The Reinvention Papers

President Clinton and Vice President Gore have given Cabinet members 15 rules for reinventing their departments that will be used in evaluating their performance during Clinton's second term.

Last week, the National Performance Review compiled the rules into a 43-page booklet called The Blair House Papers, after the house across the street from the White House where Clinton and Gore met with the new Cabinet in early January.

Greg Woods, the NPR staffer who edited The Blair House Papers, says that in Clinton's first term, reinvention "began as a vision of the President and Vice President. Now it is rooted in fact." The booklet is a way of taking the reforms achieved by what Gore calls "islands of excellence" and implementing them in entire agencies, Woods says.

Clinton and Gore gathered their second-term team at Blair House on Saturday, January 11. A number of topics were on the agenda, but during one central session, the President and Vice President spoke about reinvention--where the federal government is and where it should go. The Cabinet members were given 15 sheets of paper, each with a reinvention principle outlined on it, along with examples and helpful hints. The Cabinet heads will be expected to put those principles into action throughout their departments.

"We asked the Cabinet to line up their plans, budgets, personnel performance appraisals, and other management systems with their goals, and then to measure the results they seek," writes Gore in the introduction to The Blair House Papers. "This is good advice for every leader in government."

A White House official interviewed for a story published by The Washington Post yesterday said that the White House will not push agencies to cut employment any further. "Downsizing we've done," the official said. "We don't need to worry about getting the numbers down."

In The Blair House Papers, though, Gore indicates that the government's top officials will still have some tough decisions to make in order to manage their programs better in tight budgetary times. He says agency heads should "personally" do two things.

First, decentralize operations by moving high-grade positions to the field and lower grades to headquarters. Control of how money is spent should also be transferred to the front lines, Gore writes in The Blair House Papers. "Don't decide anything in headquarters that can be decided someplace else."

Second, Gore says, department and agency heads must raise the spirit of the workforce. Empowering employees and removing layers of oversight and pre-approval make employees more productive, Gore says. The booklet gives the example of Bill Creech, who took over the Air Force's Tactical Air Command and motivated his employees to double the command's capacity without any additional funding or workers.

The National Performance Review has printed 20,000 copies of The Blair House Papers. Several agencies have printed additional copies for themselves, and a second NPR printing is already planned because so many requests for copies have been made, Woods says.

Woods says the table of contents can serve as a manager's reinvention checklist. As the manager reviews an agency's actions, he or she can go down the checklist and see which reinvention principles were applied.

"It's like Strunk and White," Woods said, referring to the style manual used by many writers and editors.

"I told the Cabinet at Blair House that they would know they had succeeded with reinvention when all the people in their departments understood the goals and values of the organization, and could use them to adjust quickly to changing circumstances," Gore writes in the booklet. He says federal employees will be successful when they wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how they could do their jobs better.

Other rules included in the papers:

  • Agencies should strive to have good working relationships with their customers, with the businesses they regulate, and with federal employee unions.
  • Senior executive groups like Federal Executive Boards should be relied on to get things done.
  • New uses of information technology should be an integral part of reinvention. Departments should find ways to pool resources and team up on projects instead of duplicating efforts.
  • The supervisor-to-employee ratio should be reduced. The booklet says that in 1993, one-third of the federal workforce "controlled, checked-up on, supervised or audited" the other two-thirds.
  • Headquarters staff should be reduced, while field offices, where civil servants interact with the public, should be strengthened.
  • Agencies should make sure they are taking advantage of the procurement reforms passed in the last few years. "Ask to see your internal procurement rules," the booklet advises. "Check the dates on a few. If they are pre-'94, you've got a problem."
  • Create performance-based organizations.
The Blair House Papers are available on the National Peformance Review Web site.
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