Excellence in Government 99
Electronic Town Hall Wall

Washington, D. C.
July 15, 1999

Analysis by Lynn Kahn, National Partnership for Reinventing Government

Reinventors and quality aficionados at the Excellence in Government '99 Conference left their answers to nine questions about the state of reinvention and quality improvement on the Electronic Town Hall Wall developed and sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers. And to continue the dialogue begun at the conference, sponsors extended the town hall wall to the Web. Join the dialogue at

1. What has been the biggest reinvention success in your organization? Analysis: About 50 comments in 3 clusters: (1) Strategic Planning & Baldrige Criteria; (2) Specific Projects and (3) Culture Change

  • Using Baldrige criteria as a framework to self-assess the organization, to identify gaps, to identify progress towards goals.

  • DOD's Federated Laboratory -- a whole new way to partner with and heavily leverage the private sector research organizations. We have tabulated tens of millions of dollars of leveraged programs and facilities, we have a five-to-one amplification of our own in-house expertise (

  • Changing the culture from a regional fiefdom mentality to one of parity, we're all in this together
2. What still needs to be done to create a government that works better, costs less and gets results Americans want? Analysis: 80 comments. Wide range of suggestions for improvement: from clarify the role of government to implement the waiver process
  • We should be more concerned with reinventing our core businesses instead of incrementally improving secondary support processes.

  • More organizational leadership with emphasis on analyzing and streamlining processes

  • The American people need to be involved and define what the government's core responsibilities are and assess how well the government meets those core responsibilities.

  • The upcoming citizen satisfaction survey is important but will results be too hot to handle?

  • Close the gap between first line supervisors and Al Gore or other senior officials trying to implement true government change. What is said and what is filtered down has little or no similarity -- too many layers -- too many middle layers -- work keeps being added to first line supervisors from any of the twenty-nine layers above the employees and the customers---HELP.

  • Change the way that the budget process works BIG time!
3. If your organization uses the President's Quality Award Criteria or similar Baldrige-based criteria, what has been your biggest success? Analysis: 17 comments. Many great descriptions about using Quality Criteria as an overall framework to manage change
  • Tying together the various aspects of an organization into a single focus, an integrated whole.

  • Identification of gaps, prioritizing and problem solving. Has allowed us to identify the drivers that have been barriers to organizational excellence.

  • Establishing an integrated management system that incorporates the Baldrige and President's Quality principles
4. If your organization uses the President's Quality Award Criteria or similar criteria, what has been the biggest challenge in implementing the program? Analysis: 20 comments. Focus on defining measures and the problem of constant leadership changes
  • A challenge is to use the criteria at or close to the top of the organization rather than in the individual ranks, e.g., total Department rather than subordinate units.

  • The biggest challenge in implementing the program is having employees believe that it will work.

  • The biggest challenge is getting senior leadership participation.

  • Constantly changing leadership on Military installations

  • Developing an integrated systems approach to change, aligning ourselves organizationally and functionally with the desired change and building change leadership competencies

5. What will be the most important skills of Federal employees in the 21st Century? Analysis: 60 comments. Focus on people, technology and partnership skills

  • The ability to adapt to changes and keep up with a constantly evolving private sector

  • The skills of communication, partnership building and multi-tasking. IT skills.

  • Ability to translate the value of public service into a tangible, workable, day-to-day tool.

  • Earning the trust of the American public

  • Leadership at all levels

  • Customer service.

  • Communication skills, maturity, leadership and respect for themselves, customers, and employees. Ability to work well in teams and to be self-motivated... tough skinned
6. What is the single most important action your agency can take to develop an effective cadre of career leaders? Analysis: 43 Comments. Clarify what leadership means
  • One clear action, but one which is very hard to carry out in the case of many agencies, is to redefine what exactly a "leader" is, in a way which is meaningful in terms of a career. It's hard to promote and support visionary, facilitative and risk-taking skills into career paths.

  • There will always be a tension between the need to be innovative, risk-taking and supportive of teamwork, and the need to be careful with the public purse

  • An active mentoring program needs to be developed not only for leaders, but for all employees.

  • Get rid of the various levels of management and empower the line workers.

  • Establish a state-of-the-art, world class leadership preparation and renewal capability which exposes all levels of the workforce to progressive leadership practices among multiple sectors.

  • Find out who are leaders naturally and USE them. Quit trying to make someone who will never be a leader - a LEADER!
7. How does your organization learn from its customers? Analysis: 24 comments. First, it's an attitude that customers matter. Second, there are lots of tools
  • Our service is customer focused. Our goal is to have 110% customer satisfaction. We use customer feedback forms to improve or make necessary changes in our operation.

  • We use the customer response cards with every order to learn from our customers. We use focus groups for the bigger picture. It is easy for a customer to let us know when they are not happy -- they can use e-mail, call our 1-800 number, send a letter or return the order for a refund. Our customer service folks are very efficient at solving a problem to the customer's satisfaction.

  • Our own employees are rewarded for sharing customer complaints and recognizing opportunities for improvement. Employees are highlighted for sharing and solutioning.

  • Kennedy Space Center has recently completed a partnership effort with a major consulting firm to refine our customer segments; survey our customers with respect to our products and services; and develop a baseline understanding of where we are relative to our customer focus and satisfaction levels. Customer focus is one of our management system's performance elements.

  • Surveys: We conduct a quarterly survey to determine if we are providing the customers with the information they need and can use. So far it has fluctuated around 75% satisfaction.

  • We get our customers involved to the greatest extent possible. We invite our toughest customers to help us analyze our processes. By securing the buy-in from the most critical/vocal of our opponents we stand a better chance to succeed. It relates to an old Asian warlord philosophy of making a friend of your enemy.
8. For your agency, what are great examples of outcome measures - measures which customers outside the organization care about? Analysis: 21 comments. Pretty good focus on results people care about, difficulties of getting the measures right
  • The customers outside the organization are concerned with the number of days the work is in process, periodic follow-ups and final completion date.

  • Using our information to save lives and protect property.

  • Do we answer all messages and do follow-ups in a timely manner?

  • We launch our space shuttle and expendable launch vehicles safely and on-time and enable relevant research, experiences, products, and services as a result.

  • DOD wins wars.

  • Getting the measures right is hard work, getting them wrong can be disastrous. We need to discuss "what are the measures that truly reflect the results Americans want from their government." We need this discussion at every level of the organization -- not just in the strategic planning office.

  • Outcome measures that are not in an agency's direct control often lead to problems in formulating performance information. The idea that we can focus on immediate outcomes that in turn influence intermediate and final outcomes was an important stepping stone for us.

  • Our problem appears to be finding measures both customers and employees care about.

  • Our agency reduced its total labor multiplier (cost of doing business) by 15%. We paid real attention to the cost of doing business, hearing our customers when they said we were too expensive. We used a number of methods and approaches such as activity based costing, regulatory relief in acquisition, and constructing a quality project which met our customers needs.
9. What's a great example of a partnership your organization has developed with local communities, the private sector or non-profit coalitions? Analysis: 21 Comments. Broad range of great partnerships
  • In cooperation with the San Antonio community, the Air Force has initiated the "Brooks City-Base Concept" to enhance mission performance and reduce costs

  • Our organization has adopted a school in the community where the office is located.

  • Federal and state organizations sharing best practices in public administration.

  • Education has now become a military and civilian community effort for soldiers and/or civilians.

  • For the last 10 years, the partnership between GSA, Sprint and AT&T saved our taxpayers billions of dollars. Now, with Sprint and MCI, we have even greater expectations.

  • Kennedy Space Center and Patrick Air Force Base have entered into a Joint Base Operations Support Contract to delivery support services to both Federal communities. This has resulted in a savings of over $20 million.

  • Kennedy Space Center has established a Virtual Mentor Program with schools throughout the State of Florida to link NASA's engineers and local schools to enhance student awareness and understanding of science and technology and how this is applied to today's research, development, and engineering challenges and the Nation's space program.

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