View Apart/Shutterstock.com

You Can’t Run Government Like ‘a Great American Company’

But with the right approach, the Trump administration does have a real opportunity to transform it.

In March, the White House established the Office of American Innovation, led by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son in law and senior advisor. As a former real estate developer and investor, Kushner said, “the government should be run like a great American company.”

It’s certainly not the first attempt to make government run more efficiently. In 1937, the Brownlow Committee made recommendations that resulted in the creation of the Executive Office of the President and led to the reorganization of the executive branch.

During the Reagan Administration, the Grace Commission claimed to have identified over $400 billion in costs savings. President Clinton’s Reinventing Government initiative sought to reduce the size of the federal government and save over $100 billion. George W. Bush, the first MBA president, introduced a management agenda that relied heavily on accountability via government scorecards.

In the 1990s, Congress passed several pieces of legislation that were also designed to leverage the best management practices from the private sector and apply them to the public sector.  Among them were The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, the Government Performance and Results Act, and The Clinger-Cohen Act.  

There is a rich literature in the application of business practices to government, including  Graham T. Allison’s Public and Private Management: Fundamentally Alike in All Unimportant Respects? Prior to Allison’s work, it was generally accepted that public and private managers were responsible for performing similar functions, such as planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting and budgeting. But Allison and others demonstrated that while there may be common managerial functions in both sectors, there are great differences between the two sectors that impact what managers do and how they go about their work.

Among the differences:

  • Government values accountability, transparency, diversity, and fairness over efficiency.
  • Agencies operate within a broader policy, legal and political context that sets priorities, limits alternatives, and determines budgets.
  • Private sector performance metrics, such as profitability, return on investment, payback periods, or market share capture, don’t generally apply in government.  

Efforts to make government run more like a business have also encountered skepticism that they were driven more by ideology than any real concern about providing better government services, leading to polarization and resistance.  

So, here we go again. A new administration and a new effort to make government run more like a business. I applaud the intent and am excited to see where it leads. I believe that great things can be accomplished with vision, determination, and know-how when driven by committed leadership at the highest levels of government. To increase the odds of success, the Trump administration should employ the following strategies:

Focus on solving our most challenging policy issues and dramatically improving customer services. Let’s drop that “running government like a business” language altogether. Instead, focus on the most difficult policy issues of the day and leverage the best thinking from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to solve them, from the customer’s perspective. The tough problems don’t have a single answer. All three sectors almost always have a role to play. Usually, more than one government agency is involved, as are several congressional committees. What is really needed is an entity with the authority to perform the “convener” role, to bring these sectors together and channel their energies to workable solutions. This is a role for government leadership.

Accelerate the adoption of new business models and technology. For example, there is an historical shift occurring in how information technologies are driving performance improvements.  The technologies (cloud-based, platform-as-a-service technologies such as Salesforce) and methodologies (agile) to radically modernize government services exist and have proven successful in the private sector. Failure to fully harness these technologies means that dramatic government transformation potential is left untapped.

Run the Office of American Innovation and the American Technology Council in a transparent, open manner. Both of these entities should include open meetings where the public can hear what is being discussed and provide input. Citizens, government employees, business owners all should have a voice in this process.     

The public sector has always sought to leverage best practices from the private sector and apply them to improve efficiency or provide better services. Responsible public managers do that every day, you just don’t hear about them nearly enough. Done correctly, the Trump administration’s focus will elevate and accelerate these efforts and result in a true transformation of government operations. If not, the administration will fall victim to that other classic of public administration literature: Charles E. Lindblom’s Still Muddling, Not Yet Through.

John Low is vice president of corporate strategy at Phase One Consulting Group.

Image via View Apart/Shutterstock.com.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.