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The White House sponsored a forum last week of about 50 corporate executives to seek insights about how to successfully transform large organizations. These included the leaders of Facebook, Southwest Airlines, Microsoft, and Whirlpool. Listening to the videos, it was quite reminiscent of a similar forum, sponsored by Vice President Gore’s reinventing government initiative almost 17 years ago. While the participants were different, much of the challenges, and the advice, are still the same!
White House Forum on Modernizing Government (January 14, 2010). The forum, held at the White House, was organized around three themes: streamlining operations, transforming customer service, and maximizing the return-on-investment from technology. The forum broke into five work groups to ensure an interactive dialogue. Each of the work groups was chaired by a deputy secretary. At the end, each group came back to the main room with a summary of key points.
Here are video links to each of the five breakout groups:
The final summary session, lasting 30 minutes, was concluded by chief performance officer Jeff Zients, who said there would be four “next steps:”
White House blogger Jesse Lee did a good job of summarizing the 22 key points. One that sounded like a direct lift from reinvention was: “Engage managers in customer service. Require executives to put themselves in customer shoes by calling into call centers as customers, taking customer service calls directly, and consistently signaling that they pay attention to customer feedback.”
Summit on Reinventing Government (June 25, 1993). Vice President Al Gore led a day-long summit at Congress Hall, in Philadelphia, PA, on "Creating a Government That Works" to examine ways to make government work better and cost less. Its purpose was to examine how the federal government could learn from cutting-edge businesses and state and local governments that have incorporated innovative ways of improving their operations. These included leaders of General Electric, Motorola, and Harley-Davidson. Afterwards, Gore identified several key approaches to transformation and six take-away lessons:
How do we change culture? Part of it lies in liberating agencies from the cumbersome burden of over-regulation and central control. Part of it hinges on creating new incentives to accomplish more through competition and customer choice. And part of it depends on shifting the focus of control: empowering employees to use their judgment; supporting them with the tools and training they need; and holding them accountable for producing results.
Following are six steps, identified by participants in the Philadelphia Summit: