Statement to Minnesota Governor and
Continuous Improvement + Continuous
A short-term /
2011 - Click here to send a quick
feedback comment to the Civic Caucus about this report.
thoughtful citizen expects anything less than a struggle over methods to
balance the state’s budget this session. Major conflict between seemingly
unyielding forces and conflicting visions in Minnesota state government is
virtually certain over the next two-and-a-half months. Whatever the outcome,
down-to-the wire (and maybe post-session) showdowns and ultimate final action
probably will leave the Governor and Legislature exhausted and citizens of the
However, looking behind the headlines, an entirely different scene is evident.
Lawmakers are sensing that there must be a better way. The hard realities of
changing populations and modest economic projections compel them to become
architects of a new direction. Already they're sensing new common ground.
Bipartisan discussions are under way.
Lawmakers are seeing that the new direction requires a new frame of mind.
Questions are being asked: Are some providers automatically rewarded for
additional services, whether or not the services are needed? What can people
do by themselves? What can people do for themselves with some help? Can
outcomes be measured and providers be paid accordingly? Can economic value be
attached to delivery of some services and, thereby, attract private
investment? Are individuals rewarded or punished for innovation?
across Minnesota understand that government must seek new approaches to ensure
opportunity for all Minnesotans to be successful. The questions asked across
the state are “what will change?” and “how will change happen?”
The Legislature is talking
about new approaches unlike any time in recent memory. Many leaders in
community and academic institutions are equally receptive.
Progress already is evident in bills receiving serious consideration in this
session. Long after the 2011 budget debate is a memory, this Governor and
Legislature might well be heralded as having opened doors for a new approach
to state and local programs and services.
come out of the session as leaders, elected officials need to be able to say
that they have articulated a realistic vision, developed an effective
strategy, and made the difficult decisions necessary to carry out that
strategy, all while acting for both the short and long term interests of the
Start with a vision: What
kind of state should Minnesota be?
Will Minnesota be the brainpower state?
If so, priorities include
a well-functioning pre-natal through college public/private education system,
and the ability to attract national and global talent to the Cold Sunbelt by
offering a better quality of life.
…the state with the lowest cost of doing business?
In that case, tax and
regulatory structure are more important.
…the innovation center for industry, attracting as much out-of-state talent
as traditionally ‘growing our own?’
That requires a still
different sort of initiative and incentives.
vision of our future informing all processes of state governance may arise
from many sources. It may be articulated by the Governor, legislative
leadership, the general public, communities, labor, business and civic
organizations. Consensus on a vision is important. There is today both
opportunity and need for someone to step forward with a clear vision for our
state and to demonstrate the credibility of that vision by taking the critical
first steps toward making it a reality. Backed by action addressing both the
short and long term, a well-defined vision for the state will bring coherence
to the process of governing through this critical period.
Then, advance a strategy:
Manage the biennium’s budget while implementing new approaches
confluence of events—the economic downturn and the structural imbalance of the
state budget—has created a rare opportunity in Minnesota in 2011 for
Governor or Legislature may take this opportunity to embrace a strategic and
fundamentally optimistic approach to Minnesota’s position: managing through
the biennium’s budget imbalance while implementing a dual focus—or "split
screen"—strategy of continuous improvement alongside continuous innovation—and
in the process, effect both a short-and long-term strategy.
split screen strategy was developed in the private sector and is now being
applied in the government and non-profit sectors. One of the best "split
screen" approaches is local. It is how the former Dayton Hudson Corporation
thought about the creation of Target. While creating Target (the innovation
side of the screen), it continued to "improve" its department stores (the
improvement side of the screen).
dual focus is somewhat analogous to watching two television programs
simultaneously via a split screen. Seen this way, improvement and innovation
are not competing strategies. Like the programs on the dual screens, they work
side by side.
approaches must address both structure and incentives. Until incentives are
changed, nothing fundamentally changes. Thus, the test of a new
improvement/innovation approach is: How does it change the incentive
structure? New approaches with new incentives are unlikely to emerge from
programs already in place. Great changes often happen slowly and outside
role of the Governor and Legislature is to create incentives for improvement
and innovation among government agencies and units, organizations,
communities, families and individuals. Policymakers can establish the
incentive framework but might not be in a position to do the actual
innovating. One of the tests to use in determining which of several
approaches to pursue is the assessment of their short- and long-term costs and
Although economic recovery and growth may reduce the state's budgetary
imbalance, the imbalance remains because of the structure, operations, and
service approach. Keeping the focus on the long term strategy of
improvement/innovation must remain primary for the future of Minnesota. This
is what we mean by redesign.
Finally, consider the
initiatives: approaches to continuous improvement and continuous innovation in
the 2011 session
absent a comprehensive vision or strategic plan for the state, the environment
for new approaches nonetheless has ripened, with many proposals emerging.
Individuals and groups are weighing in with their distinct ideas of what they
want Minnesota to become. These ideas are available to whoever chooses to take
up the mantle of leadership. The Governor or Legislature can adopt these ideas
as planks in a long-term strategy for Minnesota. While the Civic Caucus
neither endorses nor opposes particular proposals, some examples of
potentially high-return improvement and innovation strategies that the Caucus
has reviewed over the past year include:
Market-based early learning system: Give
need-based scholarships for families to choose early learning programs with
information about quality. (http://tinyurl.com/4jty25s)
Human capital performance bonds: Finance
non-profits on a performance-basis by identifying those whose service saves
the state money and paying a portion of anticipated savings to the state.
Driving innovation in education:
Establish a Legislature-and-Governor-appointed non-profit commission to
drive innovation in public schooling. (http://tinyurl.com/4fweudc)
Consumer-directed social services: Shift from
risk-free social services to a consumer-directed model that brings nonprofit
service organizations in as partners. Incentives encourage less costly choices
by consumers. (http://tinyurl.com/4g4lbam)
System of health care at the regional level driven by
information on cost and quality: Improve health care by
providing information on cost and quality, devising incentives for consumers
to choose healthcare packages along those lines, and encouraging prevention by
implementing Minnesota’s 2008 health care reform law. (http://tinyurl.com/4zqwt29)
Restructure the state-local fiscal system:
Adjust the system of state aids and local taxes. In light of enormous
budget challenges facing the Governor and Legislature, confine new
approaches to those that are revenue-neutral at least or, preferably,
Conclusion: We need to embrace the opportunity to resolve the present budget
imbalance while laying critical groundwork for the future
Civic Caucus has recommended (http://bit.ly/eo8I9I)
that the overall size of the biennial budget be intensively discussed early in
the session, instead of waiting until last-minute negotiations. Thus the House
and Senate ought enact promptly, by joint resolution, overall legislative
spending and revenue targets in response to the Governor's budget. Such action
should stimulate early, creative dialogue within and outside the State Capitol
on new and better approaches to balancing the budget.
difficult to imagine that a final budget, passed by the Legislature and signed
by the Governor, won't include expenditure reductions and revenue increases.
But the session should include more than that. While service and finance
reforms will be required to bring the budget into line this biennium, new
approaches will be needed in many areas to resolve the state's structural
imbalance and put Minnesota on competitive footing to pursue a worthy vision
for the state.
citizens of Minnesota should express thanks to the Governor and legislators
for the painful choices they will make in 2011. As one newly elected
representative put it early in the session: "I'll just have to do what I think
is right, and in two years let the voters decide."
Nevertheless, the biennium can be an historic watershed, remembered for years
to come for forthright, courageous action, managing the budget today while
making strategic decisions for tomorrow.
Civic Caucus process--
The Civic Caucus is a Minnesota-based non-partisan organization offering a new
model for involvement and education in public affairs. It concentrates on
using the Internet to share new approaches for solutions to challenges facing
the state. A library of more than 235 interviews with public figures, along
with background on the Civic Caucus, including biographies of its leaders, is
A draft of the Caucus’s
statement was first circulated among its email participants, yielding comments
and suggestions. The statement was revised and approved by a Civic Caucus
leadership group, after which some 145 participants signed on in support.
Persons agreeing to be listed as supporters of this statement --
John S. Adams
Donald H. Anderson
Richard & Joan Angevine
Robert J. Brown
Ellen T. Brown
Norman R. Carpenter
Jane and Gary Clements
George R. Crolick
Sandy and Blake Davis
Lou and Nan DeMars
David G. Dillon
Ruth and Paul Hauge
Susan Myhre Hayes
Shirley K. Heaton
Roger F. Heegaard
John P. James
Wayne B. Jennings
Robbin and B. Kristine Johnson
Verne C. Johnson
Bruce A. Lundeen
Charles P. Lutz
Malcolm W. McDonald
Mary Jane Morrison
Ed & Charty Oliver
Bob and Jackie Olson
Wayne G. Popham
Dennis E Peterson
John E. Sampson
Larry W. Schluter
Kristin Nicole Schulte
Charles A. Slocum
W. Christopher Stedman
Roy L. Thompson
Paul J. Wagner
Mike and Kay Weber