Governor Inslee Rolls Out “Results Washington”

Tuesday Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, after eight months of effort, rolled out what I believe is the most comprehensive plan for measuring state government effectiveness in the nation. While doing research for my next book, Rhetoric to Results, How the States are Getting Down to Business and Rediscovering the Promise of America, I have studied efforts underway in the states and Inslee’s is impressive.

Since Inslee’s inauguration in January 2013, and under the leadership of Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel, his chief of staff, cabinet leaders from every state agency have spent hundreds of hours building out a comprehensive scorecard for Washington State. This scorecard will ensure that the state is focused on the right things and is holding itself accountable to make improvements. Governor Inslee has a strong commitment to results-driven government and he made this expectation clear to the Executive Branch from day one.

Among the documents released today are:

The Governor’s Vision 
- A working Washington built on education and innovation… where all Washingtonians thrive.

The Governor’s Mission
 – To build a thriving Washington by fostering the spirit of continuous improvement, enhancing the conditions for job creation, preparing students for the future, and valuing our environment, our health, and our people.

The Governor’s Five Goals-
(Under which he is organizing his scorecard measures)
Goal 1: World Class Education

Goal 2: Prosperous Economy

Goal 3: Sustainable Energy and Clean Environment

Goal 4: Healthy and Safe Communities
Goal 5: Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government

To translate the goals into measures, Governor Inslee created five goal teams made up of a mix of agency, board, and commission leaders. The goal teams developed Governor Outcome Measures (high-level measures under each of the goals) and a set of leading indicators for each outcome measure. Leading indicators will include targets for improvement with specific leaders assigned and accountable to deliver written plans and improved results.

In the coming weeks the Governor is gathering feedback and ideas from stakeholders, legislators, and citizens alike. The input will be used to create a final set of measures. Then, over the coming months, measures and improvement plans will come online for citizens to review. Citizens will also be able to see results as they are achieved over time.

Inslee is demonstrating courageous political leadership in an age when the politics of accountability can be turned into political crossfire. But Inslee’s action promises to change what is often assumed to be the primary political goal — getting re-elected — in exchange for the goal of making Washington a better place to become educated, start a career, raise and enjoy a family, and retire securely into the state’s beautiful landscape.

Inslee was serious in his inaugural speech when he said, “Today we begin a multi-year effort to bring disruptive change to Olympia, starting with the very core of how we do business.”

He went on to say, “We will introduce performance metrics where it counts, giving us the data we need to fix what’s broken, cut what we don’t need and replace rhetoric with quantifiable results. But this effort is about more than measurement. It’s about instituting a culture shift that will endure well beyond my administration.”

You can see the Governors work at Results Washington

Focusing Government on Results

L to R: Mark Cleveland, Rep. Charles Sargent, John Bernard, Ted Barber of Mass Ingenuity

In Nashville, Tennessee recently I had the pleasure of talking about the work we are doing in partnership with the states of Oregon and Washington. Early in the week we met with the Secretary of State Tre Harget, the Chairman of the House Finance Committee Rep. Charles Sargent, and several respected state agency leaders.

Then, my dear friend and entrepreneur Mark Cleveland (his companies include Swiftwick and Hobby-Lobby) hosted a breakfast meeting where I shared this important work with 27 government and business leaders. In the room were a dozen CEOs, three mayors (including Nashville Mayor Karl Dean), two prominent state senators, representatives from the Governor’s office, the speaker of the house, and the secretary of state.

In addition to the work we are doing in Oregon and Washington, I shared with them the basic premise of the second book I am writing, Rhetoric to Results, How the States are Getting Down to Business and Rediscovering the Promise of America. The over-arching premise of the book is that when we focus on fact-based results we significantly change the effectiveness of government in this country, as we have learned from our Oregon and Washington state clients.

In the breakfast meeting the CEOs were at one large table and the political leaders were at another. I asked the business professionals what measure they focused on to drive their success. They quickly and unanimously said, “Profits.” I then confirmed with them that they used lots of others measures to monitor and manage progress toward their profitability, but that having a clear measurable result had a huge impact on how they organized and prioritized their work.

We all understand that businesses organize themselves around the need to create profits. Failure to deliver profits is fatal to a business. The level of success of a business is defined by the level of its’ profitability.

I then turned to the political leaders and asked them what measure indicated that their efforts were being successful. There was no response. Then one of the business leaders suggested aloud, “Get re-elected” — and everyone laughed.

Now I know business is not government, nor is government a business. However, the point I was trying to make has nothing to do with profits. The point is that specific, measurable outcomes serve to focus people and resources toward a definitive goal. This is not unique to business but it is a shared desire of every human enterprise. For example, every sport involves keeping score. Measures serve as a powerful organizing function. Appropriate measures, by their nature, tend not only to cause focus, but they also demonstrate how well what we are doing is working in absolute terms. Without “success” being defined, what do we rally around?

The lack of defining measures in government today is more than a minor gap. I believe the greatest problem our nation has is that we have failed to define success.

There’s a wonderful scene in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland that illustrates the same point I am making.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?,” asked Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“So long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

There is no magic bullet to turning our country around. It’s going to involve lots of hard work, smart thinking, and bold leadership. I believe the first step in changing the game is deciding how we are going to keep score. In practical terms, for a complex government, it’s going to require that we measure more than one thing. I believe that for most states there are 20-30 top measures that cover the high level outcomes our society needs to define success. These measure include reducing the number of children who go to bed hungry, improving on-time high school graduation rates, growing the number of family wage jobs, reducing crime and pollution, and containing our healthcare costs. By having concrete measures, we know where things stand at all times, and we also know where resources are needed to solve problems.

By picking measures and setting targets, we create focus. Driving government around fact-based success will change the face of government at every level, city, county, state, and federal.

That’s exactly the kind of change we need.