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 Response Page - Kiedrowski / Gunyou  Interview -      


These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Jay Kiedrowski / John Gunyou Interview of
07-28-2011.
 

Overview

Today's discussion covers a Civic Caucus meeting with two former Minnesota State Finance Commissioners, Jay Kiedrowski, now senior fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and John Gunyou, now city manager, city of Minnetonka. They describe a need for public managers and administrators to be given the freedom and incentive to innovate. Those providing the services are most likely to identify new ways of doing things and have the final control over whether changes will be implemented well. State policy should be to set the goals for public services and then to step aside allowing local authorities to determine how to meet those goals.

For the complete interview summary see:  http://bit.ly/qbCesM

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 Kiedrowski and Gunyou. 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. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. (6.6 average response) Redesign should be led by middle level managers in state agencies and local units of government, not by elected officials.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. (7.0 average response) Elected officials should prescribe outcomes and leave innovation to the staff.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. (7.7 average response) There's no shortage of innovative ideas. The real problem is how to implement the ideas.

 

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Mid-level managers should lead effort.

11%

14%

8%

36%

31%

36

2. Elected officials should set outcomes.

8%

17%

3%

39%

33%

36

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key.

3%

11%

6%

43%

37%

35

Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

Jack Evert  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. As long as there is a legal framework in place (legal use of funds) the details should not need to be micromanaged by elected officials who set policy based on political considerations more than on what works well.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. I continue to hope that elected officials will support a process by which best practices and great ideas can be shared.  The "outcomes" prescribed should include the scaffolding to support innovation, leaving the details to those who are in the trenches.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. Not only how to implement the ideas, but encouragement and removal of roadblocks to do so, as long as public health and safety are not compromised.

Leanne Kunze  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. I also believe quite strongly that the frontline workers need to be included in this process.  I disagree with Mr. Kiedrowski's statement that it is not found on the secretaries’ level.  I have seen multiple situations where the secretaries, police officers, social workers, environmentalists, nurses, teachers, custodians, etc. are exactly the ones who can point out areas of redundancy, ideas for streamlining services, [and] ideas for merging job duties, and too many are shot down because they are not part of management/administration.  I believe we are losing a lot of good reform ideas by ignoring and patronizing the frontline "boots on the ground" level of workers. However, I wholeheartedly agree that it should not be elected officials and other high level position making these decisions. Ideally, there would be community participation also, as the general public needs to be engaged in the process in order to better understand the importance and appropriateness of the tax dollars being expended.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. Elected officials shall also monitor outcomes and ensure appropriate funding levels to ensure success.

Dennis McCoy  (10)  (10)  (2.5)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. Many state agency middle managers have, in the last 8 years, become political appointees so I doubt they would have the creativity or motivation to pursue this task effectively. There are many good people but they tend to say no faster than yes.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. If “outcomes” means “goals”, I strongly agree. Many elected officials forget they simply won the beauty contest but have few managerial skills or experience.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. Sometimes you simply have to do it. One of the biggest problems is the local belief that you must get state permission first on most things. This is true in many cases but not all, so you learn to choose wisely. It only took me 30 years in local govt. to learn this.

R. C. Angevine  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Debby Frenzel  (2.5)  (2.5)  (10)

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

John Sievert  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. It's been my experience that local officials at the city and county levels typically are not nearly as well educated in either the technologies or the techniques of organizational redesign.  In other words, this would make sense if those people had the skill sets to do this.  They currently do not.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. …in an ideal world. It's been my experience that local officials at the city and county levels typically are not nearly as well educated in either the technologies or the techniques of organizational redesign.  In other words, this would make sense if those people had the skill sets to do this.  They currently do not.    This would be reasonable if there was a culture of innovation within government.  There is not and it [is] among the most highly resistant of organizational organisms to change.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. For example, getting county highway departments to rely on social media to let residents know when road projects will close a road is typically shot down repeatedly by county IT administrators.  Governmental administrators are among the least imaginative and most resistant to change of any management in any industry.  They are short of innovative ideas.

Peter Hennessey  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. Someone is suffering from a confusion in the definitions of the words being used here. Elected officials are elected to lead, not to impose "innovations" top-down. Leaders identify goals, marshal resources, monitor progress [and] guide tactical changes. Ideas come from the people closest to the problem, but leaders guide the prerequisite process of sorting out the good ideas from the bad.  "Redesign" presumes there is something wrong with the current design. Therefore it is highly presumptuous and self-contradictory to assume the existence of a mid-level management class to guide "redesign." They have an automatic, vested interest in not designing much of anything, least of all do so in such as way as to endanger their own status and their own little empires -- unless of course "redesign" offers an opening for advancement. The requirement and guidance of redesign must necessarily come from higher up, free to increase, decrease, repurpose and reassign any subordinate layer of managers and staff as may be necessary.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. It is one thing to set goals and then expect the lower ranks to reach them, or else. It is quite another thing to first of all make sure that the goals are realistic, both in terms of being the appropriate solution to a problem (itself having to be properly identified and specified first) and in terms of being attainable given the available resources. It is the leader's job to make sure the required analysis is done, standards are in place so we'll know the right goals are set, and the resources are applied correctly. No, the staff does not get free rein to innovate and implement without supervision and guidance. Elected officials are ultimately responsible for the good and bad being done in their name.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. The ranks closest to the problem have the most ideas about how to fix them. They also have the narrowest focus and the least visibility of the Big Picture. So even before you get to the implementation stage, someone has to decide which ideas are innovative, which are practical, what resources are needed for successful implementation, what resources are available, and how the resources can be applied in a cost effective manner. That responsibility falls on the leadership and therefore ultimately on the elected officials.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (2.5)  (10)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. While these individuals need to be deeply involved, the degree of power these public employees would hold under this scheme is unacceptable. The power must come back to the people at the local level, not the bureaucrats.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. Elected officials and local committees should always maintain firm control of the hired help, not the reverse.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. While I strongly agree with the statement, I also clearly understand that those being served have a far more valid right to control and input than do the employees.

Dennis L. Johnson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. General comment to all questions:  It is natural that bureaucrats wish to have control over redesign. I can simplify a lot of discussion by applying a simple private sector method, rather than talk innovation to death.  Just establish a budget with a hard limit, then promote those who innovate within the budget with a bonus for saving money. Those that exceed the budget and/or fail to innovate lose their jobs. This will satisfy the bureaucrats by giving them control, speed the process, and weed out dead wood.

Dave Broden  (0)  (0)  (2.5)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. The idea of change coming from a middle management approach is perhaps one of the signs that some people who are driving change are disconnected. One of the problems with corporate worldwide and government worldwide is [that] change pushed at the top never happens because those responsible for the change do not want the change--protect the environment and process. The change must come from real change agents, outside people who work with and apply the comment of all levels: top, middle and the workers. Corporate experience says workers have more acceptance of change than do middle mangers.  It was amazing that this idea even surfaced but since it did it perhaps says a lot about the ability to fix anything with the the chickens in the hen house doing the repair work. This statement pushes the need for engagement of "new think" ideas and people along with the "old think' experts.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. The idea of elected officials setting some guidelines is fine but the guidelines should be only a fraction of the guidelines --other must come from considerations of the innovative ideas and process. Again leaving change to the staff is the chickens protecting the shed again. The change must come from outside and much of it should come from the users of the services not the providers of the services. Why these two "experts" were so internally focused was a very strong message to me that the process and dialogue in Minnesota on change does not have the real mix of thought required involved. Again some real "new think" is required-not just another rerun with a twist of old processes.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. Agree that there are many innovative ideas but I ask are the ideas on the table the right collection of ideas or is there a need for expanded views from a wider group etc. I believe that the range of ideas is limited and void of new ideas. First the base of innovation must be expanded. Second implementation requires leadership and clarity of purpose so that the public buys in and expresses that it must be done. I am not seeing this push develop although there are some signs. Bottom line we need 1) expanded ideas; 2) purpose and value expressed clearly; 3) public support and buy-in and 4) leadership not just by one or a few but by the various levels and unit of government involved and 5) no push back to change from government employees and unions.

Lou DeMars  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Mark Haveman  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. But let’s also not be naive and recognize that redesign can be a direct threat to mid level managers and that empire-building and turf protection is not confined to the private sector.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. Which points to civil service and public sector workforce management redesign.  Human Resources and orgnanizational development is rife with the idea that any successful organization serious about improving productivity needs substantial freedom and latitude to reorganize, reallocate and, yes, occasionally replace people – especially true in the labor intensive service industries. Juxtapose this with our frequently calcified public sector human resource management systems and structures with some elements literally derived from the 40s and 50s and other barriers to reform codified in statute.  Meaningful improvement or progress in redesign will not occur until we have an honest, good faith discussion about this.

Amanda Giliotti  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort. I agree that the elected officials shouldn't redesign anything but I'm not so sure the middle level managers should either... they are too close to the issues at hand.  I think an independent panel of business leaders should be in charge of redesigning.

2. Elected officials should set outcomes. Elected officials can provide a wish list for the outcomes but once again the innovation should come from a fresh set of eyes...people who aren't part of the system... independent non-government leaders.

3. Ideas abundant; implementation key. This is probably true which is the reason I recommend an outside panel to implement redesign.  The people inside the system have ideas but can't or won't put them into place because of political reasons... elected or middle management they both have the same issue.... getting to the starting gate to fix the problem at hand.

Bill    (7)  (8)  (10)

Good discussion from two savvy practitioners. Thanks for having it.

Jim Kielkopf  (3)  (3)  (9)

Implementation is where current academic research in the policy sciences is focused -- where much of the more exciting published research work is occurring.  But it turns out that implementation in governance has always been important and often the deciding factor, whether or not people believed this was the case or not.  Middle managers have always butted heads with elected and appointed officials, and in most, if not all, cases, middle management has been in much a more powerful position relative to voters or even elected officials themselves.  The problem is not one of letting staff do their jobs as experts, but one of contesting power between staff in honest and transparent ways among elected officials, and constituencies among competing coalitions. 

Operating under a naive, schoolbook understanding of government as a more or less linear function of voter preferences --- > elected officials ---> bureaucratic implementation is where the real disservice to public policy lies, not in the fact that middle management and elected officials often find themselves frustrated with outcomes based on that mistaken conception.

I think your speakers make some good points. But I think they are somewhat behind the times in how to conceptualize and argue their points in this issue which is where so much academic work is happening right now.  (As an aside, this has been a long-standing criticism (and often not deserved) of the peculiar way today's Humphrey Institute was set up -- to give teaching jobs to people like Hubert Humphrey who, as a former VP, had been absurdly denied a post in the political science department because he was "not current in the field."  Often lengthy practical experience provides one with credibility and wisdom, but it needs to be combined with the state-of-the-art research in the rapidly growing and developing policy studies field to be more compelling.)

Wayne Jennings  (9)  (9)  (9)

I like the redesign concept very much. I kept thinking about my own field of education where very little decentralization of decision-making occurs between a district's central office and local schools. Innovative principals and teachers are often thwarted by district policy regarding staffing, budget and program. Consequently, the conventional paradigm of schooling is not questioned because it would be pointless to do so. While this is not 100% true, it is the dominant culture of school systems. It is the reason behind open enrollment and charter schools. They are attempts to shake up the system with a small element of competition. However, the main schooling system continues unabated. We need both greater decentralization of decisions in school districts and support from the state for innovation.

Tom Swain  (8)  (10)  (7)

Pat Melvin  (10)  (10)  (7)

Getting staff to be comfortable suggesting change and innovation will not happen overnight as employees have spent years being told to simply do their job and leave the planning and management to those in management.  It will require repeated examples by management to encourage and reward this change in behavior.  Being a manager in a local unit of government I think there are attempts currently being made at this but the established management that has been around for a long time refuses to accept this as the new norm.

Robert J. Brown  (5)  (8)  (5)

Chuck Lutz  (9)  (9)  (8)

Chuck Slocum  (5)  (8)  (8)

1. Mid-level managers should lead redesign effort.  It is not just middle level managers. Elected leaders, top administrators and lower level workers have essential roles to play in leading redesign change as well.   Many people holding elected office do place the mission of their work above “election politics.” All of them should.
 
2. Elected officials should set outcomes.  A basic management tenant, to be sure, but leaders can also show innovative thinking in prescribing the overall outcomes.
 
3. Ideas abundant; implementation key.  We definitely need a culture change.   Given the economic challenges, there is room for more innovative ideas coming from all of the body politic.  I agree that effective implementation, which ought to be left to paid managers, is a major challenge.
 
4. Comment: I think that redesign does need leadership from the staff most affected by the programs.  Elected officials have a major role to play in changing an often-unresponsive culture.

Fraser Arvonne  (7)  (7)  (9)

Rethinking/redesigning is always good but is not a panacea.  One has to try to predict unintended consequences.

Al Quie  (5)  (10)  (10)

Joseph Mansky  (10)  (10)  (10)

Well, you don’t often see this kind of discussion in print. Obviously, as a local (and former state) government middle manager for the past 23 years, I could not agree more. My thought has always been that the role of elected officials was to determine the direction in which we as a society is to go. The job of people like me is to get us to the destination.

Peter Heegaard  (10)  (10)  (10)

 It would be interesting to see if the state has ever tried this...truly a bottom up approach.

Bert Press  (0)  (0)  (5)

Bright Dornblaser  (10)  (8)  (10)

Mina Harrigan  (9)  (10)  (9)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (6)  (8)  (7)

Elected officials need to spell out specifically was they want accomplished and then hold

the department heads accountable for getting the job done.  Some today spell out what they want to accomplish, but many do not hold their departments accountable.  Government employees have been trained early to keep their heads down and do their job.  If they innovate and it does not work out well, they get much heat, are transferred to another position or some times downgraded.  They are not fired because it is near impossible to fire a government employee.  There is little or no incentive for a government employee to redesign.  When they try to redesign, they sometimes get heat from other employees because "that is not the way we do it."  Or their union brings pressure on the employee or in some cases on the elected official not to support this redesign because it will change some jobs or maybe even eliminate some jobs.  Unions live on their membership.  Unless there are very important incentives, it is much easier and safer for a gov't employee to continue to do the job they have always done.  Generally, the state legislature should not be involved in local city government.  Because the state carries out much of its responsibility through counties and school districts, maybe they could be more involved.  A municipal policy established by the legislature could possibly help in Minnesota.  But, primarily the state legislature should be involved in state government redesign and leave the other redesigning to the local cities to determine and implement.

William Kuisle  (0)  (0)  (na)

I'm tired of these two bureaucrats. It's the same old stuff they have been spouting for years. "If you let government run itself it will be better." We need to get rid of these entrenched bureaucrats. They will never reform government. They will only make it their "Kingdom".

Tom Spitznagle  (3)  (5)  (8)

A few brief thoughts:  Redesign should be led by professionals who are independent of the processes under study but with the input of those involved in managing each process.  But before any piecemeal redesign begins, it is optimal to document entire government operations at the enterprise level (including state, county, city, school districts, etc) to gain independent understanding of associated costs, customer satisfaction levels and service overlaps.  Leaving redesign up to existing managers at all levels of government will provide some gains but can also result in duplication of services across levels of government, protection of turf and difficulty achieving standardization and best practices.

Larry Schluter  (8)  (8)  (10)

The more the elected official get in the way the less it is that would get done. 

Shirley Heaton  (10)  (10)  (10)

What is needed is a prototype where elected officials contract with technicians to develop procedures re how to meet the goals of their 'prescribed outcomes'; then contract with implementors to show how the objectives might be achieved. This method take the onus off existing staff while not 'throwing the baby out with the bath water.'

 

    

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

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