How often do we hear the adage “two heads are better than one”? How about “many hands make light work”? It’s universally accepted that working together can bring great rewards and benefits. But the truth is, when it comes to government business, working together can be tricky to get right.
The challenges that government faces increasingly need solutions that require different parts of government to work together – look for instance at the approach to net zero, adult social care, rough sleeping and vulnerable families; all complex issues that need more than one department to tackle.
At the National Audit Office, when we look at how public money has been spent, we often spot instances where weaknesses in working together across departments (what we call cross-government working) undermines value for money. Using our experience and back catalogue, we’ve drawn on these insights to produce a report and supporting guide , exploring what makes cross-government working work, what barriers exist and common pitfalls.
HM Treasury and Cabinet Office have also been thinking about how to improve cross-government working. They’ve recently worked with departments to identify the biggest barriers and outlined the following areas to better support departments: structures; priorities; spending; data-sharing; culture; and best practice.
So, we know cross-government working can sometimes be the most effective way to tackle challenges, and we know what the barriers are – so solving them should be easy, right? Well, no. When it comes to delivery, the devil is in the detail. Cross-government working is achievable, but what we’ve found is that the right conditions need to be in place to give the best chance of success. In our guide we look at three areas:
Setting-up cross-government working: “Fail to plan, plan to fail”
It’s a cliché because it’s true. Where to start? Given