Instilling collaborative organizational culture often requires changing the recognition and reward system. But internally-competitive entrenched interests will undoubtedly resist changes to how the organization pays and promotes people. Also expect resistance from people who believe there’s no reason to incent people, because they should do as they’re told.
Tuesday, during James Clapper’s confirmation hearing as director of national intelligence, Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) asked Clapper why it’s necessary to incent the intelligence community to collaborate. Levin was referring to Clapper’s pre-hearing questionnaire in which he apparently wrote that, if confirmed, he would achieve progress in information sharing by the “disciplined application” of incentives—both rewards and consequences. “Why do we need incentives,” Levin asked “Why don’t we just need a directive from the President by executive order, for instance? Otherwise, why do we need incentives, rewards and consequences?”
Clapper responded, “One way of inducing change in culture is to provide rewards for those who collaborate and, I suppose, penalties for those who don’t.” He added, “And obviously directives are effective too.” You can watch Levin’s questions and Clapper’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Community on C-SPAN here (counter 1:37:06). Incidentally, collaborative organizations achieve more with the carrot than the stick. Penalties for failure to collaborate are anti-collaborative in that they spread fear. Instead, reward and recognize collaborators; then others will get the message and start changing their behavior.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the intelligence community has struggled to shift from a culture of competition and information hoarding among agencies to a collaborative culture in which people share data and information. For background on this, see my December 30, 2009 post. I have advised senior leaders of the intelligence community about the transition. On the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I gave a speech to the community sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
In the speech, I highlighted four areas. One was aligning recognition and reward systems to encourage collaboration. ODNI, the entity formed after September 11, has been driving collaboration among the sixteen agencies that comprise the intelligence community. Some agencies have balked, ostensibly for security reasons, about sharing their data across the community. While security concerns are valid, perceived loss of control and inter-agency rivalry also play a role.
The leaders whom I’ve advised implicitly understand the value of collaboration in developing better intelligence and thwarting terrorists. They also understand institutional resistance. James Clapper currently serves as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and formerly served as the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). This multi-agency intelligence background gives Clapper an advantage in guiding the shift in the intelligence community’s culture in that an insider committed to change has more credibility than an outsider does. Clapper must draw on his alliances and relationships across the community to help break down barriers among agencies and adopt collaborative culture.