The new book, Bridgebuilders, should be on the reading list of every public official, CEO, and civic leader.
That is because throughout the book, authors William D. Eggers and Donald F. Kettl share compelling and instructive stories about some of today’s most successful bridgebuilders—federal state, and local government leaders who transcend boundaries and partner across sectors, to achieve success and meet their goals.
“Bridgebuilding is the fresh, new approach that strengthens institutions, and government agencies by breaking free from organizational boxes and rigid, top-down leadership,” explains Eggers and Kettl. “Furthermore, the outdated model that worked well at one time—identifying a problem and creating a program designed to solve it—is giving way to new, muti-sector approaches to create public value.”
The authors stress that leaders need to manage horizontally, making connections with other departments, as well as with stakeholders outside government to create networks that can frame solutions.
Each book chapter examines one of the ten core principles of bridgebuilding, and each chapter features practical tips and dynamic case studies of how effective leaders have put each of the ten bridgebuilding principles to work. Among those ten core principles are:
- Reframe accountability.
- Knock down barriers.
- Make data the language.
You will discover more than one hundred specific strategies and tips, proven by some of the world’s best managers that Eggers and Kettl share in their book.
Some of the book’s key takeaways for me are these eleven best practices for any type of leader – government and non-government:
- Avoid the temptation to create a new agency for every new problem and program.
- Make boundaries flexible.
- Forge unity form diversity.
- Create a culture of knowledge sharing.
- Involve people closest to the problem.
- Let partners play to their strengths.
- Be human and sincere in communication.
- Understand that trust and accountability are interlinked.
- Make conversations transparent.
- Build capabilities around skills rather than authority.
- Break down internal silos.
And if you are new in your governmental role, be sure to spend extra time reading Appendix A, the 100-day action plan for bridgebuilding in your new government job.
William D. Eggers
Donald F. Kettl
authors share these additional insights with us:
Who are bridgebuilders and what do they do?
Eggers & Kettl: Bridgebuilders are the leaders who have discovered that solving big problems requires linking together the organizations who have what it takes to solve problems. No one organization can go it alone on most modern issues. But collaboration among different organizations—even among different sectors—is the key for attacking complex issues. Bridgebuilders act as orchestra conductors to bring all the players together to play the notes that are needed.
What are the three elements of innovation?
Eggers & Kettl: Innovation takes funding, regulating, and doing. It takes money and basic ground rules to drive the system toward doing it. But, most of all, innovation requires creative thinking to catalyze networks of action that focus on producing the outcomes we want.
What are a few lessons from the book that are particularly applicable to non-governmental leaders?
Eggers & Kettl: Making policy work isn’t a spectator sport. More and more of government parties require collaboration with non-governmental leaders. In fact, as we show in the book, in cases like efforts to reduce homelessness, non-governmental leaders often play a big role in creating public value. It’s weaving all the pieces together that defines the best approaches to true policy innovation and effectiveness.
Finally, Eggers and Kettl say that “our book is, in part, an argument for a new approach to delivering public value to people. But it’s also an outline that can be used to teach students and executives alike to become bridgebuilders.”
Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.
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