Tools at the centre of government

Research and practitioners' insights
Jitinder Kohli
Samantha Mignotte
Abstract

In this paper, the authors look at how the 'centre of government' (defined as "the people and organisations that support the head of government as the ‘guardians of overall strategic direction of government’, which often includes the president’s or prime minister’s offices as well as Cabinet, budget offices, etc") can add value from their position and with the tools available to them. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role not just of government generally, but in particular the essential role the centre of government must play to coordinate, communicate with the public, and navigate new problems that no longer respect the organisational boundaries we have created over time. More generally, the problems that governments need to solve are increasingly complex and horizontal, yet government is organised by vertical institutions and hierarchies.

Whether handed down as a special assignment by a political leader or self-driven as part of their role, staff in the centre of government are responsible for driving forward progress on the government’s top priorities. With easy access to senior government leaders, but relatively small budgets and staff, the centre of government has a very different set of tools than other agencies. 

The authors present ten tools across four clusters that centres of governments can deploy:

  • Cluster 1 tools – Planning from the centre: defining success and setting up agencies to improve
  • Cluster 2 tools – Governing from the centre: creating structures to drive improvements
  • Cluster 3 tools – Improving implementation from the centre: creating routines and driving change
  • Cluster 4 tools – Improving service delivery from the centre: supporting and offering provision of cross-cutting services

The tools presented focus on specific actions that the centre of government can take to drive a priority area for a leader. They go beyond the traditional areas of responsibility that are more well known that inherently sit with the centre of government.

About the authors

Dustin Brown is a Visiting Fellow of Practice, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and a senior official in the US Federal government responsible for government reform.

Jitinder Kohli is a Managing Director at Deloitte Consulting, Washington, DC where his work focuses on public sector strategy.

Samantha Mignotte is a Director at Social Finance, Washington, DC where she works with governments, non-profits, and investors to explore outcomes-based financing opportunities.