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 Response Page - Civic Caucus Internal Discussion - Unified Strategy Needed for Redesign Proposals  -      


These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Civic Caucus Internal Discussion of
10-19-2012.
 

OVERVIEW

Positive action on redesign proposals will be vastly enhanced if non-governmental organizations of varied persuasions demonstrate unified agreement on a limited number of issues. We believe the informal Discussion Group on Redesign (DGR), which includes representatives from a broad spectrum of organizations and which explicitly concentrates on innovation, is the logical body to (1) assemble a list of existing redesign ideas, (2) rate their level of consensus, (3) select a manageable number of those ideas and (4) enlist the aid of the groups who proposed the selected ideas in coalescing support around those ideas and developing proposed legislation to implement them.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Spending cuts, tax increases insufficient. (8.4 average response) State budgets can be mathematically balanced by cutting spending and/or increasing taxes, but neither option addresses improving public services.

2. Services must be redesigned. (7.7 average response) Services must be redesigned to maintain and improve quality in light of perennial budget constraints.

3. Proposals emerge outside government. (7.4 average response) It's more likely that redesign proposals will emerge within the non-governmental sector than among elected officials, who are better equipped to respond than initiate.

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. (6.7 average response) Consensus is more likely among non-governmental organizations than would be expected within the Legislature, which encounters frequent political paralysis.

5. The DGR should lead. (6.2 average response) The Discussion Group on Redesign (DGR) appears to be an appropriate group for selecting and advancing a limited number of redesign proposals around which substantial consensus is evident.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Spending cuts, tax increases

insufficient.

8%

4%

0%

25%

63%

24

2. Services must be redesigned.

0%

20%

4%

24%

52%

25

3. Proposals emerge outside government.

4%

4%

12%

52%

28%

25

4. Consensus more likely among non-

governmental groups.

4%

8%

28%

36%

24%

25

5. The DGR should lead.

4%

8%

40%

32%

16%

25

Individual Responses:

Anonymous (2.5) (2.5) (0) (2.5) (0)

Ray Ayotte (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (5)

Don Anderson (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. As long as we have the present political climate which relies on political contributions to publicize for lengthy campaigns we will not have a consensus.

5. The DGR should lead. As long as we can get the public to support the work of DGR.

Chris Brazelton (10) (10) (5) (7.5) (5)

3. Proposals emerge outside government. If our elected officials are better equipped to respond to ideas than initiate them, then we are electing the wrong officials. We must reform the way we select and endorse our leaders.

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. None of us is completely immune to politics and political pressure and bias. However, unelected people whose income is not necessarily derived and dependent upon a particular policy might be able to find and build upon consensus.

5. The DGR should lead. I like the idea but do not have enough information on the members of the DGR to know if they are the appropriate group. I would love to find a way to involve more members of the public in brainstorming sessions around various topic areas (perhaps on on-air/online partnership with PBS and electronic meeting technology) and then draw work groups from topic experts and appropriate members of the public who might emerge from such a partnership to work through the best ideas and turn them into bill-ready proposals. Because of groups like ALEC with suspect agendas, in order to gain public trust and support the process needs to be as open, public and transparent as possible.

Eugene Piccolo (10) (10) (5) (10) (5)

3. Proposals emerge outside government. Government does not provide incentives for innovation and redesign of services to its employees. Government needs to create incentives for its workforce to redesign its services as well as look to the non-government sector.... it (is) not nor should it be an either/or situation.

Bruce A. Lundeen (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10) (7.5)

1. Spending cuts, tax increases insufficient. In the end deficits and shortfalls will force cutting spending and/or increasing taxes. It is only the lack or availability of cold, hard cash that causes change.

2. Services must be redesigned. Alleged "services" must be cut. It would seem that public outcry alone should not be the driving force that creates and continues services. Could informed members of the public on government Boards, not bureaucracies that seem unable to relinquish authority, be more efficiently empowered to determine how to govern. An example: the Metro Council, even though it seems a landing zone for former popular members of the legislature.

R. C. Angevine (10) (7.5) (10) (5) (5)

1. Spending cuts, tax increases insufficient. We need new ideas and new innovative thinking.

2. Services must be redesigned. We also need to be looking at what services are needed going forward and which ones currently being provided are no longer needed.

3. Proposals emerge outside government. The ideas need to originate with those who would be most affected. That is rarely the politicians who would have to implement them.

Jim Mulder (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (5)

1. Spending cuts, tax increases insufficient. The budget challenge is just a symptom of the bigger problem of non-sustainability. The cost growth curves in education, care for seniors and other programs as compared to economic growth curves makes a math solution the wrong approach.

2. Services must be redesigned. The list of services that must be redesigned is staggering: court systems, water quality and quantity, human services, tax systems, etc.

3. Proposals emerge outside government. If leaders in the legislature are willing to (be) bold, change can happen. A better strategy would be to support change at the local level.

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. You will get consensus only on issues that do not affect them.

Joseph Lampe (10) (10) (10) (5) (10)

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. Non-governmental organizations may well be as intransigent in protecting their slice of the pie and ideological stances as the intransigent Legislature and Governor are. Many incompatible agendas are out there.

Jack Evert (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (10)

1. Spending cuts, tax increases insufficient. Redesign of services is essential. The old methods just won't work anymore.

3. Proposals emerge outside government. I think leadership from non-government groups is very important, but to say with all the resources the government has, that it is basically incapable of generating new, good ideas, I think is untrue and inadequate.

5. The DGR should lead. From what I see of the DGR in Civic Caucus communications, it seems like an environment where innovation could flourish and creativity abound. Have at it.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

5. The DGR should lead. The DGR should prepare a report card of the various redesign proposals and the Legislature and Governor's action or non-action. The report should be released to all of the traditional and nontraditional media for publication several times including prior to caucuses. It also should be maintained on the DGR website, all partners and provided to the League of Women Voters for use in debates. I suggest that the Civic Caucus become statewide. Perhaps it should be on public television or public radio. That would lend credibility to information generated to DGR by the Civic Caucus if there was support on a broader basis. Perhaps DGR should broadcast/print its draft proposals on the media and allow comments by the public.

Vici Oshiro (10) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5)

Peter Hennessey (0) (2.5) (10) (0) (5)

1. Spending cuts, tax increases insufficient. This is the only thing that government can do. Tax and spend.

2. Services must be redesigned. You begin by asking, first of all, is it appropriate for government to be providing the service? Then, if and only if the answer is yes, government is the only entity to provide that particular service, then you look at how efficiently it can deliver it, and what are the causes of inefficiencies that need to be eliminated.

3. Proposals emerge outside government. Bureaucracies resist any notion of putting themselves out of work. Their drive for self-preservation expands exponentially with the amount of time and money allocated to them; it is a vicious positive feedback loop. Innovation will come only from the recognition that most government services arose by taking over from churches and private charities, and the decision to re-privatize those services.

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. The further you remove services from politics, the better for everybody, except the politicians, of course.

5. The DGR should lead. I have my doubts; "too many cooks ..." I think the answer lies in rekindling civic pride and community involvement that leaves as much as possible up to private initiative and as little as possible in the hands of politicians and government bureaucrats. And the first place to start is to dispense with viciously misleading terms such as "entitlements." No one is "entitled" to the fruits of others' labors; no one's need is a valid claim on the resources of others. It is up to people to find ways to help each other out of care, respect and concern for each other, without government coercion.

Jack Swanson (8) (8) (8) (10) (5)

Chuck Slocum (10) (5) (8) (8) (5)

2. Services must be redesigned. Those services that are most necessary and most ineffective should take priority…some services are being delivered properly.

3. Proposals emerge outside government. Maintaining a professional presence with policymakers is always a challenge. There is resistance to change that is difficult to overcome.

4. Consensus more likely among non-governmental groups. Find and work through long term mentoring with those lawmakers that have demonstrated interest and competence in redesign of essential programs.

5. The DGR should lead. While familiar with the group, I have only attended one meeting and do not know the focus and commitment of the very impressive group.

Tim Hall (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

This is basically what I ran on for state senate.

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10) (7) (9)

David Perlman (0) (2) (5) (5) (5)

Questions 1 and 2: tax increases alone would provide money needed to provide services -- there is still the issue of how much tax increase vs. how much service, but resorting to "redesign" is tantamount to surrender to Grover Norquist. Questions 3 – 5: my response of "5" simply means that I don't know. I will say, however, that we would get more of a consensus if both legislature and governor were of the same party, and that party had better be the Democrats, or we're back to problems with questions 1 and 2. A consensus that says no taxes, no services is not a useful consensus.

Carolyn Ring (10) (10) (7) (7) (9)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (8) (7) (9) (8) (7)

Robert J. Brown (10) (10) (7) (8) (2)

Why should only one group be appropriate for this? Why not a competition for redesign activities with ideas submitted to public forums sponsored by community organizations, schools and colleges, etc.?

Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (9) (7) (7) (5)

It depends who are the members of the DGR. I would like to know who they are and what organizations do they represent, before answering this question.

John Adams (9) (10) (8) (5) (8)

Roy Thompson (7) (7) (8) (9) (7)

Shari Prest (na) (3) (1) (1) (1)

Sharon Anderson (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Tom Spitznagle (10) (10) (6) (8) (6)

I have attended numerous meetings of the Legislature’s bipartisan Redesign Caucus and have shared my thoughts with them in the letter below. Perhaps you may find some of my ideas on this critically important challenge useful.

Operational Redesign Considerations

Redesign Caucus

June, 2011

Dear Representative McFarlane,

First of all I would like to thank you for your earlier invitation to speak at the Redesign Caucus and for the Minnesota Legislature’s interest in this very important topic.  I have listened to others address this caucus and have been impressed by the thoughtfulness of many of the ideas put forward.

My comments below will focus on the operational aspects of redesign – what it is and how might it best be approached, or, in other words, how might someone actually approach a redesign of Minnesota government operations.

Background

Some background first:  I am a life-long citizen of Minnesota.  I do not represent any public or private organization nor am I engaged in any for-profit pursuits.  I simply am interested in efficient and effective government operations.

I am a board member of Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners (MSRPO), a citizen group that represents the interests of lake and forest land property owners at the Minnesota Legislature.  My involvement with MSRPO has led me to this caucus.  MSRPO is also very interested in efficient government.

My professional experience comes from companies like Dayton-Hudson & Target Corp, various divisions of Control Data/Ceridian Corp, Unisys, Midwest Federal, & Health Risk Management where I served in many different roles relating to operational efficiency including strategic and financial planning executive, internal audit executive, operations consultant, quality systems and IT projects manager, systems auditor, systems analyst and system designer.  As an independent consultant, my clients included Alliant Tech Systems, Fallon McElligott, Northcott AmericInn, Conseco, non-profits like the National Minority AIDS Council in Washington, DC, Minnesota’s 12 county South Country Health Alliance and many others across various industries.

I hold an MBA from the U of M’s Carlson School and have earned several professional internal auditing and information systems certifications.

The common theme of my work has always been operational effectiveness and operational efficiency.  It’s been the primary focus of my professional life.

Understanding Operational Redesign

What is operational redesign?  Is it re-engineering?  Is it continuous quality improvement?  Is it like ISO 9000?  They all are very similar at their core. 

Objectives of operational redesign:  Serving customers (i.e. - Minnesota citizens) needs to a high degree of satisfaction while keeping costs as low as possible by employing efficient operational processes that also help to minimize waste and fraud.

Operational redesign in the business world is forced by changing customer needs, competition, new technologies and new regulations.  In the public sector, new regulations (statutes) play a key role in redesign.  Almost any new bill approved and signed into law will force redesign at some level of government.  So, legislators are continuously initiating operational redesign at some level.

It is important to recognize that effective operational redesign at the enterprise (state) level is an ongoing examination of all operational processes to determine how well they function together and to identify which ones need to be redesigned in order to satisfy the objectives noted above.

Piecemeal redesign of independent operational processes at a department, county or city level is always underway and also achieves some valuable gains.  But meaningful, long term gains can also be achieved by examining all operational processes (state, county, city, school district, etc.) as an integrated system, or at the "enterprise" level.  By doing so, functional overlap and duplication at various levels of government can more readily be identified and addressed.  Operational systems also can be more easily designed to maximize efficiencies using an enterprise focus as opposed to building interfaces between the disparate, independently designed operational systems of several levels within the state "enterprise".

Framework: Government & Business

Framework for discussion:  Government is a large organization with many of the same characteristics as a large corporation.  They both have customers to satisfy and must operate within financial limitations (budget).  Both desire to serve their customers well (add value) so that they can continue to prosper.  Both are comprised of numerous divisions (state, county, city, school districts, etc.) and departments (DNR, MNDOT, Dept of Revenue, Assessors, Public Safety, etc.).

The obvious difference is the much more political environment of public organizations and the impacts that this often has on the design of government operations.

Getting Started – the How and Why

So how does one get started with redesign of Minnesota government operations?

First of all, there is no pre-established or best practices "canned" approach for performing an undertaking of this nature.  There are guidelines or frameworks that can be employed and some of these will be discussed later.  Be wary of anyone who already seems to know what it is that Minnesota should do to redesign its overall government operations in order to become more efficient.  It’s much more complicated than that.

It’s important to keep in mind that operational redesign projects are highly iterative in nature.  Subsequent steps in a redesign project are driven by what was learned in the previous steps.

Key Assumption:  to obtain maximum benefits, enterprise-wide operational redesign involves an overall examination of how government works in Minnesota as opposed to how efficiently some subset of government operations is working.  It’s best to periodically look at the structure of government operations in its entirety (state, county, city and all other public entities) not just how well some subset (e.g. – MNDOT or the DNR) is working.

Why do this?  All organizations, business or government, have a certain amount of independence and inertia.  They can have long-standing operations and budgets and will generally act to protect their independent interests.  They can be taken for granted because of this.  Sometimes nobody asks why or what is it costing to operate in a certain way. 

From a purely operational perspective, systems and processes are continually being modified in response to changing customer needs, new laws and competitive pressures to the extent that over time they can become so unwieldy and costly that, at some point, a complete redesign of operational processes using newer technology and revised operational structures and procedures is necessary.

So, the overall operations of large organizations are at risk of losing their effectiveness over time.  Large businesses experience this all of the time, so does government.  At some point (usually after considerable study) a top-level decision is made to do one or more of the following:

  • scrap one or more operational systems and design new replacements,
  • combine two or more divisions or departments or create a new one,
  • rearrange the responsibilities of some divisions or departments,
  • eliminate a division or department.

These are all potential outcomes of operational redesign.

The Importance of a Vision & Strategic Objectives

How useful is it to start out a redesign project with a vision statement and some strategic objectives?  Any large organization must have a strategy in mind to be effective.  Redesign cannot take place very effectively without some type of high-level direction that is agreed to by the management (in this case, the governor and legislature). 

In the absence of a vision and/or strategic objectives, then "any destination is fine if you don’t know where you’re trying to go".  Alternatively, "how can you know when you’ve met your objectives if you don’t know what they are?"  Neither of these situations is acceptable in any organization.

Agreeing on a vision for Minnesota should be achievable regardless of political affiliations.  For example, a vision might be: "Minnesota will be a leader among states in citizen satisfaction".

Some possible strategic objectives to support this vision may be:

  • "Minnesotans will be well-educated"
  • "Minnesota will be a good place for businesses to grow"
  • "Minnesotans will have effective health care"
  • "Minnesota government will be efficient"
  • "Minnesotans will have excellent recreational opportunities"

Note – the above sample strategic objectives are rough examples and need to be enhanced so that they are quantifiable, measurable and prioritized.

How will you know if you are meeting these objectives?  Answer: ask your customers (citizens) and measure against quantifiable metrics.

Project Management Structure – a Key to Success

What kind of management structure is needed for a redesign project?  This is one of the most critical aspects of a public sector redesign project.  The Legislature or even the Governor is not well-suited to manage this type of project.  Their handicaps include inadequate long term continuity, insufficient project management expertise and closeness to the political process.

In order for such a project to be successful over the long term, it must be managed by experts in the management of enterprise-wide operational redesign projects and it should function in an environment that is as independent of the political process as possible.  In some ways, the Legislative Auditor’s Office can serve as an initial guide for setting up a redesign project management structure.  Both must have full and free access to all aspects of government operations (staff, procedures, costs, etc.) and be relatively independent in order to truly be effective.

The redesign project team should be staffed by independent contract consultants having deep enterprise-wide redesign project experience.  Day-to-day management should be provided by a project manager from within the same group.  The project manager should be free to enlist the assistance of public employees (state, county, city, etc.) throughout the project as project needs require.  Contractors have the following advantages:

  • Stronger independence and objectivity compared with public employees
  • Offer a broad pool of specialized expertise that can be tapped as needed
  • Easier to reconfigure the project team, if necessary based on changing conditions

An independent, non-partisan three person group of overseers, acting like a board of directors and also comprised of citizens having deep enterprise-wide redesign project experience, could be established to periodically monitor the project team to insure that they are making solid progress.  This group would also provide an interface with the Governor and Legislative Leaders while freeing the redesign project team to focus on its work.

At the same time that it is important to insure the independence of the redesign project team, it is also critical to emphasize the importance of participation in a redesign effort by all levels of government.  This includes public employees at the most basic levels of public service, whether it be a state, county or city function.  There must be a channel available for all employees (and/or their departments) to communicate their ideas about potential operational improvements or their concerns about potential adverse impacts on customer service or on the workforce itself.

The redesign project team must also insure that public employees are kept informed of the direction and progress of the redesign project.  Failing to communicate effectively with all affected parties can seriously jeopardize the success of a redesign project.

First Steps

The first step in any major redesign project is for the project team to understand the current operational environment.  Without this level of understanding, meaningful redesign benefits are much harder, or sometimes, impossible to achieve.  This is a very significant part of any redesign project.

From top to bottom, a solid understanding of all operational processes at the state, county, city and other government levels must be achieved.  Who is doing what?  Why are they doing it?  Who are their customers?  What systems or operations are employed?  How much does it cost?  What is their vision, strategic objectives or plans?  How satisfied are their customers?

This first step is essential in order to achieve a sense of how well the existing operational processes are working, to identify where operational overlap (duplication) is occurring and to be able to understand where the best opportunities for operational changes (redesign) exist.

Pitfalls

The politics of "who gets the money" to operate certain components of the overall public operational system in Minnesota (e.g. – public education, highway maintenance, natural resources, public safety, etc.) can, if not controlled, render an operational redesign effort useless.  If the politics of protecting turf rule the day over maximizing customer (citizen) satisfaction, then any effort at operational redesign will never be able to best serve all of the citizens of Minnesota.

Excessive political pressure to favor the interests of any particular group of constituents at the expense of the whole of Minnesota citizens can also greatly diminish the effectiveness of an operational redesign effort.

Redesign at the enterprise level can be a long term and costly undertaking.  Its success will require a long term commitment from folks who do not share the same political philosophy.  It will be tempting for some to use unrealistic expectations of short term gains combined with the long term costs of redesign for political leverage.  On the plus side, an enterprise level project can be compartmentalized or staged in order to help address concerns about scope and costs.

Benefits

The primary goal of operational redesign is to achieve the objectives of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency noted earlier.  It is safe to say that there currently is a high degree of public concern over how well government at all levels is satisfying these objectives.  Enterprise-wide operational redesign can lead to improvements that will serve as evidence to citizens that government is serious about how it spends taxpayer money. 

As importantly, redesign can allow government to maintain adequate levels of service at a lower cost.  This can help to address another common citizen perception that government’s primary solution to inadequate operational performance is to allocate more money to the department or agency involved.

Summary

Continually striving to improve operational effectiveness is one of the primary responsibilities of the management of any enterprise and it is also one of the most positive undertakings an enterprise can engage in.

Sincerely,

Tom Spitznagle   MBA, Certified Internal Auditor (retired), Certified Information Systems Auditor (retired), Certified Systems Professional (retired)
 

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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