National Performance Review "Reinventing Government" Vice President
Al Gore's Address to the Federal Quality Conference Washington, D.C.

August 2, 1995


Secretary Perry, thank you for your kind words, and congratulations on so
many of your people being honored yet again. You're running a great shop
over there. And congratulations to the entire Department of Defense for being
so well represented in this ceremony today. And you mentioned the vice
presidency being "honorable and easy," as Jefferson said. I went on the David
Letterman Show a little over a year ago, and they asked me to put together a
top-ten list of the things that are good about the Office of Vice President. And
reason number five had to do with the Great Seal of the Vice President, and I
said, "If you close your left eye, it says 'President of the United States of

So -- thank you, Secretary Perry, and I understand Senator Carl Levin is here.
Is he -- is he still here? There he is, right over there. Senator Levin, thank you
for being here and also --

-- Congressman Dave Weldon from Florida. Is Congressman Weldon still
here? He might have had to go for a vote, and there were a number of other
members of Congress who were here and had to go for a vote, but I wanted to
see if they were here.

I want to acknowledge Director Jim King of OPM, Commissioner Peggy
Richardson of the IRS, Acting Deputy Administrator of GSA, Thurmond
Davis, my partner in a lot of the space ventures, the Administrator of NASA,
Dan Golden, who is here. The Chairman of the TVA, a long-time personal
friend of mine, Craven Crowell. I used to be a newspaper reporter and Craven
Crowell was my city editor. And we were both living different lifetimes at that
point, but glad Chairman Crowell is here. Director of Administration and
Management at the Office of Inspector General and the Defense Department
Director, Doc Cooke -- the legendary Doc Cooke. I want to acknowledge

Let me see, now. Oh, Honorable John Dalton, Secretary of the Navy, is here.
Chief of Staff, the U.S. Army, General Dennis Rymer , is here. And the Under
Secretary for the U.S. Air Force, Honorable Rudy de Leon is here. And I'm
sure that I've missed a number of other people who ought to be singled out and
I just hope they'll forgive me when I say it is not intentional at all.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is truly an honor for me and it really is wonderful to
be here among the original reinventors of government. That's who you are, the
people who have been pushing the quality movement in government. You
really are the original reinventors. I know that reinventing government is kind
of a new slogan, "REGO," as we call it. Somebody said that REGO is "Gore"
spelled sideways.

But the lion's share of the credit belongs to you, because I'm keenly aware of
the fact that many of you were at it way back in the old days before it was
popular. Before it was a buzzword. Before it was identified as the cutting
edge of good management. You were there back in the days before Total
Quality Management, in the days I call "Partial Quality Management." PQM.
That's where you applied quality management principles within your own
immediate office and prayed that your boss didn't find out that you were doing
it. I can tell that some of you remember those days. Well, thanks to President
Clinton, those days are over. Nowadays, quality management is the official
policy of the United States government and don't you ever forget it.

President Clinton and I, back when he was Governor Clinton and I was in the
United States Senate and the two of us were running for office, we wrote a
book called, "Putting People First," and we talked then about the importance
of bringing quality management into the federal government as the official
policy for every aspect and every part of the federal government, and reinvent
the way the government does business. When we talked about this subject
after our partnership was formed in June of 1992, we quickly found that both
of us had worked on it extensively for quite some time. In his case, way back
in the 1980s when he was Governor of Arkansas, he got Asa Whittaker, an
expert from Eastman-Kodak, to teach the members of his cabinet all about the
techniques of quality management. He became the first governor to undertake
a statewide quality program, and the results were extremely impressive.

While he was on the campaign trail and while we both talked about this on the
campaign trail, we got poked fun at for being the "policy wonks," and I guess
there was some truth to that. You learn a lot of new jokes in a national
campaign. "If you use a strobe light it looks like Al Gore is moving."

"Al Gore is so boring, his Secret Service code name is 'Al Gore.'"

Well, as you can imagine, when we talked about quality management on the
campaign trail there, these jokes came out again. But we were serious and,
really, beneath the humor, everyone realized how it important this topic is.
Because private sector organizations and some pioneering organizations in the
public sector have, for many years, been demonstrating how important it is to
move our organizational theory and management techniques out of the old
industrial era which relied on the metaphor of the factory, which assumed that
people could be divided into two categories, the ones that do the thinking and
make the decisions, and the ones that are essentially only muscles and tendon
and bone.

And get rid of all that old thinking and adopt the information era approach that
is based on a fundamentally new understanding of human potential, informed
by a realization that every man and woman who works in an organization at
every level and in every part of the organization has creativity, the ability to
think, recognize, understand, identify problems and solve problems, and
because by virtue of their work they have the immediate opportunity to
understand a great deal more about the part of the work they're doing than
anyone else in the organization when they are given to believe that their
thoughts and their creativity are sincerely appreciated and valued as part of the
overall organization's ability to evolve and learn and grow and improve and
perform the mission assigned to that organization in the most effective possible
way. Then the entire organization benefits from the teamwork that is created
with this new approach.

And so one of the very first things that President Clinton did after being sworn
in as president was to kick off the campaign to reinvent government, to bring
the quality revolution that had swept American business into every part of the
federal government. And I'm grateful for the gesture of confidence he made in
asking me to pay daily attention to this for him and be in charge of it, and I'm
glad to be able to tell you with the outstanding teamwork by Secretary Perry,
the other members of the administration represented here, we've made a lot of
progress. Even though we're keenly aware that the job is far from done.

When we started it, we said it would be an eight-to-ten year challenge, to
change the culture of the federal government and really implement the ideas
and creativity of the men and women who work where the rubber meets the
road, who in many cases for years have seen and talked about improvements
that they were afraid to venture because if they stuck their heads out the
culture told them they would get their necks -- if they stuck their necks out the
culture told them they'd get their heads chopped off. We know it'll take time
to change that culture, but we've made a tremendous start, and the people in
this room have made it possible to make more progress than anyone thought
was possible. And that's why I am so indebted to all of you for your tireless
work, your inspired innovation, and your bone-deep commitment to quality

That's why I'm also so pleased to be able to turn the spotlight on organizations
like the Army's Tank Automotive R&D Center and the Red River Depot,
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, GSA's Supply Service in New York, the IRS
Service Center in Fresno, and the others that you will hear about in just a few

All of you in government, all within the sound of my voice, follow their
example. Please. Follow their lead. Reinventing government is hard. But it is
extremely fulfilling work for all who are involved in it. And it helps to know
that those of us involved in it are not alone. All of you are involved. You
advocates of quality management are with President Clinton and me in the
effort to make government work better and cost less. That's the right way to
change government, making it work better as well as cost less. And it's done
through quality management.

There is a wrong way, a wrong way that is being advocated by some around
this city, and that is to focus exclusively on cost. This approach might be
termed "total quantity management," the theory being that you can change
government by simply whacking off a piece of it, never mind whether the end
result works better or worse or not at all.

Well, with reinventors and quality managers working together, we can change
government the right way. Together, we can bring about the same kind of
transition that we have seen elsewhere in private business and elsewhere in the
world. I've sometimes used an example from the private sector in another
nation. In the 1950s whenever Americans bought a product that had the label
"Made in Japan" the instant reaction to that label was, "This is going to be a
pretty shoddy product, cheap, probably will break pretty soon, very low
quality, probably not worth the money or the effort." But in just a little more

than a decade, by using the essential principles of quality management, the
entire -- virtually the entire business and industrial sector of Japan transformed
itself to the point where that phrase "Made in Japan" acquired a completely
new meaning.

All of a sudden it became a challenge to American manufacturers and product
designers, because the phrase became synonymous with the best quality you
could find at the best price you could find. And in response to that challenge,
luckily, American businessmen and women vastly improved quality in the
United States. But my point is that quality management made that phrase
mean almost the exact opposite of what "Made in Japan" meant in the 1950s.

Now think about the phrase, "Good enough for government work." What are
you laughing for? You're laughing because the phrase still connotes, in the
minds of most Americans, a pejorative description of sloppy, thoughtless, low-
quality work. Partly done, just to the point where you can say it's done but
you can't say it's been done well. That's changing. And we are
commemorating that transition with these awards here today. Because ten
years from now we are going to create, with your help, a new meaning for that
phrase, "Good enough for government work." Imagine a future early in the
next century, if not before, when people can say, with pride, that some task
was done to such a level of excellence that it is now good enough for
government work.

We can create that new reality. Those who are being recognized here today
have done it. We've actually had operations in the federal government now
singled out not only for awards of this kind -- and this is such a high honor and
so unique -- but we've had less visible recognition with -- I'll give you one
example. When Wal-Mart in one state decided to get into the pharmacy
business, it took the normal approach of benchmarking against the finest
pharmacy operation it could find anywhere in the United States, especially in
the state where this operation was located, and they looked at all of the
commercial operations and all of the chains and all of the nearby stores, and
they found that by far and away the best operation was the Air Combat
Command's pharmacy. And so they went and spent a lot of time benchmarking
against this government operation, to see how in the world they had such an
extraordinarily high level of quality. Their work -- it was good enough for
government work. And now that Wal-Mart operation is trying as hard as it
can to be good enough for government work.

These organizations are creating exactly that kind of reality within the federal
government. You're going to hear about it in Michigan and in Texas, in
Florida and New York and New Jersey, in Tennessee and elsewhere. It's the
kind of change that we now call reinvention, but it's what you have been calling
quality management all along.

So, on behalf of President Clinton, I wish to congratulate this year's winners of
the Quality Awards. And I want to thank all of the government's practitioners
of quality management. You are the original heroes of reinvention.
Congratulations, and thank you.

(End of proceedings as recorded.)

NPR Home Page Search the NPR Site NPR Initiatives Site Index Calendar Comments Awards Links Tools Frequently Asked Questions Speeches News Releases Library Navigation Bar For NPR site