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Reinventing Redux

Reinventing government: the sequel

abramson@leadership.com

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n 1992, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler's bestseller Reinventing Government inspired government reinventors at the federal, state and local levels. Government leaders outside the United States were also roused to launch reinvention initiatives. Now Osborne is back with co-author Peter Plastrik and a new look at reinvention.

"In Reinventing Government, we described innovative behavior that we saw public managers practice across the nation," Osborne said in an interview with Government Executive. "In Banishing Bureaucracy, we asked a different question. We wanted to know what levers have the most power to create new behavior linked to reinvention."

In the book, Osborne and Plastrik spell out the five C's of reinvention-the core, consequences, customer, control and culture strategies. The core strategy clarifies the purpose, role and direction of government agencies. The consequences strategy creates incentives for performance. The customer strategy makes agencies accountable to customers. The control strategy shifts decision-making power to agencies and their front-line employees or out to community organizations. And the culture strategy reshapes public employees' values, norms and attitudes.

While each stra-tegy can be powerful by itself, the authors tout multiple strategies, which can be linked with "metatools" such as performance budgeting, competitive bidding, privatization, total quality management, business process reengineering and voucher programs.

The 1993 Government Performance Results Act, for example, could become an effective metatool for improving the government.

Seven case studies highlighted in the book illustrate successful reforms which used those strategies in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, Hampton, Va., and Indianapolis, the Tactical Air Command and the Forest Service, and in Minnesota. Other federal examples in the book include the National Performance Review and the Veteran Affairs Department.

Federal executives and public administration gurus can't agree on whether the foreign reinvention experience in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are applicable to the United States. But Osborne says, "We learned much from foreign governments during the National Performance Review and copied the best models. The President's Executive Order on setting customer standards was directly influenced by the Citizen's Charter movement in Great Britain. While the politics are different in foreign countries, their management models for running public organizations are very relevant to the United States."

Banishing Bureaucracy offers some new reinvention themes. "A major new theme is the importance of the core strategy-getting clarity of purpose by clearing the decks," Osborne says. "We are no longer describing behavior as we did in Reinventing Government. We are now advocating specific actions to take in order to reinvent."

In Banishing Bureaucracy, the authors do not provide an in-depth critique of the National Performance Review. In selecting the case studies, Osborne notes, "We were looking for mature, successful interventions which had a 10-year track record."

Osborne and Plastik point out in the book that it takes courage to reinvent. The heroes of Banishing Bureaucracy are former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, former Finance Minister Roger Douglas of New Zealand, former Governor Rudy Perpich of Minnesota, former Mayor Steven Goldsmith of Indianapolis, and City Manager Bob O'Neill of Hampton, Va. Osborne says President Clinton could use more of their courage and reinvention leadership.

"The Vice President has been a very effective leader, but he isn't the President," Osborne says "Reinvention takes the full commitment of the chief executive officer. President Clinton has supported Vice President Gore, but he hasn't put himself on the line and made reinvention a major priority of the administration."

Those looking for a reinvention agenda for the second Clinton administration can find several suggestions in Banishing Bureaucracy.

First, performance-based organizations have proven effective in Great Britain and New Zealand for linking the core, consequence and control strategies.

Second, civil service reform is needed to deploy the consequence, control and culture strategies. Osborne notes that the administration's PBO proposals include personnel flexibility.

Finally, Osborne notes with approval efforts under way to introduce competition among agencies and between agencies and the private sector, and to substitute vouchers for more closely controlled grants in job training and housing programs.

THE OSBORNE REPORT CARD

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s the federal government succeeding in banishing bureaucracy? Well, says David Osborne, the Clinton administration rates a B on its first-term report card. Congress isn't doing so well: It rates only a D, and "would have gotten an F if it hadn't passed procurement reform and the Government Performance and Results Act. The Republicans proved to be more cautious than their rhetoric."

Here's how Osborne rates the administration's record in pursuing the five change strategies outlined in his book:

B Core Strategy-Clarify agencies' missions: "The administration gets a B mainly because of its performance-based organization (PBO) proposals. PBOs are an excellent vehicle to uncouple the 'steering' and 'rowing' functions of government. They haven't done as well in clearing the decks by eliminating programs."

C+ Consequences Strategy-Create incentives for performance: "The franchise pilots are a step in the right direction. The real problem is lack of civil service reform to provide real consequences for poor performance."

B+ Customer Strategy-Make agencies accountable to their customers: "The administration has worked hard in this area. They have pushed vouchers and charter schools. Internally, they have pushed hard for customer service standards. They would have gotten an A if their customer service standards had some consequences linked to them. In Great Britain, customers get a voucher for 20 percent of the cost of their train ride if they are delayed more than an hour."

B+ Control Strategy-Disperse power in organizations: "The administration has been very successful in creating pockets of reinvention through their reinvention labs. Their next challenge is budget and civil service reform to really empower people and organizations."

B- Culture Strategy-Reshape values, attitudes of employees: "This is a difficult lever for the administration to implement governmentwide. Culture change takes place at the organizational level. The Vice President has worked hard at winning the 'hearts and minds' of civil servants."

B Overall Grade-"They have made some progress, but they haven't yet used the five levers in combination, which is much more powerful.

"They haven't eliminated many programs or functions of government. But they have done well in empowering employees through the reinvention labs. Much still remains to be done in civil service and budget reform."