried about the gaps. the consequences. Aligning resources requires that organizations be Policy, Strategy, and Planning flexible as well. This often means the willingness to A central goal of operationalizing smart power is to move resources planned for a particular task to one establish rules across agencies to manage emerging that will have greater impact on the common goal. challenges. Each agency entering into a shared mission will have its own appropriate standalone People and Culture policies, strategies and planning processes, and A challenge in any interagency effort is the inability to many are likely to be far different from those of their collaborate and share information across organizational mission partners. The key to aligning these structures cultures. One particular problem is that bureaucracies is to identify the specific areas where they are in tend to gravitate toward hierarchical structures, even conflict. This means that organizations need to study when they are trying to integrate horizontally. Central to the policies of their prospective partners, and identify the smart power concept is that overall the effort will areas that might cause tension and waste resources. draw capabilities from various entities—none of which Operationalizing smart power also requires policies or is singularly “in charge.” What commonly happens is strategies that lay out clearly how government agencies that an individual or team will appear on the scene, are to work together in a horizontally integrated assert leadership, and then begin issuing directives. manner. Few of these structures currently exist, and so Organizations may follow those orders because others stakeholders both inside and outside government often are often simply waiting for someone to take charge do not know who should play what role, or how they and tell them what to do. This, however, is not a smart should interact. Such issues need to be resolved well power mindset, and must be overcome if smart power in advance of a smart power activity, particularly one is to be operationalized. that requires quick action, such as disaster relief. Another problem with the vertically integrated approach Management and Budgeting is that it can be difficult to gain the cooperation of Another difficult challenge to integrating missions entities not in the command structure. If, for example, in a smart power setting is how to align skill sets, an organization assigns a particular responsibility, capabilities, and other resources across multiple such as shared services/IT, to an entity outside the organizations. This goal is hampered by the tendency vertically integrated structure, then that organization4
  6. 6. may resist being directed what to do. A more interaction with them. The solution is not to requirecollaborative approach might be needed—something that every government entity raise its IT game to thethat could be foreign to an organization’s culture. level of the highest capability player, but to recognize that the lower-level capabilities of the other players areStill another pitfall arises from a lack of trust. probably appropriate for the contribution they will makeOrganizations may be unwilling to share information, in the shared mission.concerned that other organizations will not handleit securely. They may worry that if they collaborate Another challenge lies in the technical barriersanother organization will overshadowed them, to sharing information, which will always exist.and could lose resources and even mission Organizations tend to be intimidated by this, but forresponsibilities in the next year’s budget. Organizations every barrier, there is a set of work-arounds that cancommonly respond to this fear by trying to do all the be put in place—if the issue is raised in advance ofwork themselves. the need.One mitigating factor in all of these issues that With IT, as with all five components, it is importantholds great potential for smart power is that the to pay particular attention to the interrelation of themore familiar people are with social networking elements with one another. For example, an agency’stools and with working in collaborative network IT infrastructure might be capable of sharing data withenvironments—millennials, for example—the easier relevant government partners—but outdated policiesthe cultural barriers are to overcome. and procedures might be preventing employees from taking full advantage of the system.Information TechnologyWhile information sharing is far from the only obstacle Operationsto integrating missions, it is persistently difficult to A key challenge in operationalizing smart power is inovercome. Horizontally integrated entities are only integrating the execution of plans across agencies.as strong as the links that connect them to one Problems often arise when there is an overlap ofanother. Failure to make that connection, and responsibilities between government agencies, andshare information, will render the networked between government and outside organizations. In amodel unworkable. humanitarian crisis, for example, two organizations might take on the responsibility of working withTypically, organizations see this challenge in terms hospitals—but because their plans are poorlyof creating new technologies, or the ability to work integrated, both organizations find themselves attogether using a common platform. The issue is the same locations. When organizations do not usemore one of finding consensus on how organizations resources effectively, as with an unintended duplicationcan handle information securely. What is often of effort, smart power cannot be “smart.”required is an agreed upon security architectureand—just as important—mutual trust. Horizontally Another common obstacle occurs when differentintegrated enterprises cannot operate effectively if one organizations have different time frames for theirorganization hoards information—or is perceived by goals. In nation-building efforts, for example, oneothers to be hoarding. organization might focus on a short-term goal, such as constructing a piece of critical infrastructure, whileAttitude is critical. Information sharing can be derailed another government agency might work toward awhen an organization believes that because its IT longer-term goal, such as building a transparent judicialcapabilities and standards are superior to those system. Unless all participants recognize that theyin other organizations, there should be little or no 5
  7. 7. have differing frames, their activities are unlikely to be weight to the many complexities faced by the other coordinated—and may even work at cross-purposes. organizations. They just assume away that complexity. Like any operation, organizations and leaders must Smart power requires imagination, a coming plan for a smart power mission to be effective. The together of ideas and resources while considering axiom “Plan the work and work the plan” must be put the complexities of every perspective are considered— into action. both fully and simultaneously. If that does not happen, organizations tend to solve problems from Monitoring and Evaluation one perspective but not from others, and “solutions” Operationalizing smart power through these three will have to be rethought and reworked repeatedly. steps is a learning process. Organizations will not This can lead to a great deal of churn, but little get everything right the first time, or even the progress. Organizations typically fail to recognize the second. They will need to monitor and adjust their root causes of this because the failure points are often approaches to each of the five mission integration outside their range of vision. They do not see that their components—to tweak their performance in own smart power solutions are hung up in the netting operations, for example, or change the way they of other perspectives. exchange information with partners. Collective Engagement What is essential is that organizations evaluate Bringing the full strength of the federal government how well they are succeeding in the shared mission to bear on an issue requires an approach that drives together, not how well each is succeeding separately. toward a shared vision, and takes full advantage of Too often, organizations focus on whether their the perspectives and capabilities of every organization. own policies were adhered to, whether their own Smart power is more than just government focused—it technology worked, and whether their own operations calls for strong connections to the private and civil went smoothly—rather than whether those elements society sectors as well. Through our extensive work in were integrated into the shared mission. If an bringing all three sectors together, we have developed organization only looks at its own piece, it can declare a form of engagement known as the megacommunity. success even if it failed to meet the larger objective This approach integrates mission activities by and if opportunities for improved effectiveness encouraging organizations to see how they might and efficiency through working in partnership were “optimize” rather than “maximize”—that is, how they missed. Continuous monitoring and evaluation in the can achieve more by working together than by trying to smart power environment is important—but only if measure success on their own. This kind of thinking is organizations develop metrics to address how well the a strong complement to the promise of smart power. organizations are working together and leveraging each other’s resources. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the megacommunity is that it does not prevent Assuming Away Complexity organizations from pursuing their particular agendas, One of the most common reasons why organizations but actually encourages them to do so. In each of fail to operationalize smart power is that while they the five mission integration areas—and in the smart understand the capabilities of their own organizations, power challenge as a whole—organizations will have they often do not recognize the capabilities of their own vital interests. The key is to find the common others—or worse, assume that those capabilities ground where those vital interests overlap, and use are something other than what they actually are. In that as the driver for action. This gives organizations both cases, they tend to oversimplify or not give full the freedom to act on their own behalf while at the same time contributing to overall mission success.6
  8. 8. ConclusionDespite the challenges, organizations should notview smart power and other forms of interagency anddepartment cooperation as beyond the capabilities ofthe federal government. The answer is to not applysmart power to every challenge that comes along, orto put together mismatched teams that cannot operateefficiently and effectively.If organizations use smart power deliberately, andapproached sensibly, they can operationalize it towhat might seem a surprising degree. A fair amountof spadework must be done, particularly impediment-based planning of mission integration.An organization’s effort is likely to pay for itselfmany times over. Government departments andagencies have been given the imperative to do thesame or more with less, and so increasingly mustrely on mission partners to help them carry outresource-intensive activities. Organizations that learnmission-integration techniques will greatly expand theircapabilities. As the notion of smart power becomesincreasingly influential across government, seniorleaders will see them as innovators leading new formsof engagement. 7
  9. 9. About the Authors Roger Cressey is a Booz Allen Hamilton Senior Vice cybersecurity policy. In addition to his role at Booz Allen, President and a nationally known counterterrorism he is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown and cybersecurity expert. He supports the firm’s University’s Security Studies Program. cybersecurity business and international government Jon Allen is a Booz Allen Hamilton Senior Associate clients, and oversees Booz Allen’s efforts in Smart and co-leads the firm’s Smart Power investment— Power. He served in senior cybersecurity and focusing on the integration of defense, diplomacy, and counterterrorism positions in the Clinton and Bush development capabilities and public-private partnerships Administrations, including Chief of Staff of the for US government clients. He is on the firm’s President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, and International team focusing on cyber capabilities and Deputy of Counterterrorism on the US National Security leading the firm’s Africa Command business. He is also Council. He managed the US government response to a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations. numerous terrorism incidents, including the 9/11 and USS Cole attacks. Cheryl Steele is a Booz Allen Hamilton Senior Associate. She has more than 14 years of professional experience Michael Delurey is a Booz Allen Hamilton Principal and in the areas of strategic planning, communications, currently a leader in the firm’s strategic futures and foreign policy, the Middle East, and the inter-agency policy analysis capabilities. He focus is policy analysis process. She is a leader of the firms business with support, critical infrastructure protection, strategic risk the US Department of State and is co-lead of the firm’s management, complex systems analysis, homeland Smart Power investment. security, mission assurance, information assurance and Contact Information: Roger Cressey Mike Delurey Jon Allen Cheryl Steele Senior Vice President Principal Senior Associate Senior Associate cressey_roger@bah.com delurey_mike@bah.com allen_jonathan@bah.com steele_cheryl@bah.com 703/984-1421 703/902-6858 703/377-7194 703/377-00528
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