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participants' responses to this interview.
Charles M. Denny, Jr.,
retired corporate leader,
and Charles Slocum, business consultant
An Interview with
The Civic Caucus
8301 Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Notes of the
David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Tom Gillespe,
(coordinator), Sallie Kemper, Dan Loritz (vice chair), Tim McDonald, Wayne
Popham (phone), Clarence Shallbetter
Summary of discussion
- Chuck Denny and Chuck Slocum discuss the nature of planning in the
business world, and how it can relate to government. Leadership should
come from both the government and business sectors for a clear direction
to emerge for the state, they argue.
Introduction of interviewees-
Charles M. Denny, Jr. spent his career working for Honeywell and
Telecommunications, from which he retired in 1991. Since then he has been
engaged as a civic volunteer in a variety of local organizations,
including serving as chair of the dean's advisory council of the
University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, vice chair of
The Minneapolis Foundation, member of the board of the Minnesota Civil
Liberties Union Foundation, and director of the Minnesota Center for
Corporate Responsibility. He has a degree from
is founder and President of the Williston group, a strategic management
consultancy. He is former President of the Arthritis Foundation of
Minnesota, Executive Director of the Metro Cable Network, and Executive
Director of the Minnesota Business Partnership. He also worked at
Honeywell in a corporate management capacity where he oversaw development
of several new business ventures. Slocum has a degree from Hamline
Minnesota does not have a strategic plan
does the idea of a public sector vision relate to the private sector, the
group wondered? Could the principles used in the private area be used in
the public area, and if so how?
The state should have a clear sense of direction
leadership or a plan for direction, the state may not be able to remain a
leader into the future.
Public and private leaders drive planning for the state
first question, Denny offered, is to consider why is it necessary to do
planning in the first place. "It is a function of the environment the
organization finds itself in," he observed. "For some businesses,
strategic planning is mandatory for success. In others, opportunistic day
to day focus on implementation is most successful.
an organization commits to a strategic plan, it is vital to talk with
everyone in the organization in order to have broad based ownership."
approaches are valid, Denny said. He described that through a career as
director of six companies in addition to his own, each one was a different
experience - yet every one did a strategic plan. "Part of the reason is
that planning is a cult," Denny said. "If you're not doing one you're on
has said if he had any success it's because they are not part of a
strategic plan. Opportunities presented themselves and if he'd had a plan
he may have missed them."
said that he was fortunate to be on Honeywell CEO Ed Spencer's corporate
business planning staff. He described once retaining Harvard's Michael
Porter, author of the best selling "Competitive Strategies" for a year
long competitive analysis training project. The four components to
successful planning: (1) Vision - got to have confirm a sense of who you
are and what you're doing; followed by (2) Mission; (3) Values; (4)
planning process should be inclusive
troops are the ones creating the culture," Denny said. The mission often
appears to be the voice of the directors, whose voice comes from on high,
like god. It is management's task to balance robust and exciting
innovation coming up from the bottom of the organization with top-down
gave his advice to would-be entrepreneurs: Revisit your plan every month.
"I live with the expression that: Life is what happens when you're busily
best-laid plan, which is a masterpiece when it's printed, begins to show
signs of wear almost immediately.
be able to create a structure that is enduring, but particular components
will need to be constantly changed. What I thought was a good plan often
failed because we lost a key player or market conditions suddenly
Structural planning drives a lot of good things, but it can be informal as
well, Slocum added.
rare for boards of directors to meaningfully participate in the process of
strategic planning. It is an asset if a board has a director with
brilliant insight and wisdom, with unlimited time to provide advice and
there are regular constraints: Of time, and expertise. If the director
knows the industry well then there is probably a conflict.
Applying strategic planning to the state
said that he does not think governors we elect are required to demonstrate
the value of a strategic planning skill set.
prospects for planning are further constrained with required elections
every two years, thus resulting in a short term attention span.
Governor certainly can bring people together to plan, and create a
planning agency, Slocum said - though planning does occur as a function of
government's work. Government is responsible for major infrastructure and
so must be looking way ahead. There is a tremendous amount of planning
that takes place in a department like transportation.
question about execution a participant asked the speakers to compare how a
governor or CEO deal with people in key positions that don't carry out
private enterprise there can be people that have their own plan and their
own support." Denny observed. "But, they can eventually be dealt with."
government part of the issue is that the commissioner is appointed by the
government, then the permanent undersecretary is the one who runs
permanent staff of government are the crew of cruise ship. Passengers -
i.e. elected officials - come and go, but the crew remains."
vision is to be the best
up in a state that had the assumption that we were the best - our
education systems, our parks, our roads, and our cultural institutions,"
Denny said. That belief and the quality of our public infrastructure grew
out of some kind of culture. Maybe it's not that a state should have a
plan, he observed, but a culture.
state is about delivering services and bettering people's lives.
still have a plan even if you don't create a plan," Slocum added. It seems
to me we're much wiser setting that plan.
participant asked whether a broad-based, foundation-driven commission is
an essential element to developing a state vision or strategic plan. It
has to be broader than the political context, the speakers observed. It
must include the senior leaders thought to be visionaries.
close, Slocum observed that an advantage of the corporate world is that it
operates in a culture using the concept of return on investment (ROI) for
benchmarking. Corporations are created to create wealth and so the ROI is
used. "I would argue development of our public ROI needs careful
refinement. That allows state policymakers to build a vision. I would
place this as an 8-10 in terms of something that needs to be done."
said that he is continually intrigued with the vision. "For me it always
starts there. It's the long-term cement that holds organizations together.
It's not only like cement but it's nourishment that directs peoples'
creativity toward the fulfillment of that mission."
against public funding for the stadium, but said that the situation again
indicates that Minnesotans believe we're one of the top ten states in the
nation. "In fact we're 21th in GDP. We're aspiring to be more
than we are. You need to leave it to the private groups to drive the