Transparency for Trust: Mapping the Government and Our Money - Part 2
By Jeffrey Stamps and Jessica Lipnack
“Seeing is Believing”
We can map the inherently public organizational structure of the OFS federal-contractor partnership that makes the deals and doles out the funds. Imagine this organizational topography visualized and navigated as you can with Google Earth (for example, see our dynamic map of the US Government in transition with an illustrative OFS overlay).
What does the organizational network map do for us? Two things: more accountability and more minds.
First, By making the whole network transparent as the OFS grows and makes deals, oversight and accountability become simple by-products of its actions. Those involved will be much more likely to act responsibly if the results of their work are visible to all, not just to their supervisors.
Second, we naturally engage many more minds with a shared view of the whole as the mixed agency-consultant enterprise develops and responds to the onrush of events. Never has it been more true that, in the face of such monumental complexity, the whole is smarter than any of us individually.
Using common tools for displaying networks, it’s relatively easy to map the $700 billion network as it grows. Each new job will report (i.e., link) to another position that eventually reports to a lead-contractor post that reports to an official assignment that reports to Mr. Kashkari. People come with the jobs. Their concrete work will result in contracts with specific clients, deals with precise dollar values.
We can link the agreements to the actual organizational units, teams, and positions that transacted them. Now we have a single network representing the whole OFS organization, its clients, and its deals, all appropriately sized by their slices of our at-risk taxpayer money. We then can roll these slices up through the executive ranks to Mr. Kashkari’s level, where we can see the running total of taxpayer commitment.
Of course, we can apply this idea of mapping how the government spends our economic rescue money more widely—for example, to all the other instant organizations managing billions (they seem to be a-borning daily). Why not tie all the taxpayer-funded pieces of the whole thing together? Where does the AIG money sit? Who transacted and who holds the Fannie and Freddie billions? Who handles the proposed $25 billion for the auto industry?
As a practical matter, transparency requires both detail and context. A "Google for Government" OFSpending.gov database could provide searchable detail on all the quasi-public deals—including who got them and who transacted them. The network map hooks the organizations, people, and contracts together, connecting the dots, giving context. By drawing the public map from public information, everyone shares a common mental model of the whole rescue network, the basis for more cross-boundary collaboration and smarter decisions.
In order for the next president and his advisors to get a grip on the whole Federal Government, just reverse the process and follow the money we already spend. Again, start with the OMB database to reverse-engineer the underlying organizational network along the lines of the OFS mapping idea described here. Each government award/grant/deal has been generated by some front-line team with a supervisor who reports to someone who reports to someone in a chain up to the Secretary of Something, an agency like HHS, Homeland Security, or Defense. Track the money up the reporting chains of jobs and you map much of the federal bureaucracy from the bottom up. The result is a single, navigable network with links to each recipient who, in turn, controls a slice of our precious annual trillions.
And, while we’re at it, why not map the rest of government? The OMB, by virtue of its mandate, has the budgets and headcount for each agency and sub-agency down to the level of every job, sized by its slice of the federal budget as well as its spending in contracts and grants.
Sounds like a big job, constructing this open government network map, but all the information is just sitting there in federal financial systems from OMB to the many human resource and information technology systems that run the government payroll and cut the checks.
We just need to connect the dots and all becomes clear, a visible foundation for rebuilding trust—priority one for enabling all the hard stuff to come.
--Jeffrey Stamps, PhD, and Jessica Lipnack, are management consultants and authors of six books, including The Age of the Network and Virtual Teams.