Editor's Notebook

May 1997

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

If only government could play like Tiger Woods, we'd really be in business, to mix a metaphor or two. At the Masters in April, Tiger gave all those touring pros a lesson or two not only in length, touch and feel but also in grace, good humor and humility. Move over, Jack Nicklaus. And pay attention, Al Gore.

There must be lessons we editors and readers of Government Executive can learn from Tiger's historic feat. Shouldn't we hazard a guess, for example, that his focus and discipline and courage under fire are inherited from his father, whose character was tempered by his service as a Green Beret? If such a conclusion is justified, then too is a sense of pride in the military's successful nurturing of such virtues. Can we reach consensus that the military's considerable investment in golf (as detailed in this issue) is well worth the money, since the rigors of the game demonstrably reinforce those sinews of character so important to performance on the links or in the trenches? Can we not take away from Tiger's victory, lessons that can help in the long task of reforming government-the importance of keeping one's balance and one's eye on the ball, of following through, of delivering measurable performance?

Which brings us to Al Gore. He may never have Tiger's charisma and easy grace, but he does have perseverance and follow-through. Some might say that's most clearly demonstrated in his unrelenting slog toward the hoped-for top prize in politics in the year 2000. But I say it's also shown in his unflagging interest in reinventing government.

Gore proved that interest during an appearance at the April Reinvention Revolution conference co-sponsored by the National Performance Review, Government Executive, the Brookings Institution, George Washington University, the Council for Excellence in Government and the Ford Foundation's Innovations in American Government Program. The Vice President spoke about the progress of reinvention. Then he interviewed reformers from six agencies and fielded questions from an audience of 800 in Bethesda, Md., and hundreds more in four cities teleconferenced onto a huge screen by PictureTel Corp. He was knowledgeable and amusing in his role as cheerleader of the government reform effort. And he indicated that he won't abandon that effort as the year 2000 approaches, pledging that "we have just begun to fight" in the reinvention campaigns.

There's much work to be done, as the conference agenda showed. Attendees heard from top lecturers on leading and adapting to change, and from government specialists on such subjects as franchising, public-private partnerships, and management of technology. OMB Director Franklin Raines told them their agencies' ability to measure program performance would be increasingly important in budget decisions and in relations with congressional committees. They learned about reinvention initiatives from displays by more than 40 agencies and private sector suppliers such as IBM and Price Waterhouse.

Gore declared that while the era of big government, in President Clinton's phrase, may be over, the era of better government has just begun. Better seems a modest enough goal. It's not one we could learn much about from Tiger Woods, however. He's out to be the best.

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