Running Government Like A Business: How I Would Advise President-elect Trump
I am going to take somewhat of a detour from the purpose of this series of articles that discusses points of view and frameworks to aid in the growth of the market value of for-profit firms. However, readers will see that the extent to which government can be an enabler of free enterprise, this article does contribute to that purpose.
President-elect Donald Trump will be the United States 45th President. He won this election in part by demanding that government should be run more like a business. What would that entail? What could be an approach and framework to get this accomplished? I know he has his views and this article is offered to compliment his and his team’s views and approaches.
I started working on this piece a year and a half ago but shelved it thinking Mr. Trump would not win the presidency based on the polls. I did not know if Hilary Clinton would have been interested in this mandate, as it did not seem to be part of her positions. Now that Mr. Trump has been elected, here is how I would advise him and his team to run government more like a business.
My counsel and approach would be in three parts. The reader will sense I am being naïve to a certain point, as government seems to move like molasses in January. President-elect Trump won in part on the mandate to change Washington. Why should we not think big and go big? In fact Paul Ryan has said almost exactly this sentence.
The first part would be to view government not from a structural perspective, like the House, Senate, Supreme Court, policies, departments, programs, etc. Government would be viewed from a process perspective that most businesses use. As many readers know, the process revolution was made popular with Michael Hammer’s 1993 bestseller, Re-engineering the Corporation. But the first attempts to view businesses as a group of processes came from the consulting firm the Thomas Group in the early 1980s. I was employed there from 1996 to 1998 and it was the most productive training in my career to see the role of speed in business performance. A process cuts across what can be “silos” created in the functions. Silos are where through time the functions start viewing themselves in isolation from other parts of the business. In a business these functional areas are the usual: sales, marketing, manufacturing, after sales service, logistics and human resources. A process is aimed at aiding customer satisfaction. So say we want to focus on the Customer Order Fulfillment Process. This process touches all of the above functions. The neat thing about a process is that its cycle time can be measured and improved, along with the amount of re-work in a process, which can be measured and improved also. A key government process could be the Constituent Need Fulfillment process, with measures of cycle time and re-work to fulfill the needs and wants of taxpayers. Other key processes would need to be named and mapped out for their process flows and value-add. A key part of process discipline is to identify the barriers that are getting in the way causing slowness and re-work and to remove them quickly. Amazon is excellent at this.
The second part of my counsel would be to change the culture in government not to be a blame oriented, or an “us-versus-them” culture. Constituents seem to be sick of this as we see democrats, republicans, independents and the Supreme Court bicker and blame frequently. We need the various parties and the Supreme Court for checks and balances and for healthy competition of philosophies. The blame game, cemented with career politicians, creates a culture where delay and animosity seem to thrive. We need to replace this culture with a culture of a “transparent meritocracy”. The key to this culture is that inefficient and ineffective processes are to blame for lack of constituent satisfaction, not elected and appointed people who can take criticism personally. These elected and appointed people would collectively take on the transparent accountability for the great improvements in process cycle time (make them speedy) and re-work (make this much less). Re-work is frustrating for everyone, especially the constituents who need to be served. Look at the issues in the Veterans Administration for example.
The third part of my counsel would involve the formulation of a National Competitive Strategy (NCS). This is not National Policy, but a united strategy that would enable the strengthening of “clusters” of free enterprise that are already strong and create a process to enable new clusters to form. A cluster is taken from the groundbreaking work of Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard in his 1990 book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. A cluster is a geographically co-located group of enterprises that have gained national and in some cases global competitive and comparative advantage. Examples are the leisure cluster around New Orleans, the venture capital cluster in Silicon Valley and in Boston, the wine cluster in California and many others. Which new clusters could and should be enabled by the NCS? Actually Dr. Porter wrote an article on the formulation of a NCS a few years ago but to my knowledge it gained no traction in government. All should read his 2014 article titled “U.S. Competitiveness and Implications for Our Economic Future”.
I have been sketching a complete framework for all of this by adapting my Business Performance Engine for for-profit business over to government improvement and I call it simply the Government Performance Engine. Space precludes a detailed discussion here but if readers are interested please email me and I will send the PowerPoint presentation. But let me give just one example from the NCS part of my counsel to President-elect Trump. Why could we not set up a national investment exchange where any citizen could contribute as an investor? In 2013 the U.S had 242,470,820 people over eighteen years of age. If 100,000,000 of those people would invest just $5 a year, that would yield $500 million in one year and $2 trillion in four years. Mr. Trump plans to repatriate corporate profits lost to overseas and these could also partially fund this exchange. So could private investment. A revolving panel of business leaders would chair this exchange and oversee the government’s enablement of resource allocation to current advantaged clusters and develop a process for vetting new clusters. Citizen investors would get a return on their investment. They would also have insight into skills that are needed to beef up the current advantaged clusters and have an early warning of the skills needed for the new clusters. This exchange and its oversight leaders would enable private enterprise to set up training for these skills. Workers left behind by fading industries could be retrained and gain good employment. A serious flaw in my thinking to date is all the fraud, waste and abuse that will happen, and I am open to suggestions. I live in Louisiana and personally worked as a process consultant to the Road Home project. This project disbursed grants to homeowners affected by hurricanes Rita and Katrina. This project had to constantly fight fraud, waste and abuse.
Government viewed as processes, not functions, a culture of a “transparent meritocracy” and the formulation of a NCS are three parts of an approach for serious government improvement. This may seem Pollyannaish, but it is doable if we want to do it. America can be made Greater, not just Great Again.
This article is part of a series on what causes a firm’s value to increase
Bill Bigler is founder of Bill Bigler Associates and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.billbigler.com.