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Reinventing Management, Again

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In 1994, Peter Drucker gave a lecture to government employees called “Reinventing Government: The Next Phase.” (The Drucker Lectures, 2010

In it, he commented on the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, earlier known as the National Performance Review and commonly known as NPR. This was a governmentwide management reform initiative spearheaded by Al Gore, which led to the founding of the Federal Communicators Network 20 years ago. (I previously served as Chair of the FCN from 2011-2012.)

Drucker praises NPR’s success, crediting the fact that it was “focused on performance.” However, he shares his concern that an “individual, isolated” change effort is “just good intentions unless it becomes permanent, organized, self-generated habit.”

Ultimately NPR had a significant impact, including $137 billion in savings. But Drucker’s concerns were well-placed, as the work of the NPR influenced future administrations, but was not duplicated by them in the same way.

At its height NPR made a tangible positive difference in the way government functioned, not only because it was an interagency entity but also because it was well-funded and well-staffed, with 250 federal employees paid by their home agencies all working together. 

Warned Drucker:

“We need ‘reinventing government.’ If we do not make a start on it, then pretty soon we face catastrophe within the next 10 years or so . . . The danger here is very great that government will be exposed to something very similar to what has happened in a lot of big companies. I call it “amputation without diagnosis.” 

If we know what to do and how to do it, is it necessary to reinvent the wheel?

The forthcoming FCN white paper, “Advancing Federal Communications,” makes the argument for integration from a communications standpoint. 

But such integration is only doable when there exists an integrated approach toward managing the government enterprise overall.

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D., is a federal communicator with 20 years' experience in the private sector, academia and government. Best known for her work on branding, Dr. Blumenthal now focuses on the discipline of management, particularly the intersections between identity, culture and communication. She has lectured at a variety of schools including The George Washington University and the University of Maryland University College. In her spare time she is an independent community activist, focused primarily on raising awareness about child sexual abuse and domestic violence. All opinions are her own.

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