covers a Civic Caucus meeting with Ted Kolderie, a highly respected
writer and public policy consultant with 50-plus years' experience in
Minnesota and founder and managing partner, Education|Evolving.
Kolderie says that
while helpful, better management and leadership in the public sector
aren't enough. Nothing fundamental ever changes with only that
approach. However, comprehensive transformation, "blowing up the
system" and starting from scratch won't work either. Kolderie
advocates what he calls a "split-screen" approach: continuous
improvement along with continuous innovation.
should continue to work on improvement in the way things are done now,
without real change. But traditionalists should not be able to
suppress innovation. Moreover, he says, innovation means being open to
trying several new things. There's not one "best way".
should require counties, cities, and schools to develop innovative
models, without restrictions on what those models should look like,
Kolderie says. Trying several things will help us understand more
quickly what works best.
economic realities, the need "is less to find alternative forms of
service and more to find alternatives to service." Kolderie offers two
approaches: prevention (so a service doesn't need to be offered in the
first place), and supported self-help (where people can do things for
themselves, without turning to paid professionals).
For the complete
interview summary see:
Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement,
to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed
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. Improvement is
the public sector means much more than simply doing the same things
(9.2 average response)
Replacement is Impractical. However,
comprehensive reform, replacing a system with something totally
different, is impractical.
(6.3 average response)
can continue to concentrate on better leadership and management, but
they should not be able to stifle innovation.
(8.5 average response)
4. Improve and
accomplish major change, continuous improvement and continuous
innovation must occur side by side.
(8.0 average response)
the way people behave, to prevent the need for service in the first
place, offers great potential.
(7.8 average response)
one's own personal labor for hired professionals offers great
(6.9 average response)
1. Improvement Insufficient.
2. Total Replacement Impractical.
3. Disallow Impediments.
4. Improve and Innovate.
5. Modify Behaviors.
6. Substitute Self-Help.
Anonymous (10) (2.5) (7.5) (10) (7.5)
D. (Bill) Hamm (10) (10) (0) (0) (5)
Insufficient. While I strongly agree with the above statement, I
absolutely disagree with the herein suggested approaches.
Replacement Impractical. If we are talking about education, ending
this top down control model and returning control to the local level
is the beginning of any reform movement. Give us back our competitive
locally controlled student-based education system and we will fix it.
Leave it in the hands of these arrogant “educrats” and we will never
have a quality education system.
Impediments. This is an attempt to frame this argument in favor of the
“educrats” who have undermined our education system and in favor of
leaving them in control under the guise of change.
4. Improve and
Innovate. While this needs to be part of any self-improvement program
this is the same kind of (nonsense) used to bring about the change to
the … education structure we have now.
Behaviors. Encouraging yes, mandating … no.
Self-Help. While I strongly agree with the statement I don't
necessarily agree with direction here.
Bob White (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Insufficient. Here and in questions 2-5 the importance of this
approach can't be overstated. Calls for more efficient or less
government are futile. Much of government works very well.
Procedures can be improved, provided improvement doesn't hijack
experiments in innovation. This means promoting the split-screen idea
that Ted describes so well.
Self-Help. True in some cases, not in others. I'm pretty good at
home maintenance, and I've mixed concrete and added a few electrical
circuits. But I turned to professionals for replacing steep front
steps and upgrading the wiring system.
Don Anderson (10) (5) (7.5) (10) (7.5)
Peter Hennessey (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (2.5)
Insufficient. Before you impose any changes, you have to ask and
answer: (1) What is the problem, why change? (2) What is the
proposed solution? (3) What is the proof that the proposed solution
will work? (4) What is the proof that you have put in safeguards
against unintended consequences? (5) What is the proof that you can
manage the changes so they will achieve your goals? (6) What is the
proof that others will not use your changes to take us down a
Replacement Impractical. Then how do you get rid of a totally failed
system? (e.g., unfunded pensions, "entitlements") Any proposal for
change has three parts: (1) How will it work when fully implemented
(e.g., privatized retirement system)? (2) What do you do about people
stuck in the present system (e.g., current pension and Social Security
beneficiaries)? (3) How do you manage the transition from the old to
the new system (e.g., people just entering the workforce, about to
retire, and everybody at some stage in-between)?
Impediments. (1) What is wrong with tradition, better leadership, and
better management? (2) What is so good about innovation? (3) Why do
you imply the two are antagonistic or mutually exclusive? (4) What is
the scope of the innovation; is it evolutionary or radical?
4. Improve and
Innovate. (1) Sometimes you have to totally dismantle the system and
rebuild it from the ground up (e.g., “Obamacare”) (2) Simultaneous
continuous improvement and innovation is possible only if they are
perceived to be logically evolutionary (e.g., Social Security,
Medicare / Medicaid, “Obamacare”) (3) When the result of the
continuous changes is such that the original design is unrecognizable,
victims / traditionalists will revolt (e.g., the Tea Party).
Behaviors. All social evils have been committed by people hell-bent on
changing human behavior. All utopias sound great except for one thing
-- they all assume people are all the same, can all be changed to act
the same. Sure... (1) You have to understand human nature. That
means respecting or at least being aware of science, history, religion
and tradition, and especially the solutions that have already been
tried, and found to have succeeded or failed, and why. (2) You have
to demonstrate that the proposed changes can and will work, before you
torture people with your changes in their behavior. (3) Who appointed
you to be God, dictator, Ruling Class elite, anyway?
Self-Help. Everybody runs a cost-benefit analysis, whether they do
so methodically or not. (1) Do I have the necessary skills, resources
and time to do it myself? (2) Do I have the money to pay a
professional? (3) Will I run into regulatory problems if I do it
myself? (4) Will it cost me more or less if I do it myself or if I
hire a professional? (5) Do I care if the professional or I will get
better or worse results than I expected (6) What else would I be
doing with my time, and how does that compare in terms of importance
and cost/benefit if I hire a professional?
Judith Martin (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10)
Pat Barnum (10) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5)
Replacement Impractical. I would like to strongly disagree with this
statement, based on principle. But reality bonked me on the head; "is
impractical" might not be as appropriate as "is impossible".
Behaviors. Government programs, laws, and policies are woefully inept
at changing individuals’ behavior. To think that it can, or perhaps
even should, is naive. The trick would be to find the self-interest
motivators for self-change.
Self-Help. Absolutely, in principle. However, in a society that has
grown accustomed to having government provide for most of their needs
in some way, how can we realistically expect the people to take back
responsibility for themselves?
Bruce Lundeen (10) (5) (10) (10) (7.5)
Dave Christianson (6) (7) (10) (5) (6)
frustration with constant talk of needed change is the assumption
everything is broken. Public policy in the U.S. is predicated on
providing for the general welfare via a democratic and representative
process. Most ‘change agents’ lack both an understanding and an
appreciation of history, i.e., 175 years of public education as being
absolutely foundational, and the growth of a strong middle class and
the widest possible distribution of wealth to support a highly
self-sustaining marketplace and economy (notice that does not equate
to ‘unregulated’). Workable public policy, such as public institutions
of higher education, neighborhood schools without segregation, and
conservative banking and financial reform proven in the catalyst of
the great depression, are all hard to improve on, yet we work
tirelessly to tear down what works without a logical improvement in
Carolyn Ring (10) (10) (10) (10) (8)
change's sake is not necessarily true. Change through innovation and
working toward better outcomes should be the goal.
Scott and Nancy Halstead (10) (5) (10) (10) (10)
Arvonne Fraser (10) (na) (8) (10) (7)
is talking sense. Good.
Bruce Lundeen (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
I think the
split-screen view has merit.
Sadly, I believe the diminishing of services (by prevention or
self-help) concomitantly infers/ refers to a decrease in the
government payroll - the loss of jobs.
While necessary, (it would be) painful for and cruel to those who
Calculate the total cost of a career government employee from hire to
death, and that is overhead in terms of productivity contributed to
the gross national product, I believe.
Furthermore, the architects of the innovation are the very people who
have to decide on the reductions in staffing - maybe an impossible
task for them.
John Milton (5) (10) (6) (na) (7)
Jay Kiedrowski (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
I thought your
group might like to see the new Local Government Innovation and
Redesign Guide that was just released at
Robert J. Brown (10) (5) (10) (5) (10)
6. Volunteers can
do much of what professionals do. We have a nation with a great
tradition of volunteering, and yet there have been well meaning, but
misguided efforts to replace all volunteers with paid staff. At one
time I was in charge of promoting school volunteer programs around the
country and it became obvious that volunteers made major contributions
to systems that recruited and trained them and allowed them to do
things such as tutoring, record keeping, serving as oral historians,
conducting some student activities. With adequate training,
supervision, and recognition volunteers can make major contributions
to many public services.
There was no
mention of training people to lead in the future. Having been involved
with training educational leaders and having worked with leaders in
the public, nonprofit, and for-profit private sectors it seems that we
need to change the way we prepare people to lead and to work across
Bert Press (10) (10) (10) (10) (5)
Tom Swain (10) (5) (10) (8) (6)
Ray Cox (10) (7) (10) (10) (10)
behavior is the most important aspect of this discussion. People need
to take responsibility for their care in old age…and the care of those
in their family---not turn to the state for care. People need to take
care of their own child-care needs---not turn to the state for care.
Etc, etc. The state, by implementing so many support programs over the
years, has created a monster that threatens to consume us all.
John Adams (10) (4) (10) (10) (10)
Ted is one of
Minnesota's greatest natural resources!
Joseph Mansky (10) (0) (10) (0) (10)
4. Improve and
Innovate. For many public sector activities, the only way to get any
meaningful change on a large scale is to have a game-changing event.
In my experience (29 years in the public sector) a lot (of) good
things tend to happen as a consequence of cataclysmic events.
6. Substitute Self-Help. In my experience, the hired gun approach is
the wrong way to go. As a public sector manager or staff person,
self-reliance is really important and beneficial. You are way better
off learning how to do things yourself.
Wayne Jennings (10) (3) (10) (10) (10)
I like that Civic
Caucus spends more effort on the redesign topic. People need that push
and examples of where it’s being done or could be done. We, policy
makers, and the public are still at a primitive level of understanding
In education, the charter school statute could be tweaked so that
applicants for a school would be required to show how they will be
different from conventional schools, not just size but fundamentally
different. Then we might not have 80% of charter schools as more of
William Kuisle (10) (4) (9) (9) (10)
Hans Sandbo (10) (0) (10) (10) (10)
The "HOW" is the
toughest part of the above points - but that does not mean our leaders
and each of us as individuals should not begin the process and stumble
our way forward. The world is changing and the whole human race needs
to adapt to those changes by any means possible - some will take the
lead and others will follow and many will do both.
Paul and Ruth Hauge (8) (8) (9) (8) (6)
Larry Schluter (10) (8) (10) (8) (7)
discussion and a different way of getting changes done.
Quie (10) (10) (7) (10) (10)
I did not give a
10 to number 3 because I wish 475 people in the Minneapolis central
office would be let go, leaving about 25 and see how well the schools
can do without them using their own initiative and innovation. Giving
teachers and parents more responsibility would cause them to rise to
the occasion. We can't blow up the whole system but a good bit of it
ought to be. It was tough bringing the public school system from the
agricultural age to the industrial age. They surely are not very
responsive in bringing the system into the technology age. The
children and the nation are hurting.
Clarence Shallbetter (8) (9) (7) (8) (5)
Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Good goals and CQI
has been demonstrative as effective in business and the hospital
industry. But to do so requires comprehensive changes in culture,
systems and process, policies, enormous effort to do it well, and
leadership from the top. The winners of the Malcolm Baldridge Award
have provided years of effort, top leadership commitment and in-depth
training and monitoring of performance to attain it. But the
performance results in their organizations have been worth the
effort. How will a similar, sustained commitment be developed in the