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 Response Page - Johnson / Rollwagen  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Verne Johnson and John Rollwagen Interview of


John Rollwagen and Verne C. Johnson reflect on the need for vision and planning in both private and public sectors and consider whether lessons learned in private sector planning may be applied to the public sector. The need for a state vision is discussed, as are ideas about how to arrive at one.

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 Rollwagen and Johnson. 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. Vision of future is necessary. (8.7 average response) Minnesotans need a concise statement of what they aspire their state to be, expressed in a way people can understand and support. A vision is a conception of the future, not a statement of where the state is today.

2. Start with basic questions.  (8.1 average response) To achieve a mutually desirable end, visioning in Minnesota should start with questions such as: What does it mean to live in Minnesota? What’s the state all about? What should it be about? Why do I want to live here?

3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock. (8.2 average response) However, fundamental disagreement is present on the direction of the state, and until that is resolved there will be gridlock.

4. Public/private approaches differ. (8.6 average response) Preparing a vision in the private sector is fundamentally different from the public sector.  In the private sector those who don't buy in to a vision can leave or be made to leave. But in the public sector all are included and all are affected by the state's vision or lack thereof. Decision-making in the public sector must incorporate a panoply of interests.

5. Governor should lead effort. (7.3 average response) The Governor could play a key role by appointing a broadly representative commission to develop a vision for the state.

6. Competing visions inevitable. (4.5 average response) One vision for the state isn't realistic. There'll always be competing visions because of political differences.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Vision of future is necessary.







2. Start with basic questions.







3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock.







4. Public/private approaches differ.







5. Governor should lead effort.







6. Competing visions inevitable.







Individual Responses:

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

4. Public/private approaches differ. I think this is a bit over simplified.  If you don't like it where you live you can also leave (not easily maybe but then finding a new job isn't easy either).  I would agree that since the public sector, at the state level, is generally much larger than most companies and the range of interests is bound to be bigger.

5. Governor should lead effort. On the other hand, getting a "broadly-representative" group in today's partisan environment to agree on anything is problematic at best.

James Kielkopf  (0)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (10)

1. Vision of future is necessary. If such a statement were possible, it would be the outcome of a contested political process, which is no different than that which the current process allows for.  With each election of a new governor, the candidates essentially craft a vision statement and take it to voters every four years.  What could another contested vision statement possibly add to that?

2. Start with basic questions.  These are the questions that candidates for public office in Minnesota should be asking during each election.

3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock. This is not insightful.

5. Governor should lead effort. This would be a political game.  It might be helpful for gaining a greater consensus than what was obtained during the last election, but it would be just another form of that game.

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (0)

Scott Halstead  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

6. Competing visions inevitable. Perhaps the vision should come from the citizens, and the citizens measure how the governor and legislature perform on attaining the vision.

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

1. Vision of future is necessary. Unless we have a vision of the future, how can we realistically set goals for the present?

3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock. How can we plan for the future when we have the present system of political election funding with its goals for the present?

4. Public/private approaches differ. However the private sector has the advantage because the funding and results are for that private enterprise, not (for) the diverse public sector factions.

6. Competing visions inevitable. That's the problem. Diverse political funding leads to multiple visions.

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

Bruce Ahlgren  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (2.5)

3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock. We need both parties to work for the people first and the party second, not the other way around.

4. Public/private approaches differ. In the private sector you can choose your own destiny at anytime.  In the public sector if you stay there so long and do not move on, the golden handcuffs keep you there to the end, especially if you are a dedicated public servant.

5. Governor should lead effort. I believe the governor does just that.  The governor appointed me to the Tax Reform/LGA committee that is comprised of Democrat, Independent and Republican Mayors.  Not that we have to declare, but it is represented by all minds.

6. Competing visions inevitable. We need to elect people who want to work for the people not just the party.  There is so much work that should be done for the good of the state and people; the party should come some where down the line.

Josh D. Ondich  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)  (0)

1. Vision of future is necessary. A branding message rather than a concise statement is perhaps a better way to express what is needed. Citizen understanding and buy-in to the message is what is needed.

2. Start with basic questions.  Question asks the fundamental first question in establishing a vision of a company or organization. To achieve this answer will require input from all parts and demographics of the state not just a small group, handpicked and considered experience wonks. This must be built by all the people.

3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock. It is not clear if the disagreement is on the direction of the state or some of the paths to achieve the objective. Many of the people working to do legislation do not understand the difference between a vision and state objectives/message and paths forward, so they focus on the path not the objective. It will take leadership and a well-defined process to get to the point.

4. Public/private approaches differ. This simply stated says that leadership and buy-in must be the first objective before doing the vision. People across the state must recognize that someone cares about the future, and all must join in. Then all interest groups will be there.

5. Governor should lead effort. We and others place far too much focus on the governor as the answer to the state vision and future. The people are the future. The citizen leaders across the state are the future. Citizen groups recognizing the need and working together, as is happening across the state, is the answer. We cannot ignore the work that is in process; we must use this work and move ahead not waiting for a governor to say he is in charge.

6. Competing visions inevitable. This question again gets to the understanding of vision vs. the actions to get there. Difference will and should exist regarding the path, but a singular vision or a short list of vision messages common across the political spectrum is needed and can be done with good understanding of the process.

David Dillon  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (5)

5. Governor should lead effort. Maybe a governor but not this governor, nor likely any governor elected out of the current system that starts with the most polarized (the tiny minority that goes to the caucuses) and selects candidates that appeal to (those) from the extremes.

6. Competing visions inevitable. Maybe so, but a good vision, well articulated, can gather enough support to be sufficient to govern.

Dennis L. Johnson  (2.5)  (5)  (10)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)

1. Vision of future is necessary. I don't think one will ever find a consensus among residents of the state, and it is not necessary that there be one. Any vision will be ephemeral, since leadership is in a constant state of change.

2. Start with basic questions.  These questions are useful to get people thinking, but I think there will be as many answers as there are people expressing an opinion. For some it is jobs, for some it is recreation, for some it is education, for some it is inertia, for some it is family, etc.

3. Rigid disagreement yields gridlock. Minnesota must first choose between being a nanny state or an opportunity state. It is now deeply divided, and leaning toward the nanny state option. This choice is even more vital than trying to create a vision, which could possibly then ensue if a choice is ever made.

4. Public/private approaches differ. For that reason, there is little chance of a consensus on a vision in the public sector.

5. Governor should lead effort. I doubt it. What is to say that a succeeding governor will adopt the vision of his or her predecessor?

6. Competing visions inevitable. Very true

Malcolm McDonald  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

All 10's because they are all so true.  What we need also is to identify what is working well and how to have more of it.  Much of what we now are forced to do comes from not focusing, and we can so focus, on having each and every 2 to 3 year old looking forward to and actually attending a high quality pre-school tied to local kindergartens and funded (by) the income from the investments provided by the Permanent School Trust Fund

Chuck Lutz   (10)  (10)  (8)  (8)  (9)  (3)

Al Quie   (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (1)

Rollwagen and Johnson are a couple of the most thoughtful and capable people to speak on this subject, and their recommendations are excellent. However, I have some additional thoughts on the matter. I think we should start with values before the vision, and of course vision is different from planning. The leader articulates the vision and the organizations carry it out, but the leader must live, demonstrate and occasionally articulate the values. The three most important values are rigid, complete integrity; aggressive, courageous collaboration; and no excuses. It could be expressed in the three words, truth, grace and transparency. Grace without truth can be deceptive. Truth without grace can be debilitating. The people are intellectual enough and emotionally strong enough to know the truth.

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

Great piece - I am anxious to see who picks up on these ideas and suggestions.

Wayne Jennings   (10)  (10)  (3)  (8)  (9)  (2)

Exciting discussion. I would have liked some examples of state visions or a trial statement from the participants. Making an all encompassing vision for the state may be too amorphous to be more than a slogan, e.g. something about the “good life” or “first” or “marching in the future.”
I would hope not. I can see something like the phrase, “giving all citizens the means for a democratic, just and sustainable lives” but any statement leads to very different interpretations.
I can more easily see vision statements for each of major divisions of state government such as education (preparing students for success), labor (ensuring Minnesota's work and living environments are equitable, healthy and safe), transportation (your destination, our priority). Maybe it starts there.
Mission statements must then guide every action. Every word of the mission must be parsed for its meaning and implications. The best example I know of is the Chugach School District in Alaska which over eight years totally reversed its awful outcomes and in the process won the Malcolm Baldrige award, the first school district to do so ( I recall a speaker describing how staff spent three days just examining every word of their mission for its meeting and implications and (whether) every staff member really subscribed to the mission. From the mission, they built a unique program. It took time but the district accomplishes outstanding results despite a very high-needs population.
Thank you Civic Caucus for your stimulating discussions of pressing issues.

Tom Spitznagle   (10)  (8)  (7)  (9)  (10)  (2)

Stephen Bosacker   (10)  (8)  (4)  (4)  (3)  (3)

When people or groups think they can win over other groups in conversations about vision and direction, trust is degraded and openness to further conversations erodes. Minnesota politics have degraded to a stance of one side winning and therefore "deeming" that our state vision is their vision. This is a false vision. Because of the highly divided rhetoric in political settings, real conversations about dreams, vision and desires for the future of MN are naturally hindered. Private and public discussions that are converted to win-lose propositions do not create genuine agreement. As soon as groups play the power game everyone retreats into their corners to fight.

However, it is proven that large citywide discussions produce meaningful decisions. This can be expanded to counties and the state. Rod Collins ( developed a practice called Work Thru's. This practice works when specific rules are followed in conversations and discussions. The rules forbid tactics that politicize the discussion (one group wins over another). While developed in a private setting, these principles and practices can be adapted to larger scale public conversations. Small and large group conversations are accomplished every month. See St. Louis Park's visioning for the next 10 years (2009, While St. Louis Park did not get 100% participation, the events represented a significant portion of the city and contributed to large scale, long term plans for the city.

For Minnesotans to agree on a shared vision there needs to be a guided and open series of conversations in multiple directions between many different groups. The participants need to enforce the rules of conversation to keep things from getting politicized. Focusing on personal values and aspirations for their lives is an important starting point. Most groups need help to guide them to positive and agreeable conclusions. Trained facilitators can help with this.

I believe political leaders must demonstrate to the state that respectful and non-power-oriented conversations can be done and result in meaningful agreement. Then they can encourage everyone else to have similar conversations. Alternatively, the people at the grass roots can just start without the political leaders and eventually override the political power plays. The issues and complexities of our issues are too important for us to play the same old political games. Compromise or domination will not create the solutions we need. Similarly, if the governor creates a commission to develop a vision for MN, it will backfire due to the distrust and power plays politically motivated people use to win.

Carolyn Ring   (8)  (6)  (9)  (10)  (8)  (5)

In question 5 the emphasis should be on "broad based."

George Pillsbury   (10)  (5)  (8)  (10)  (10)  (5)


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
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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