Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.
Henry David Thoreau
Unlike many past efforts to change the government, the National Performance Review will not end with the publication of a report. We have identified what we must do to make government work better and cost less: We must serve our customers, cut red tape, empower employees to get results, and cut back to basics. Now, we will take action.
The task is immense. The federal government has 2.1 million civilian employees, 800,000 postal workers, 1.8 million military personnel, and a $1.5 trillion budget--more than the entire gross domestic product of Germany, the world's third largest economy. The National Performance Review has identified the problems and defined solutions. The President will issue directives, cabinet secretaries will change administrative practices, and Office of Management and Budget will issue guidance. We will work with Congress for legislation where it's needed. Senseless regulations will be repealed; mechanisms to enhance customer service will be created; change will begin.
But we do not pretend to have solved every problem. We will transform the federal government only if our actions--and the Reinvention Teams and Labs now in place in every department--succeed in planting a seed. That seed will sprout only if we create a process of ongoing change that branches outward from the work we have already done.
This performance review will not produce another report just to gather dust in some warehouse. We have enough of them already. President Bill Clinton Remarks announcing the National Performance Review, March 3, 1993
How we proceed will be as important as what we have done to date. We must avoid the pull of implementation models that are familiar and comfortable but poorly suited to today's world. We must avoid creating new bureaucracies to reform the old. We must actively involve government leaders at all levels. We must seek the guidance of those who have successfully transformed large organizations in both the private and public sectors.
The nature of our strategies will no doubt cause discomfort. They will be unfamiliar. They will not look like business as usual. They will challenge the current federal culture. And they will demand risk-taking.
If we are to bring about true change, however, some discomfort is inevitable. Our strategies are not untested; they have been used successfully by both public and private organizations throughout the country.
What we're trying to do is to create a large number of changes, simultaneously, in the federal government. Because if you just change one thing without changing some of the other things that need to be changed, we won't get anywhere. We can bring the quality revolution, for example, into the federal workforce as well as it could possibly be done, and if we didn't fix some of the other problems, it wouldn't amount to much. We could fix the personnel system, but if we didn't fix the budgetary system and the procurement system, then we would still be mired in a lot of the difficulties that we encounter today. We are trying to do a lot of things at the same time.
Vice President Al Gore Town Hall Meeting, Department of Veterans Affairs August 4, 1993
To succeed where others have failed, the President and Vice President have committed to specific initiatives that will create a culture capable of sustaining fundamental change. This shift in culture will not occur overnight. To bring it about, we will continue:
- a cascading process of education, participation, and ownership at the highest levels of the executive branch;
- two-way communication with federal employees and organizations;
- bi-partisan partnership with Congress;
- processes to listen to and use feedback from customers and citizens; and
- government-wide mechanisms to monitor, coordinate, and facilitate plans for reinvention.
The administration has already taken a number of steps to bring about the changes we are recommending.
First, we have launched Reinvention Teams and Reinvention Labs in every department to continue seeking ways to improve the government and put these ideas in practice.
Second, we have begun to work--and will continue to expand relationships--with leaders and representatives of federal employees from throughout the government. Indeed, the National Performance Review is the first government-wide change initiative to be run and staffed by federal employees. Our actions will make employees' jobs better, and their participation will make our actions better.
Third, the President and Vice President have begun to work with the cabinet to develop performance agreements that will institutionalize a commitment to and establish accountability for change.
Fourth, we have developed a mechanism to spread our basic principles throughout the government. The President will meet with the cabinet to develop strategies reflecting these principles and ideas, committing all involved to take responsibility for changing the way we do business. Cabinet members will then go through the same process with their senior managers, who will go through it with their senior managers, and so on.
Fifth, the President is establishing a management council to monitor change and provide guidance and resources to those working to bring it about. The President's Management Council will be charged with responsibility for changing the culture and management of the federal government.
Sixth, the Federal Quality Institute will help agencies with access to information, education, research, and consultation on quality management. Like our other initiatives, this models a basic tenet of the behavior we recommend--encouraging managers to define their own missions and tasks, but providing the support they need to do a good job.
Seventh, we will launch future reviews of the federal government, targeted at specific problems. The National Performance Review was a learning experience; we learned what we could do in six months, and what we still need to do. We focused heavily on the basic systems that drive federal agencies: the budget, personnel, procurement, financial management, accountability, and management systems. In subsequent reviews, we will narrow our focus. For example, we plan a review of the antiquated federal field office structure, which dates from the 1930s and contains some 30,000 field offices. (See Chapter 4.) Other targets might include the abandonment of obsolete programs; the elimination of unproductive subsidies; the redesign of failed programs; the redefinition of relationships between the federal government and state and local governments; and the reinvigoration of relationships between the executive and legislative branches.
Finally, the National Performance Review will continue to rely on its greatest asset: the federal employees who made it happen. They have all worked hard for change, and many will continue to work on reinvention in their own agencies. They constitute a network that will reach out to other employees, sharing their enthusiasm, energy, and ideas.
Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future. President John F. Kennedy
During this process, a vision of change will emerge beyond that which is contained in this report. Leadership and management values will, over time, change--not in response to a mandate, but because people are working together to change their government. If we have done our job well, the next generation of changes will be built on the foundation we have laid with this report. We are merely initial planners; the President, the Vice President, the cabinet, federal managers and employees will be the architects and builders.
Despite all the horror stories and years of scorn heaped on federal employees, our government is staffed by people committed to their jobs, qualified to do them better, and hungry for the opportunity to try. The environment and culture of government have discouraged many of these people; the system has undermined itself. But we can--and will--change that environment and culture.
Over time, it will become increasingly obvious that people are not the problem. As old ways of thinking and acting are replaced by a culture that promotes reinvention and quality, a new face of government will appear--the face of employees newly empowered and newly motivated, and of customers newly satisfied.
What Reinventing Government Means for You
We have talked enough of what we will do and how we will change. The more important question is how life will change for you, the American people.
If we succeed--if the administration can implement our recommended actions and Congress can pass our legislative package--you will begin to see a different government. Your mail will be delivered more rapidly. When you call a Social Security office, you'll get through. When you call the Internal Revenue Service, you'll get accurate answers-- and if you don't, you will no longer be penalized.
If you lose your job, a local career center will help you find a new one. If you want retraining, or you want to go back to school, you'll find counselors who can help you sort out your options, pick the best program, and pay for it. If you run a small business, you will have fewer forms to fill out.
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood, and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble logical diagram, once recorded, will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Daniel Burnham 1907
If you live in public housing, your apartment complex might get cleaner and safer. Perhaps you'll even be able to move your family to a safer, quieter, more stable neighborhood.
Our workplaces will get safer because they are inspected more often. Our water will get cleaner. Your local government will work better because it is no longer hamstrung by silly federal regulations.
And perhaps the federal debt--that $4 trillion albatross around the necks of our children and grandchildren--will slow its rampage. Our federal agencies will begin to figure out, bit by bit by bit, how to cut spending, eliminate the obsolete, and provide better service for less money.
You will begin to feel, when you walk into a post office or social security office or employment service or veterans' hospital, like a valued customer. We will begin to spend more money on things you want and need--health care, training, education, environmental protection--and less on bureaucracy. One day you will be able to conclude that you are getting a dollar of value for every dollar of taxes you pay.
This is our vision of a government that works better and costs less. We know it will not come to be overnight, but we believe it is a vision we can bring to life. We believe this because we have already seen this vision come to life--in local governments, in state agencies, even in a few federal agencies. We believe it is the right vision for government as we approach the 21st century.
It will take more than a dedicated President and Vice President to make this vision a reality, however. It will take more than dedicated employees. It will take dedicated citizens, willing to work long and hard to improve their government.
It will take citizens willing to push their social security offices and unemployment offices to treat them like customers--and to demand that their voices be heard when they don't get satisfaction. It will take citizens willing to demand information about the performance of their federal organizations. And it will take citizens willing to act on the basis of that information.
As our President has said so often, the future is ours--if we have the courage to create it.