By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

More on innovation, empowerment, and Clinton/Gore v. Bush

Another point made by one of the two people I interviewed last week -- also a Clinton-era political executive -- for the research project on strategy execution was that an important part of his approach to running his organization had been to encourage innovation, and to empower frontline managers and staff members. The Bush administration's political leadership of the organization, he continued, had unfortunately reversed both policies -- the organization had re-centralized decision-making, and it had stopped encouraging staff to innovate.

What again surprised me about this was that the work of this agency was far removed from the kinds of procurement issues that I worked on, on behalf of the reinventing government program, while in government, but the themes of what we both tried to accomplish -- encourage performance improvement through empowering the front lines and promoting innovation -- were common.

There was, then, a theme here. Former Vice President Gore's reinventing government program did represent a management philosophy about how to manage the government to produce improved performance, and it is indeed a different management philosophy from the more centralized, follow orders -- they would say more disciplined and focused -- approach of the Bush folks. At the risk of being, or at least sounding, partisan, I'm proud to have been associated with the approach I was associated with. And I rank as one of my most-satisfying experiences on a personal job-fulfillment level the many friends I made among career civil servants that grew out of the management approach we had. I daresay fewer of President Bush's political appointees will leave government with many personal friends among career folks.

P.S., and while we're on the theme of the folks on the front lines: the name of the National Park Service interpretative tour guide on the Black Freedom Trail tour that I wrote about last week was Dana Smith. Dana, great job, and thanks!

Posted by Steve Kelman on Aug 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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