here for PDF format
here for participants' responses to this interview.
Kolderie, Founder of Education / Evolving
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
January 7, 2011
Janis Clay, Jim Hetland (phone), Dan Loritz (chair), Jim Olson (phone),
Tim McDonald, Wayne Popham (phone), Clarence Shallbetter. Bob White
Summary of internal meeting:
Kolderie presented a set of ideas:
Service is limited as
a way of solving problems, so...
We need alternatives
to service, but ...
We can't transform a
system comprehensively, so realistically, ...
Change comes gradually
through innovation in a context of choice
The caucus discussed
how to capture this message and apply it in its work and through
interviews in 2011.
Welcome and introductions-Today's
meeting is scheduled as an internal working session, to discuss messages
the Civic Caucus could convey during the legislative session. Ted Kolderie
has been invited to share some comments he made earlier in the week to a
gathering of people interested in public sector redesigns.
For 12 months under
the guidance of the Different Choices public statement the Civic
Caucus has held weekly conversations with individuals and organizations
with thoughts for rethinking aspects of the public sector. These many good
ideas, proposals, and initiatives are represented by the recent summary
and survey of Civic Caucus participant feedback and comments.
Now that the
legislative session has opened, the Civic Caucus is turning attention to
the question of strategies state leaders may employ to support innovation.
The Caucus asked Ted
Kolderie to describe how the strategy developing in Education|Evolving
might be applied as
works to both save money and improve performance generally in the public
sector. The participants then considered how such a perspective may inform
the Caucus' work in the coming year. The discussion went about as follows:
Comments and discussion-Monday
evening I spoke to the Redesign Discussion Group; people from different
corners of the policy field who agreed on the need for redesign to be a
In any successful
effort at redesign there has to be a method; an answer to the question,
How? You can articular the problem; you can reaffirm the goal. But in
the end there has to be a way to get it done.
Unfortunately both of
the two common strategies proposed are defective.
The first is
incremental improvement; the notion that our job is to take what we
have and make it better. It means working within the givens-within the
traditional structures and processes. As Joe Graba says, the assumption is
that our problems are problems of performance; not of design. We simply
need to execute better. With better management or better leadership or
better financing the existing organizations will change and improve the
way they do things.
This is usually
defended as "being practical." In fact it is im-practical. Nothing
fundamental ever changes. The system remains closed to real innovation.
And we need major change. People tend to describe any change as
'innovation.' But we're talking about the need for fundamentally different
approaches to solving problems and reaching goals.
When Bill Marx (Chief
Fiscal Analyst, Minnesota House) visited with the Caucus earlier this year
he mentioned that someone once put down 'reform' by saying you can take a
piece of paper fold it all kinds of different ways-but it's still a piece
of paper. That does somewhat under-rate the potential for change. Tim over
there could be taking notes with a pencil, on paper. In fact he's typing
on his laptop.
The second method
commonly advanced for redesign is comprehensive transformation, or
the idea of "blowing up the system" and replacing it with something
totally different. Some of us remember a commissioner of education here in
Minnesota saying, privately: "I don't know why we don't just blow it up
and start over." In Michigan a former commissioner, Tom Watkins, is saying
Both of these
'strategies' are impractical. Incremental improvement doesn't change
anything fundamental and politically it is never possible to engineer a
comprehensive system-transformation. Nor do the people who talk like this
know, themselves, what they'd put in place of the existing system, or know
themselves how they would get there.
comprehensive transformation be prudent. Switching-out one system for
another presumes there is one-best way to do things, which might not be
true. It also assumes that some agreed-on new system would work, which
also might not be true. Certainly it would be a risk; perhaps not
Again, however, In
K-12 at least we do need radical change. Bob Astrup, when president of the
Minnesota Education Association, used to talk about the current system
being 'torqued out.' If you drove a car with a stick-shift you remember
that in low gear the car would go only so fast no matter how much more
gas you gave it.
We want to be
practical. Education|Evolving does, with K-12. Generally, we do, in
redesign. So we need to think about a 'How' that will work.
Split-screen strategy for implementing redesigns
The realistic strategy
is gradual transition; the idea of introducing the
new-and-different in a separate sector of (whatever)system. New models
appear, and the early-adopters move to these. Those who prefer the
traditional may stay with that. Over time the new replaces the old. It is,
as we say, "innovation, in a context of choice." This two-track,
dual-track, or what Education|Evolving has come to call split-screen
process we think is the only practical way to accomplish major change.
The classic example
that Education|Evolving often uses is the Dayton Hudson Corporation entry
into discount retailing in the 1950's. The brothers set up a new
corporation called Target.
A few years back
several of us had lunch with Bruce Dayton. He said something that noon
that I had never heard said before, by anyone. He said they knew at the
time they took over the company that the department store was "a dying
breed of cat." That model-people getting on the streetcar after the kids
went to school, riding downtown, shopping, the purchases delivered to
their homes later on company trucks-was doomed by the growth of suburbs,
the spread of automobile ownership and the appearance of specialty stores.
Dan Loritz points out
that when IBM
(then known for its mainframe computers) decided to enter the
mini-computer business it opened a plant in
Rochester. They hired
a whole new sales force that didn't report to the mainframe section of the
business. A participant said who was active in state government at the
time The two sales forces didn't like each other at all. "It was a pretty
What IBM knew was that
computing was going beyond mainframes. A few years later they needed
desktop computers, so-again-instead of asking the mini's to enter the PC
market they opened a separate plant in Boca Raton, FL.
Continuous improvement and continuous innovation
The processes of
continuous improvement on the first screen needs to be
supplemented by continuous innovation on the other. The two
screens are interrelated. After an innovation takes root, it immediately
begins a process of improvement, as processes are refined and improved.
Laptops were an innovation, then began a long period of
improvements-interspersed with periods of additional innovation.
We think this is the
process by which most systems change. They're open to innovation; users
are free to move to the new models if they wish. Those who want to stay
with the traditional can do so-but may not suppress the innovative for
those who do want that. Over time the curves cross; the new replacing the
traditional. As tractors replaced horses on the farm.
Most public systems
don't work like that. The education-policy discussion seems to be
dominated by the search for "the one-best system"-the title of a famous
history on education. Education Week, week after week, year after year, is
filled with reports and proposals: "Hey, look what works!" with the
implication that those running the system, all devoted to the interests of
students, will want to do that.
have different ideas about what is best to do; and adult self-interest is
not entirely absent. With that disagreement the result is gridlock. This
is a reasonable interpretation of where we've been in the past 30 years.
So we've come to see the split screen-diverse approach, schools free to
try things-as the only practical route to significant change.
introduced as an R&D program for new and different models. One of our
disappointments has been that too many people used it to create
traditional schools, simply outside the district and union framework. But
chartering-and now the similar programs for 'self-governed schools' inside
districts-can still be a platform for innovation. That's what needs to be
done now: to move to push innovations in this open sector; especially with
the new digital technologies.
service-model of the public sector is in decline
After I went through
this there was discussion about reports from the Council on Service
Innovation and other organizations about redesign.
I had three concerns
1. Most were
talking about improvement on the existing system.
2. We were
hearing consistently about 'proposals.' Proposals of course imply
approvals. What was emerging was a concept of requesting permission to
innovate. Which is unlikely to be a successful concept.
thinking seemed to be locked onto the traditional model of 'service'-to
the notion that solving problems and meeting necessarily involved hiring
professionals to do things for people for pay.
It was at that point
that I told the story about the Daytons' sense of traditional (department
store) retailing as "a dying breed of cat." And that did seem to get the
group thinking about the 'service' model in the same way; thinking that
the need now, given today's economic realities, is less to find
alternative forms of service and more to find alternatives to
Alternatives to service: Prevention, supported-self-help
If the 'redesign'
discussion were to start at the other end of the spectrum it'd be talking
more about prevention and about 'supported self-help.' We see the
education discussion now moving more this direction. Others working in
other fields might also find this helpful.
is pretty straightforward, and clearly has great potential. There are
well-established public programs to prevent fires or accidents. The
redesign of the 'liability' system 100 years ago, introducing workers'
compensation, brought the accident rate in the iron and steel industry
down in short order by 90 per cent. But work remains. Fire-fighters don't
warm to inspections. Doctors are the first to tell you medicine can't do
much by way of prevention. The solution lies not with professionals but
with the way the people behave. Guys pushing brooms aren't ultimately
why streets are clean. Streets are clear in cities where people don't walk
along shedding paper. Public safety, health, also depend mainly on the way
takes a little explanation. Not many of us remember, but most of us have
heard about households organized for domestic service: the cook and
gardener and maid and chauffeur and governess. In time most of that
disappeared, replaced by a new system in which you put in your own labor
and others sold you the training, designs, tools and materials. Think
about Ford and driver-training; about Toro and Scotts Lawn Care; about
Singer sewing machines and Jo-An Fabrics; about Home Depot and its
elaborate system for selling you the materials and the know-how.
In the public sector
this transition has moved slowly. Today the public hires 'the governess,'
the schoolteacher, while the chauffeur remains as the bus driver. The big
difference is that it's no longer private service. The economics require
groups. Yet the traditional thinking remains. Governor Dayton in his
inaugural described his three top priorities as jobs, balancing the
budget, and improving government services.
We can change this;
can gradually develop an innovative sector that uses other approaches.
Minnesota has a
history of innovation in the public sector. The Citizens League began with
the redesign of the policy making side of government: charter reform,
later the restructuring of local government in the metropolitan area and
of state government. But by the end of the '60s attention moved to the
operating side of the public sector as welfare, public housing, and
transport began to be called into question. In the '70s we began
generating this concept of innovation and public service options. Some of
this involved contracting as a form of service alternative to the public
bureau. But much of looked toward alternatives to service.
Communicating the 'split screen' to state leaders
Hopefully the state
will now to get back to this fundamental thinking.
In the '60s when the
Twin Cities area was struggling with its metropolitan problems some
legislators initially thought the state had to step in to decide those
issues. After that failed-as a solution to the regional sewerage
problem-the Legislature was finally persuaded that the job of the state
was to make the system that could make the decisions. And in 1967
that's what the state did. This was an institutional innovation.
State government is
not mainly in the business of service-delivery. Mainly it works through
others: through counties, through school districts, through
municipalities. The job of the state is to create systems that work.
As the agenda
increasingly comes to be about how to change, the state should
design-re-design-these systems to encourage innovation. It should not get
itself in the business of approving proposals for innovation. It should be
opening new ways for innovative models to appear.
It should be
encouraging-even requiring-counties and cities and schools to be trying
things. Should give up the notion there is some one 'right way.' It really
is curious how often people believe a problem can have only one solution.
Often several things will work. Trying several things will help us
understand more quickly what works best.
This is the strategy
of the split screen; dual-track; whatever. The state's answer to the
central question: How?
The change will be
gradual. The service model will continue on for a long time, needing to be
improved. It was 50 years from the time the brothers started Target
Corporation to the time Dayton-Hudson sold the department store to Macy's.
Innovations will, similarly, need continuing improvement, since new models
are always imperfect at the start. (Think about the first water ski, the
first outboard motor.)
But it is time to get
Minnesota started on this two-track, split-screen strategy: Improvement