The times they are a-changing

HERSHEY, Pa.-- The role of government and taxpayer expectations are changing. Two keynote speakers touched on this theme in separate presentations today at the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference.

Anthony Principi, chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said technological advances are one factor causing the changing expectations. In the past, he said, epidemics were regarded as unfortunate, but unstoppable, events. Likewise, people hoped to be spared from hurricanes and floods, but knew that they would come. In neither case did people expect the government to prevent, predict or clean up after such events.

"The same progression of increased expectations can be seen in every area of human endeavor," Principi said. "That is driven by technologies that shrink time and distance."

Agencies, therefore, are pressed to let go of the status quo and undertake real business transformation to meet those expectations, he said. Leaders who do so should expect resistance, he cautioned. There are "far more brakes than accelerators" in the political process.

Mark Everson, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, identified three key steps for agency managers trying to lead transformation:

* "Ruthless prioritization": Priorities in government can be diffused due to the number required. "Processes involve multiple agencies," he said. "This makes the execution of priorities much more difficult than in private industry."

* Build strong teams: Teams should include political appointees, career personnel and possibly people from elsewhere in government.

* "Relentless follow-up": Agency personnel need to know that leaders are serious about new initiatives before they really start to move on them, Everson said.

Everson said the President's Management Agenda, with its red-yellow-green score card scheme, is showing results. Since its implementation in 2001, the number of red scores has dropped from 110 to 33. Some of those reds went to yellow, increasing that number from 19 to 54. Others went all the way to green, which increased from just one to 43 since 2001.

The results reflect the emphasis of President Bush and his first Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, on actively managing agencies. During the Clinton administration, Everson said, the emphasis was on controlling budgets.

"There's no doubt that the M, the management side of OMB, is back," he said.

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