DoView Outcomes Theory - an innovative visual approach for country-level (or state-level) public sector budget allocation and accountability

Based on using an underpinning visual model (a DoView)

The approach is based on using a comprehensive visual model drawn in a particular way (an outcomes DoView). This visual model can then be used to identify some, or all, of the following: the agency or sector outcomes being sought; the steps (outputs) being used to achieve them; priorities; indicators being measured; direct agency accountabilities; and how impact is going to be measured.

The DoView visual model can be used by agency staff to identify the specific elements that are needed to populate existing statutary and administrative budget reporting documents. The DoView approach has a much lower cognitive load (the amount of mental effort required to undertake a task) than the traditional approach of trying to identify these elements without the benefit of a visual model.

The DoView visual model can then slowly be introduced to higher-level decision-makers as a tool for use by them in strategic decision-making.

An innovative integrated approach

Country and state-level public sector budget allocation and performance management systems have differing statutory, administrative and reporting requirements. Regardless of these differences, however, the DoView Outcomes Theory approach can provide an innovative addition to any budget allocation process. Aspects of the approach can easily be 'bolted-on' to any existing budgeting system without having to amend existing statutory and administrative requirements.


Adds value in any budgetary setting

The DoView Outcomes Theory approach adds value because it: 1) makes the budget allocation job easier by using a visual model to underpin the budgeting process; 2) encourages clarity about accountability by identifying indicators directly controlled by the agency as its accountability indicators but still lets the agency talk about higher-level not-necessarily controlled indicators; and, 3) provides a robust conceptual framework to ensure that any technical flaws in the budget allocation system can be identified and ultimately remedied.

Such technical flaws, which violate outcomes theory principles, can create unintended consequences. For instance, the problems that arise from artificial siloization where such silioization is not actually present in the underlying relationship between strategies and outcomes within a sector. An example of a symptom of the siloization problem is that it makes it difficult to locate synergistic key driver strategies which can achieve multiple higher-level outcomes all at once.

Five key components

The five components are: a) prioritizing where to spent the money; b) detailing exactly what it will be spent on; c) getting the spending authorized by the appropriate authorities; d) tracking whether the money has been spent on the right thing; and, e) evaluating the impact of spending the money and feeding this back into the next round of prioritization and budget allocation.

Public sector budgeting systems

Allocating public expenditure to different government functions involves a set of five components.

These are covered by steps in the DoView Outcomes Theory approach

Each of these components in the budget allocation process is included within a step in the DoView Outcomes Theory approach.

The only exception is component c. getting the spending authorized by the appropriate authorities. This aspect of the public sector budgeting process is likely to be very specific to the particular statutory and administrative setting in which budget allocation is taking place. However, even in this part of the process, the visual DoView model can, in principle, be used as a supplement to the formal decision-making processes (passing authorization bills) used by authorities. It can enable decision-makers to get a more sophisticated picture of how money is going to be spent than they can from just using the current text-and-table based statutory budget documentation in use.

The steps in the DoView Outcomes Theory process

Step 2 - Identifying priorities

Because the DoView model is a long-term model, not everything in it will currently be a priority. So prioritize directly onto the DoView what it is that the government or state is going to do in the next budget planning period in each sector or agency. This can be done by putting A, B, C, and BAU (Business As Usual) priorities directly onto the boxes within the DoView models developed for each agency or sector.

Take these priorities and enter them into whatever statutory or administrative reports you have to produce that set out priorities.




Step 1 - DoView visual outcomes model

Draw a 'agency by agency' or 'sector by sector' visual DoView of what is being sought in the long run. This should include all the important steps that need to occur to get to the outcomes. It should not be limited to just measurable things, or things that are only controllable by a particular agency. There is a set of rules for drawing DoView models that are fit-for-purpose for use with the sort of public sector budgeting systems being discussed here.

Use this model to identify your outcomes and feed these into whatever budgeting reports are used to describe agency or sector outcomes. If possible use the visual model in discussions with high-level decision-makers and stakeholders.

Step 3 - Line-of-sight outputs-outcomes

Detail what the government (or state) will actually be doing (at the outputs-type level). Visually map this onto the higher-level DoView to ensure you have line-of-sight between your priorities and what you are actually doing. Within DoView software this line-of-sight can be examined by showing the number of output-type elements focused on each higher-level outcome. Such line-of-sight is often very difficult to see in normal text-based budget documentation where a fully DoView-type visual approach is not being used.

Take the list of outputs and feed it into whatever statutory or administrative reports you need to produce in which outputs are listed.

Step 5 - Imact assessment

Identify impact assessment evaluation questions which will be answered during the next budget planning period. Put these onto the visual DoView so you know which steps and outcomes they relate to. Use this mapping to ensure that you have focused your impact assessment on priority issues.

Feed these impact assessment evaluation questions into whatever impact assessment documentation you need to provide as part of the budgeting process.




Step 4 - Indicators and accountability

Identify indicators at all levels within the visual DoView. This is done by looking at each box in the DoView and seeing if it can be measured. Use this to check that measurement is focused on priority boxes - an important part of organizational alignment. This is a much easier way of identifying indicators than the traditional approach of working without an underlying visual model. Next, identify which indicators are controllable by a particular government agency (these will be their direct accountabilities). Lastly, set target levels for each of these indicators for the coming budget period.

Feed all of these elements into your statutory or administrative budgeting reports.

Step 6 - Reporting back (optional)

Report back your results against the visual model (optional). Whether you do report the results back directly against the visual model or not, you should make sure that any findings from monitoring and evaluation are used to inform the next wave of strategic planning and prioritization within the budget cycle (Steps 2 and 3 above).

Feed this information into whatever documentation you are required to provide about your monitoring and impact evaluation results.

Tips for progressively implementing the approach into your public sector budget allocation system

Embedding the process

If it is perceived that the use of a DoView visual model is adding value then you can start to embed its use deeper into your budget allocation system.

DoViews of other agencies and sectors can be built and used to generate the elements which are needed to populate the other parts of the budget process. You might also start building a very high-level DoView just showing the high-level outcomes for the government or state. Start to introduce a wider range of high-level decision-makers to working directly with DoViews visualizing the outcomes for the agencies or sectors for which they are responsible.

Ultimately it might be possible to adjust some formal statutory and administrative requirements to create efficiencies by allowing the DoView visual model to be used in place of some existing planning requirements. For instance, a DoView marked-up with indicators and targets could be used as part of the formal documentation for what an agency is required to do.




It's a staged process

As with any innovation, Implementing aspects of the DoView Outcomes Theory approach needs to be a staged process. Many people who start to use DoView like the approach so much they sometimes try to implement it without sufficient change management planning. It is important that you start to introduce it in a planned manner.

You might start with just one government agency or sector. Build the outcomes DoView for that agency or sector and experiment with how it can be used to identify the elements which need to be fed into the existing statutory documentation being used in your particular setting. Start introducing the visual DoViews to one or two higher-level decision-makers who like using visual approaches.

Building capability and capacity

Building outcomes DoViews that are fit-for-purpose for use within a country or state-level budget allocation process is a skilled task. It should be seen as similar to a demanding and specialised job such as developing a set of accounts. In accounting there are trained and registered accountants to ensure that work of sufficient quality is produced.

It is the same with building comprehensive DoViews for use within public sector budget allocation systems. Part of your change management process needs to be planning for building a team of experts (small at first) who can work with agencies and sectors to build DoView-type models of sufficient quality.


Using a DoView in high-level outcomes documentation

The New Zealand Department of Conservation then went further and included the DoView visual model in their annual Statement of Intent (SOI). The SOI is a statutory document which sets out an agency's high-level strategic direction. As part of its normal strategic planning process, the New Zealand Department of Conservation had used DoView Visual Strategic Planning. It was then able to take the pages from the visual DoView used in its planning and put them directly into its Statement of Intent. Chapters within the Statement of Intent started with a graphic of one of the drill-down pages taken from the DoView. How the department was going to achieve the steps and outcomes was then detailed in the text within the SOI chapter. more

Using a DoView to focus decision-makers' outcomes thinking

And example of high-level agency decision-makers using a DoView occurred in the New Zealand Department of Conservation. The Executive Team took the DoView of its high-level outcomes and converted it into a small booklet which they used in meetings and which they refer to when discussing outcomes and priorities. This is a good example of an easy way in which the DoView approach can be embedded within a departmental planning process without having to change any statutory or administrative requirements. In addition to the booklet, other versions of the DoView were made available to staff, including normal letter-sized PDFs of the DoView, an HTML version and posters of the DoView. more

Using a DoView to develop detailed outputs documentation

Discussing lists of output measures for large agencies (creating outputs schedules) can be very complex if the only tool used for thinking about the list is a simple table of output measures. The people discussing these long and inaccessible lists need to generate a mental model of what the agency is trying to do at the outputs level. They then need to use this mental model to judge the adequacy of the list of outputs being considered for inclusion in the list.

A much more accessible, easier and faster way of working with outputs is to build a DoView of what is being attempted at the outputs level and then use this to identify the outputs that should be included within the outputs schedule.

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