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Reinventing Government.

Reinventing Government, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc., Reading, Mass., 1992. 405 pages; $22.95.

In a provocative new book subtitled "How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector from Schoolhouse to Statehouse, City Hall to the Pentagon," policy gurus David Osborne and Ted Gaebler outline an approach to public management that promises to transform rule-driven, unresponsive and insensitive bureaucracies into responsive, risk-taking, innovative, entrepreneurial organizations. The results, they say, will be a government that delivers better services for less money. If they're, their model answers the prayers of every politician faced with the distasteful choice of raising taxes or cutting services.

Osborne and Gaebler argue that the current bureaucratic model is yesterday's answer to yesterday's problems. It grew out of the Progressive movement that sought to protect the people from unscrupulous and wasteful government actions. Unfortunately, the controls created to prevent political bosses from raiding the public treasury make it difficult to manage government in the public's best interest. The device used to implement these controls--large, centralized bureaucratic agencies--made sense in an era when communication was difficult, information was hard to disseminate and change occurred slowly. Today, with modern communication and information processing technologies, we need flexible, adaptive, decentralized, entrepreneurial organizations capable of responding quickly to change.

A basic tenet of this theory is that public managers, once freed from red tape and given a clear mission, will find the best way to do their jobs. The authors urge legislatures to establish missions for agencies, define the results expected from programs, create measures to determine if these outcomes are reached and get out of the way and let agency managers manage. Rather than the traditional line item budget, they suggest using a "mission-driven budget" in which agencies are given lump sum appropriations to meet performance goals. Under this mechanism, agencies would be allowed to move funds around within their budgets and could keep any funds they saved.

They argue that legislatures should get out of the business of micro-managing state government and concentrate on the "larger problems they were elected to solve." This approach assumes that agency goals can be defined precisely and program results accurately measured. It also does not take into account a major reason why legislatures use detailed line item appropriations and prescriptive rules--state agencies often do not carry out the policy goals that legislatures set. Just ask any legislator who has seen the intent of his or her legislation changed in the process of developing the regulations to implement it.

There are 10 principles to reinventing government, the authors say. Entrepreneurial organizations promote competition between service providers, give control to citizens to solve problems, focus on the outcomes of programs rather than inputs, are driven by clearly defined missions and treat their clients as customers. They also decentralize authority, work to prevent problems from occurring, concentrate on earning money not just spending it, work with public, private and volunteer sectors to solve problems and use market mechanisms rather than bureaucratic methods to meet their goals.

This book makes a compelling case for creating new mechanisms for attacking public problems and administering current programs. The ideas presented respond to the unwillingness of voters to pay higher taxes to support government services they are not satisfied with. Written in an interesting and fast paced style similar to In Search Of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, and loaded with examples that illustrate their 10 principles, Reinventing Government is a valuable reference for any legislator or staffer looking for new ideas to improve state government.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National Conference of State Legislatures
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Jones, Rick
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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