Teaming Up On Fresh Approaches to Today's Challenges

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Partnerships between the U.S. government and the private sector are as old as our democracy, yet controversy remains about their effectiveness and value. Public-private partnerships, or PPPs, historically were undertaken to achieve large infrastructure projects, such as road and bridge construction, that were too costly or risky for one side to take on alone—a kind of "necessary evil." Today, however, given the increasingly complex nature of our national challenges, has the time come for government and business to team up more often?

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Public/private partnerships just don’t work
Historically, neither side gains much working together.
In the past there may have been little motivation for collaborating.
But, today, the complexity of current challenges has changed the incentives, and increasingly, it is clear that some issues simply cannot be resolved by one sector or the other alone.
Prior experience suggests government and business have naturally conflicting interests. If that was ever true, it no longer is. It is imperative that the two sides combine experience and resources to create a sustainable future vision.
Government agencies benefit from business’s tradition of innovation and doing more with less; while businesses are able to maintain more flexibility and control over their own destinies by voluntarily mitigating issues that tend to lead to legislative and agency actions.
Big-scale objectives are required for business to engage a public agency in a project. PPPs are not one-size-fit-all solutions—and they don’t always involve “big” problems.
Sometimes the best approach is to start small and build from there, reducing concerns about time commitments, complications, and risks. And, there are a wide range of models that can work in different contexts to solve a common problem – whatever its size.
The high-level business-government initiatives that come out of Davos and the like don’t ever really go anywhere. That’s very true. Our point of view is that the “press release moment”, when the CEO and the Senior Government Official, decide on the direction is just the beginning.
Business and government leaders can create an environment that encourages collaborative, cooperative thinking about PPPs as a matter of course. But, success comes from engaging their Organizations in their entirely to achieve results.

My take

us_johnmennel_135x155_052213.jpg us_rosenbaum_135x155_052213.jpg
John Mennel, Director, Strategy and Operations, Deloitte Consulting LLP Lauren Rosenbaum, Principal, Strategy and Operations, Leader, Government Operations Service Line, Deloitte Consulting LLP

After all of the pluses and minuses of PPPs are deconstructed, it may really come down to an issue of executing efficiently. The forces driving enhanced cooperation today can continue to evolve as the two sides work to address our complex national challenges. In fact, we believe PPPs will become a standard component of government and business strategy, and—as with achievement of any effective business strategy—it should all begin with focusing on the end game.

Once you know what it is that must be achieved, work backwards to shape a workable partnership model that addresses the context you are working in. Be clear about the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the collaborative equation. By finding ways to balance their respective skills and experiences, government and business can forge effective pathways for resolving critical challenges, generating economic growth, and realizing cost savings. At the same time, business may find that new alliances reduce costly investments in lobbying related to new regulations—or in adapting equipment and personnel practices to accommodate new regulations.

There’s no doubt that life and work in an increasingly global and complex world will require more cooperation between the public and private sectors so that the skills and assets of each can contribute to the shared objectives of both. Which businesses and agencies will be among the first to put their mark on the new definition of these partnerships for the future?

Related content

Library: Deloitte Debates
Services: Consulting
Overview: Strategy & Operations
Industries: U.S. Federal Government


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