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 Response Page - Denny / Slocum  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Charles M. Denny, Jr. and Charles Slocum  Interview of


Charles M. Denny, Jr. and Charles Slocum discuss the nature of planning in the business world and how corporate planning may inform government planning. While some believe the state has no officially stated guiding principle or “vision”, Minnesota does have, according to the speakers, an unofficial vision, which is simply that the state be “the best”. A vision for the future is valuable both to businesses and governments, they contend, but much easier to put into practice in the private sector, and they caution against seeking too many parallels between the two sectors. They point out that centralized decision-making such as that occurring in the private sector is not possible in the public sector. However, they assert that a state planning agency would be helpful in developing a useful vision statement to guide the collective decision-making of state government.

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 discussed by Denny and Slocum. 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. Unofficial state vision exists. (6.8 average response) While not officially identified, a long-standing vision has been present in Minnesota: that the state strives to be the best, in education, parks, roads, arts, music, and other endeavors.

2. Official state vision advantageous.  (7.7 average response) An official vision is valuable because it is the long-term cement that holds organizations together and the nourishment that directs peoples’ creativity.

3. Public ROI less easily defined. (7.9 average response) An official vision is much easier to enact in corporations than in the public sector because corporations insist on return on investment (ROI) for benchmarking. A public ROI isn't readily identified.

4. Corporate parallel not clear. (6.8 average response) One should exercise care in seeking direct parallels between business and the public sector. For some businesses, visioning is mandatory for success.  In others, opportunistic day-to-day focus on implementation is most successful.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. (6.3 average response) Visioning in business is usually centralized in top management. A centralized approach doesn't work in the public sector.

6. Planning agency would help.  (7.1 average response) With long-term thinking in the public sector constrained by elections every two or four years, an on-going state planning agency would help visioning.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Unofficial state vision exists.







2. Official state vision advantageous.







3. Public ROI less easily defined.







4. Corporate parallel not clear.







5. Top-down approach ineffective.







6. Planning agency would help.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)

2. Official state vision advantageous.  As mentioned, a long-term vision for state government is difficult because of the constant changes in legislators and administrators.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. If you have a visionary leader in the public sector, he/she can get other public servants to buy into the vision, even though the vision may only last as long as the leader is in office.

6. Planning agency would help.  Only in an advisory capacity.  The elected officials may accept or reject the agency's ideas.

Anonymous   (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (10)

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

6. Planning agency would help.  A State Planning Agency could operate without a next election looking over its shoulder. The biggest problem would be picking the leadership of the State Planning Agency - someone who would free of any political alliances.

Scott Halstead  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (5)

1. Unofficial state vision exists. I think Minnesota has lost its vision for education, parks and roads.  We have not had the political leadership to be the best.  We are going the wrong way and the consequences are going to be painful.

2. Official state vision advantageous.  In the government, you have to have political leaders that support the same vision.  We don't.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. Unfortunately, we have been electing leaders with very narrow vision and they fail to see the entire picture.

6. Planning agency would help.  Perhaps (it would help), if we had a scorecard and those elected leaders that failed to follow the plan found themselves on the unemployment line. A state planning agency should get input from state workers, local government, business, nonprofit organizations, planning organizations and citizens.

Robert H. Carlson  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)  (0)  (0)  (2.5)

3. Public ROI less easily defined. ROI unfortunately is the only bottom line for many corporations.  But many others (Medtronic for instance) strive for multiple bottom lines and find appropriate metrics for each one.  There is no reason why this can't be done in the public sector also.  Even though it may be more complex, appropriate metrics can be found.  As a caution, the metrics need to be more thoughtful than the typical political sound bites such as "no new taxes."  They must actually represent what we are trying to accomplish.

4. Corporate parallel not clear. As Yogi Berra said, if you don't know where you are going, you probably won't get there.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. Visioning can be collaborative and inclusive.  In fact, the best visioning is just that.

6. Planning agency would help.  We don't need another agency.  We may need to reorganize the department of administration.  Visioning and planning should be a central part of every agency, not just a "department of planning."

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (5)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (5)

1. Unofficial state vision exists. Minnesota now confines more non-violent citizen per 100,000 than any other state in this nation of ours that confines more of its citizens than any major government on the planet. Furthermore, it is racially motivated making us one of the 16 most racist states in the nation and we seem to be proud of it. It undermines all the other things you speak of here as well as social services, healthcare, and families.

2. Official state vision advantageous.  While this is a good business concept it doesn't quite fit into political reality. Creating a framework that both parties can take ownership of is going to be a lot more difficult and a lot looser than doing this within the confines of a business structure.

3. Public ROI less easily defined. It is not always about ROI in the public sector. Social justice doesn't fit in this ROI model.

4. Corporate parallel not clear. Such a plan would require the state legislature to end its micromanagement practices and push the authority and responsibility back out to the local level much as many businesses must do.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. We have a dysfunctional version of the top-down centralized planning now that is so screwed up that no agreement exists or is possible; garbage in, garbage out.

6. Planning agency would help.  A state planning agency is unlikely to be broadly enough based, (because of modern stakeholder choosing models), to connect with the public enough to be effective in the political arena where it needs to be applicable.

Pat Barnum  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Unofficial state vision exists. So what state government, or citizens of a state, would say otherwise? Haven't exactly heard, oh, "Mississippi - happy to lay near the bottom in every measurement".

6. Planning agency would help.  Sure - as long as it doesn't cost the taxpayers a dime. Otherwise you've just created yet another government entity, with little accountability, great growth potential, (that) ultimately will find a way to further constrain and constrict free enterprise.

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

1. Unofficial state vision exists. We strive to be the best we can be given limitations of climate and resources.

2. Official state vision advantageous.  To hold the "organization" together it must be a shared vision.  Our vision right now is held in the minds of separate individuals or groups and is not held in common.  Some want us to be the cheapest most profitable state in which to do business, with infrastructure taking a back seat to short term profitability. Others want a strong social safety net to reduce poverty and the challenges that affect livability yet fail to address the high cost of providing that and the burden it puts on businesses in a competitive global economy. The official vision needs to address and balance competing visions and needs, just as society must balance them or remain polarized.

3. Public ROI less easily defined. While most investments in the public sector have to have some sort of return on investment, that return is not always measurable in dollars and cents in a direct way.  Yet, by failing to recognize the indirect returns, we put things on the chopping block only to pay the price later in higher costs elsewhere.  For example, by focusing more on punishment than rehabilitation and retraining offenders in a criminal justice system, we release more adept criminals back into society later.  By failing to address school readiness we spend more on those children later in their education and lose more in lifelong unrealized incomes and productivity.

4. Corporate parallel not clear. We still need to know where we're going in order to plan the most efficient route.  We also need to revisit the plan regularly to take advantage of new opportunities and changing environment.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. The challenge is in overcoming partisan politics.  One group actively works to sabotage the other(s) for political gains or based on unbending ideologies.  I try to believe that most elected officials really do want what they think is best for the city, county, state and country.  We sometimes even agree on what we want, but disagree vehemently on how to get there.  What has broken down lately is the willingness to listen to experts in their fields, such as social scientists who study what works in large groups of people and go with what does work.  Instead we fight for what we think should work, even if history shows us repeatedly that it doesn't.

6. Planning agency would help.  That agency has to be set up to respond to a larger scale public visioning process and long term planning and less to short term political whims as new leaders emerge with new goals.  It is extremely costly to keep redirecting the state and trying to overhaul goals and strategies every couple of years.  Look at all the attempts to change public education.  New plans keep emerging before the previous ones have had a chance to work, and those trying to implement large-scale change are constantly frustrated.  In the meantime, the public is treated as guinea pigs, failures kicked to the curb.

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

1. Unofficial state vision exists. This vision was present among leadership.  I'm not convinced that it was widely shared and the costs understood among broad public.

2. Official state vision advantageous.  It certainly helps, but question relevancy for a state.

6. Planning agency would help.  Might help.  Effectiveness would depend on lots of factors many of which are independent of agency.

Dave Broden  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Unofficial state vision exists. While this is a vision often referred to by the civic groups, government, etc. it is not a view that is accepted or "owned" by citizens as a brand. This is at best a "soft" vision and does not drive good government decisions in all areas and topics.

2. Official state vision advantageous.  The key word here is "official"--is that what we want, and what is meant by official? Does that bring hooks or is it a solid buy-in by civic leaders, government, and all citizens. As thinking and action to establish a vision moves ahead, some consideration of what the word "official must be included and if “official” is not used what is the term and who is the "owner" and “tracker"--all citizens will be owners but there must be a leader function or functions to keep the vision actions moving.

3. Public ROI less easily defined. Corporations have a more focused agenda, products, and action than the broad range of government, and corporations have a more structured organizational flow down in many cases. The focus on ROI is valid but Corporate ROI on Visions and plans may not be dollar-oriented but technology, style, or product, etc. Defining a public ROI will be a key need but can be done.

4. Corporate parallel not clear. The parallel should be only in what a vision and related strategic plan with actions is and the process. Each organization, government or business, must establish a process that is adapted to the business and its style. For government it should be structured to connect with citizens across the state as well as the functional element. Making a state vision a state vision (and) not an element-by-element vision will be a challenge.

5. Top-down approach ineffective. The best visioning processes are those that are interactive and (go) up thru the organization and down also to converge on a united approach common to all.

6. Planning agency would help.  The State vision if owned and driven by both government and industry will be long-term-focused as it must and not be hooked to the election process and cycle. Long-term goals and action must be set.

Lyle Wright  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Donald Mark Ritchie  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Great interview and minutes, thanks again!

Mina Harrigan  (10)  (8)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (8)

Wayne Jennings  (7)  (8)  (9)  (8)  (8)  (9)

We used to have a state planning agency. Someone should examine how well it served. People talk about a vision for the state but don’t suggest language or give examples to think about. I look to the governor to preach a vision and to remind us frequently how we’re doing. I remember reading a Minnesota self-issued report card on how Minnesota was doing in a dozen or so fields. I haven’t seen that lately. It needs to be officially reenacted and publically displayed often to serve as a direction and inspiration that we can do better.

Chuck Lutz  (8)  (9)  (8)  (6)  (3)  (9)

Carolyn Ring  (8)  (8)  (9)  (8)  (6)  (8)

The best made plan will not succeed without strategic implementation and constant review.

Bright Dornblaser  (7)  (10)  (8)  (10)  (10)  (8)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (7)  (7)  (9)  (8)  (9)  (7)

Tom Spitznagle  (6)  (9)  (3)  (5)  (3)  (10)

Fred Zimmerman  (10)  (9)  (9)  (10)  (6)  (5)

I think very highly of both Chuck Denny and Chuck Slocum. Both are exemplary leaders in our community. Perhaps a State Planning Agency would be helpful, but it may fall prey to the same political forces that have captured other state agencies, such as Commerce, which, once in office, hire more staff and espouse principles but don't do very much work to put real principles in motion. Instead, we might make better use of existing organizations such as Citizens League, Civic Caucus, and some of the academic think tanks we already have in place.

Larry Schluter  (6)  (8)  (8)  (8)  (5)  (8)

There is a lot of difference between the planning in government vs. business.

Tom Swain  (7)  (9)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (2)



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 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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