here for PDF format
to see participants' responses to this interview.
Geno Fragnito, Director of Government Relations, Minnesota Society
Michael Casserly, Sr., member, Minnesota Society of CPAs
8301 Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Dan Loritz (vice-chair), Janis Clay,
Paul Gilje (phone),
Sallie Kemper, Tim
McDonald, Wayne Popham (phone), Alberta Spreafico
Summary of meeting:
Two representatives from
professional association and an executive recruiter describe the need from
their perspective for a state vision. Such a vision must be led by the
governor, but may be supported and encouraged by the legislature. A vision
that describes what the state seeks to be is a necessary precursor to
Welcome and introductions
Leafblad is a Principal with KeyStone Search (http://www.keystonesearch.com)
an executive search company. He joined KeyStone in 2007 after serving as
Director of Development for the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public
Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He began his career in a
leadership development program with GE Capital and subsequently spent two
years helping launch a high-tech start-up, Four51.com. Lars earned a BA in
Economics from St. Olaf College, and his MBA with a concentration in
Strategic Management from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of
is Director of Government
Relations at the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA).
Managing MNCPA's government relations programs, he represents CPAs at the
Capitol and works to ensure legislators are educated on the issues that
affect the CPA profession. Previously, Fragnito worked as Legislative
Coordinator of the Minnesota State Lottery and served as Committee
Administrator of the Minnesota State Senate legislative staff.
Michael Casserly Sr.
was born and reared in
Chicago but has lived and
practiced accounting in
for nearly forty years. Michael is an active member of the Minnesota
Society of CPA's Legislative Affairs Committee and
B. Comments and discussion
needs a vision and strategic plan
spent four years engaging donors with the Humphrey School of Public
Affairs-an organization that believes in public leadership. That planted
the seeds for a lot of conversations that led to my current career
connecting new leaders with organizations. During the past election, I
worked with Kerri Miller and MPR to create their new "The Job Interview
for Governor" program, which was produced to assess the gubernatorial
election through the lens of Minnesota as a hiring organization recruiting
a new CEO. (Readers can view archived transcript and video footage here:
Throughout all of these
experiences, I have continued to hear from friends and fellow Minnesotans
about a troubling lack of vision for our state. Besides the 'what' and
'how' of management, there is the 'why' of leadership. Great leaders are
able to articulate without hesitation where they are going and why. In my
opinion, we have yet to find that leader willing or able to articulate
what Minnesota's direction is or should be and that's incredibly
The last time we had a
formal strategic plan for the state of Minnesota was in 1991, the last
time the Twins won the World Series. We all had a common idea of where we
were trying to go. I think there is an opportunity now to build not just a
plan for our state, but also a prospectus for our future investment. As a
state we should be thinking about presenting our citizens with an
investment prospectus in the same way a corporation produces a prospectus
for potential shareholders.
For Leafblad's interview
with Line Magazine on a vision for the state, see:
Leafblad encouraged the
Civic Caucus to participate in MinnPost-sponsored Pollen,
"a virtual community of 3,500+ civic-minded MN
connectors who share jobs, board openings, ideas, and peer-to-peer
recognition to create more opportunities for impact." See:
an association of CPA's we asked: If not this-if not a state plan-then
what? We started thinking, put together a committee, and began to realize
that while we could make recommendations for the direction of the state,
if there were no vision of what the state should seek to become, then how
would we know where we were trying to go?
If the state were the
trusted client of a CPA firm, what would we say about that client's
long-term prospects? We came to the determination that there is a lot to
suppose about the state's future, but unless you have a well-defined
underlying objective, all those suppositions will fall apart. There are a
number of state agencies that have their own respective visions, but they
are in silos-they have their own unique mission/vision, which may not
align with other agencies' missions/visions.
During our process, which took about six months, we talked with a number
of people-state legislators, state employees-and it was amazing to me the
number of people that brought up the need for a state vision. We certainly
don't have a vision now. We haven't had leadership in a long time that was
willing to express a vision for the state. There is of course a need for a
plan, but for a plan to be relevant, a clear vision must come first.
For the report on vision
by the Minnesota Society of CPAs, see:
Focus on solutions, not just the problem and goals
general sense is there is that there is too much bemoaning of the problem
(e.g., the achievement gap), and people going on too much about the goals
(e.g., not to have an achievement gap). The important question is: How?
(How, for instance, do we achieve the goal of no longer having an
do we go about solving the vision problem? The MNCPA Legislative Affairs
Committee tries to spend a good deal of time helping Geno with his work at
the Capitol, and in the process we've been talking about this issue with a
number of people there. Right now, however, they're consumed with the
budget. Once that is settled we think we should convey this message about
needing a state vision to the Governor, and he should seek ideas from
State leaders and the public and establish consensus with the leadership
of both caucuses.
Among the people we've
talked with, they almost uniformly believe a vision should come from the
governor's office, and it should have the support of members of each
party. I particularly liked the phrase Lars Leafblad used to summarize a
worthy state vision: "We want to be on everyone's short list."
The governor must lead in declaring a vision
leadership has to come from the executive. As with a lot of things, it is
a matter of mindset.
you go back to the Minnesota Milestones process there was leadership by
the Governor to start that. There were 70+ items outlined to track
progress. That was too many. One of the problems with using too much
information is it can get too complex. It needs to be done at a scale
that's easily grasped.
A Civic Caucus participant:
I want to build on this,
and say it needs to start with the CEO of the state-the governor. In the
case of an aircraft carrier, you can have three people define the vision
and build it. If you try to build a new infantry rifle, you'll have
300,000 people wanting to provide input. Everyone's an expert in his or
her own way. The thing I'm encouraged about now is that with technology
the grassroots can also be engaged. The foundation community is asking how
community leaders can be engaged. But the effort should begin and end with
the governor. Further, when you create a vision you have to understand
it's not cast in bronze and is not going to be there forever. A vision
will evolve over time.
Q: One of the
reasons why the Governor can state a vision authoritatively is that he can
back it with initiatives because he has the ability to set agenda. Do you
get the sense the governor is working on this?
not getting a strong sense that this is something they're doing right now.
Wrestling with the budget is taking priority. I am sensing from the
legislative side that there is a lot of energy there to do something like
this-they could engage the Governor's staff and start the ball rolling.
Q: How could
the legislature lead?
think quite a few people would step forward, and something like this seems
to be in line with the agendas of those in their first terms. This is the
first time in many years where there seems to be a shift back to the kind
of 'citizen legislature' we once had in the past. Many of the new
legislators are people who have their own businesses; I've heard some new
legislators say they don't care if they get reelected. They feel they were
elected to make changes and have come to
to make some changes.
Perpich had The
Brainpower State. Presidents had the New Deal, Fair Deal, New Frontier,
Great Society, and Morning in America. Historically there have been many
more attempts to lay out 'where we're going to go.' It seems that for the
state this would be extremely helpful now.
has changed a lot since the Time cover in the 1970's that called us "The
State That Works." Both the cultural diversity and the political
polarization have increased substantially. In 1974, there was still a
climate of "let us reason together." In the setting today, is it too risky
for our CEO (governor) to venture forth with his particular notion of a
vision-or is it too risky to venture forth without a common vision?
There may be a lot of risk for him, but it depends on how fearful he is
that if he takes a position, it could cost him re-election. When one
considers the motivation of a 'professional legislature,' getting
reelected is very important to some lawmakers, so the risk may not be
acceptable. We hope the Governor is more concerned about the future of
Minnesota than he is about re-election.
Going back to the point
about themes through history (New Deal, etc.), those were banners that
could be waved around to rally people-but while people were rallying
around these themes in the past, they weren't being bombarded by other
conflicting messages through all the media channels made possible today by
technology. Today's media thrives on controversy and the ability to
disseminate it on a nearly instantaneous basis. This makes adoption of a
rallying theme difficult, but not impossible.
should be a "buy and hold" state
People are willing to invest if they know what they're building towards.
We want Minnesota to be a 'buy and hold' state, a state worth investing in for
the long term.
Right now we have a legislature out there saying we need to cut this, we
need to cut that. It's a tough job, but I think a lot of our legislators
have gone to the Capitol with a view that they have a mandate from the
public to balance the budget. I think a majority of voters would instead
say, 'we sent you there to get the job done', and the budget solutions
should follow from that.
One of the things we
realized when we were talking with people about previous planning
initiatives is that if the state had implemented some of the
recommendations in those reports, we might not be where we are today.
Minnesota more risk averse?
say, yes. For example, we've hit a low in venture capital coming in to the
state. As a culture, we've become placated; we think that we're pretty
good. Good is no longer good enough. We need entrepreneurs and
corporations to know we want them here in
We want Minnesota to be a "Good to Great" state always striving to lead
the way across all economic, education, and health/wellness performance
indicators, not making up ground against states that have long since
passed us by.
C. Closing -
What gives me hope is that the generations are working together. The Gen-Xers
and Millenials think very differently than the Baby Boomers that are now
leaving power. My hope is that the entrepreneurial and collaborative
orientations of these younger generations coupled with new technology will
create new ways to work together in
and beyond in Minnesota.
It's too risky to not do
something, because if we don't act, the world will pass us by. In that
sense we need to be risk aware. If we don't do anything we're exposed to
great risk-so we need our political and public leaders to expose
themselves in the short term to protect the state's long-term interest and
we need to collectively support those leaders.
I think of that famous
Wendy's ad, Where's the beef? I want to ask: "Where's the
Let's hope our current, and future, Governor(s) as the CEOs of our
state will answer that question.