Incorporating Change
Better government is coming to your neighborhood -- soon

Fifteen years ago the wheels were falling off the American auto industry. People were buying more and more Japanese cars and fewer and fewer American cars. The Japanese cars were better and cheaper, after all. And the gap was widening.

If somebody had said in 1982 that within 10 years the American auto industry would be producing excellent cars at competitive prices, they would have been met with jeers.

But it happened.

If somebody had said in 1993 that within 10 years the federal government would be smaller, customer-driven, worker-friendly, and run like America's best businesses, they would have drawn worse jeers.

But that was the challenge that President Clinton handed down four years ago when he asked me to reinvent the federal government -- to put the wheels back on. We agreed right then that we needed to bring a revolution to the federal government: We call it reinventing government.

So I did two things. I assembled a team of experts --- 200-plus federal employees who knew what was wrong and wanted to make it right. And I went to business leaders who had reinvented corporate America, and who were willing to share their insights and experience with government.

Together, we went to work to create a government that works so much better and costs so much less that Americans will regain faith in the institution of government. The stakes in this revolution are high: confidence in our ability to resolve serious national issues like crime, education, and the environment by working together through government. Without that confidence, we abandon the future to chaos.

Over the past four years, I have issued annual reports on our progress. In all these reports, I have told you that the energy and creativity behind government reinvention has come from federal employees themselves. No one knows better what is wrong with government, and no one wants more to fix it. All that remains true. But we have not simply been improvising as we go along, dreaming it up by ourselves.

Our models, teachers, and partners in this historic undertaking are America's best-run companies --companies that led the quality revolution of the past two decades -- companies like GE, Harley Davidson, and Motorola, which have kept America competitive in the world market. They have already been through the transformation from industrial-age to information-age management. They have been through the learning curve, they have made the mistakes and fixed them, all while dealing with the risks of a free market.

Their time is valuable, and we value it. Their advice is not just theory; it is tried and true. We gratefully acknowledge their many contributions in the following pages. And we are also acknowledging their contributions the best way I know how -- by taking their advice and examples to heart, and putting them into practice.

Most of what successful businesses, and now government, have learned can be summed up in two principles: focus on customers, and listen to workers. Old-fashioned bureaucracies focus on hierarchy and listen for instructions from the top. Doing otherwise is a big change.

We are making the big change. Here are some examples:

  • The smallest federal civilian workforce in over 30 years, down by 309,000 (as of January 1997) from the 2,200,000 on the payroll when we took office.
  • A big reduction in red tape and government bureaucracy -- leading to savings of $132 billion for the taxpayer.
  • Easier access to government agencies using information technology.
  • A marked change in the philosophy of regulatory agencies from an adversarial approach to a more cooperative -- and effective -- method.
  • A new spirit in government, in which creativity and innovation are rewarded, not frowned upon.

It is my pleasure in this book to play straight man (a role for which I have special qualifications) to Dilbert -- and to his creator, Scott Adams. I want Americans to know that government reinvention is happening. My thanks to Dilbert and Scott for making the story of government reinvention more fun.

In the following pages, you'll see what else is happening. I hope you enjoy reading about what government is learning from the best in business. President Clinton has set as our performance goal to be every bit as good as the best in business. We've made real progress, but we still have a ways to go. When all of government reaches the goal, all of America will be proud.

Al Gore

Table of Contents ||| Chapter 2
Navigation Bar For NPR site Back To The NPR Main Page Search the NPR Site NPR Initiatives Links to Other Reinvention Web Sites Reinvention Tools Frequently Asked Questions NPR Speeches NPR News Releases