Public sector reinvented: The five branches of government
I am fascinated by the popularity of the three-branch government model:
- Executive – Run the government.
- Legislative – Make the laws.
- Judicial – Apply the laws.
We need leadership, but not necessarily in a centralised format. We need laws and we need them upheld and regularly reviewed. This model seems to major on control, rather than the citizen experience or how a nation manages its assets and turns them into value. This three branch-model seems optimised for subjugation and that might have been necessary for controlling the uneducated masses. But we are no longer in the Middle Ages and so this model needs a review.
Old school government
Ironically perhaps in searching for a new model I have ventured further back in time. I am not an anthropologist, but I do look at the research anthropologists do. From their work on tribes, I have distilled a five-branch model which can be applied to both businesses and governments.
Let’s look at these five branches.
Tribes tend to have the following:
- Attention – They pay attention to what is happening both within and outside the tribe. Their survival depends on their ability to pay attention.
- Ambition – Tribes tend to have a shared vision and a common esprit de corps. Things get done when members trust each other and share the same goals.
- Artistry – Tribes value members who themselves add value to the tribe. Members who are net asset consumers tend to have their membership revoked.
- Adaptability – Tribes embrace reality and thus adapt as the conditions dictate. When the bush is out of berries, its time to find a new bush.
- Added value – Tribes create and maintain resources and trade these with other tribes to gain access to the resources they need.
Tribes are in the adapt and added value business. However they need the other branches to create the optimum conditions to do these things well.
This model, I believe is more citizen-centric and is optimised to engage with a very uncertain world.
Of course the question arises, ‘How do you map the typical ministries and departments governments have today onto this five-branch approach?’. I have given this some thought, but it is an early draft. Here goes:
This might be given the title Intelligence Branch. All countries have some form of military intelligence structure that involves eavesdropping, snooping and espionage. This is typically both internal (eg. sleeper cell monitoring) and externally (eg. monitoring Vatican City’s nuclear intentions).
My perhaps controversial suggestion is that this is not limited to national security, but to understanding the broader picture with respect to the national assets (see Adaptability below), including the citizens. Done well, this intelligence would be used to:
- Ensure that the citizen experience is optimised.
- Have a more integrated response between military and the emergency services.
- Identify signals suggestive that a need to adapt is imminent.
Done badly, or opaquely, this could be dangerous. Thus checks and balances are needed.
Within this branch lies the legislature and policy making. Hopefully a more finely tuned and situationally aware understanding of what is happening will lead to better laws and policies.
This might be called the Purpose Branch. This is where the executive would be placed. National level decisions and their communication would be managed from here. Similarly matters related to open government / transparency would also be included.
Heritage, culture and sports would also fall under this branch.
Kinship largely operates at a family and community level. However we can to some extent harness our tribal instincts at a national level, whether this means getting behind the national football team or sending our children to war.
This is recognising that the citizen is a primary actor in society. It might be thought of as the People Branch. It would include:
- Social care.
- Local government.
- Cities and regions.
- The citizen aspects of the judiciary would fall within this branch.
The world is more uncertain so a nation’s ability to adapt is critical. I encourage leaders to think in terms of asset management. So perhaps it could be called the Assets Branch. For government, these assets would include:
- Primary assets.
- People, in respect of skills.
- Treasury, including taxation.
- National enterprises – Home grown businesses.
- Domiciled enterprise – Foreign businesses that are headquartered on national territory.
- Natural resources.
- Fishing rights.
- Landmarks / cultural items.
- Secondary assets.
- Education and research.
- Health and wellness.
- STEM skills.
- Risk management
- Military services.
- Emergency services.
- Extra-terrestrial – Space projects.
- Externally sourced
- Natural resources.
- International businesses operating on national territory.
- Foreign labour.
Judiciary matters related to business and government would sit here.
These assets would be managed with care and with a view to maximising the value that accrues from their ownership. NB. Food, given its often perishable nature, might not seem like an asset. The focus here is on the mechanisms that ensure the production and delivery of the food, ie food security. Similarly with energy.
Whilst Artistry might be considered the value proposition branch for the citizen, here I am focusing on the nation’s relationship with other nations. Let’s call it the External Affairs Branch. So this might include:
- International trade.
- Soft power.
- Global sustainability.
- Protectorate support.
- Intergovernmental forums.
This is a radical suggestion. I have endeavoured to map established institutions onto this new model, but no doubt there are gaps. The exercise in writing this post is not so much to fix governments in under 1,000 words, but to encourage a rethink of where governments need to focus.
Again the world has moved on since governments took on their current form. I think it is time for a reset. One that reflects the importance of the citizens, our neighbours and the planet.