The White House
Remarks of Vice President Al Gore
at taping for
REINVENTING FOR RESULTS
JOINT GSA/NPR CONFERENCE
October 26, 1993
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for allowing me to share these words with you.
When we first began reinventing government last March, we asked a whole lot of people who had transformed their own organizations in both the public and private sectors what advice they would have. Well, there was one piece of advice we heard over and over again. We were told that if we truly wanted to succeed, we ought to rely on the counsel and insights and advice of the people who know this system best.
So I looked to and relied upon federal employees to get this job done. More than two hundred federal employees spent six months identifying over 1,400 ways to make our government work better and cost less. Many hundreds more participated in the agencies where they work every day. Not only did they create models for more efficient and effective government services but they became a model in their own right. They worked hard and came through with a quality product. Delivered on time. And they even returned $150,000 of money that they didn't need and didn't spend. Leading the task force of federal workers who produced this report reinforced what I already believed - - that the problem with the federal government is not the federal worker - - but the system itself.
Now, we turn to the harder job of implementing the recommendations. I'm happy to report to you that we've already accomplished a great deal and much more is in progress. The President is issuing key executive orders and we are actively working with the Congress to undertake a whole series of major reforms. But, of course, as you know, implementation goes well beyond writing executive orders and laws. The most critical components of reinvention take place within the agencies and departments.
And there, as throughout the government, implementation is not the work of a week or even a year. Reinvention - - making a government that truly puts people first by working better and costing less - - is the work of many years - - a decade.
And once again, the President and I are looking to the people who know the most about what needs to be reinvented and how to go about it. We're looking to you and your colleagues all across our country.
I know from my own talks with many hundreds of federal employees how deeply you care about the honor of public service and how much you want to change the way it operates now, how much you want to change the negative perceptions about the quality of government service. I know from town hall meetings in every single department that you don't need to be convinced that change has to happen.
We all know that government is broken and needs to be fixed. I'm convinced that not only do you understand what is wrong but you know how to go about fixing it.
So now it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and begin that job in the places where it's going to have the most impact.
Reinvention labs have special roles to play. When I visited FEMA last week, someone asked me, "What makes a Reinvention Lab different from the rest of the agency?" I responded that, in my opinion, the Labs are doing the same things as the rest of the agencies are going to do - - only they're doing them faster.
I see the Reinvention Labs as setting the pace for their agencies, for their departments - - constantly striving to find new and better ways of doing things, scanning the horizon for ways to do jobs better and faster and with the same or even fewer resources.
And those of you working in these labs will have a special role to play too. You will need to continue pushing the envelope. You will need to continue thinking boldly and taking risks. Perhaps most importantly, you'll have to encourage others to take those leaps with you.
So how do we empower people to take prudent risks? Take comfort from the fact that it has been done before. For example, the Montgomery County Department of Police established a policy of empowering its officers and, in the process, it told them to ask the following questions:
Is it the right thing for the community? Is it the right thing for this organization? It is ethical and legal? Is it something you're willing to be accountable for? Is it consistent with the organization's values and policies? If the answer is YES to all of these questions, then, don't ask for permission . . . JUST DO IT!
That's a pretty good approach. We want to empower lab personnel as well as individual employees. Because creating the government that we want and that American taxpayers deserve requires a full team effort. It needs the involvement of every single employee across the entire country.
We need to break down barriers that stand in the way of getting the job done in the right way. I'm looking to the reinvention labs to identify those barriers and help us understand how to remove them. And I'm relying on everyone to find ways to get rid of those barriers once and for all.
We need to identify and drive out rules and regulations that just don't make sense anymore. Again, I'm hoping that our Reinvention Labs will take the lead in identifying such rules. And then we'll all need to work hard to get rid of them. And rest assured that President Clinton and I stand ready, willing and able to work with you to do exactly that.
We need to listen to our customers and hear clearly what they have to say to us. Without a thorough understanding of what they need, we're going to be missing the point. And we can't do that.
We need to encourage and help the entrepreneurs in government. Headquarters staff, for example, need to stop playing "GOTCHA" and start playing "HELPYA." Headquarters staff need to take down brick walls and resist putting up new ones.
We need to make our offices and agencies learning organizations that work hand in hand with the Reinvention Labs. We also need to keep looking at what state and local government and the private sector are doing. We need to find the best ways to tackle the challenges of today and anticipate the challenges of tomorrow. Toward that end, our Reinvention Labs will need to share what they learn and forge alliances for change.
These are all win/win solutions.
The pessimists, of course, will ask: "Why not just hunker down and wait for all of this to pass?"
Well for one thing, it's not going to pass.
And, for another thing, the stakes are too big. The United States cannot afford to enter the twenty-first century with a federal government that was designed for the nineteenth century.
After all, we're a country founded on the very principles of reinvention. In this sense. Our nation's founders were the first government reinventors. In the seventeen hundreds, the prevalent form of government was characterized by central control and mistrust of people. Our nation's founders rejected that old system for a new model, one characterized by a shared vision and a few guiding principles - - our Constitution. It left people free to live and work under those principles.
That same revolutionary model of shared goals, innovation and trust has been adopted in recent years in the private sector by many of America's most successful businesses. The ones that trust their people and decentralize decision-making and empower their employees to do the right thing and then measure their performance instead of inputs. This model has unleashed a surge of energy, exuberance and accomplishment that has characterized the American spirit for more than two hundred years. There are of course, as this group well knows, places in the federal government that look and feel like this model. Unfortunately they're still the exception.
With your help, we're going to change that and make them the rule. We need to move away from a federal government that is overly centralized and distrustful of its work force. We need to move away from a government that struggles under the crippling burden of overregulation and hierarchical, bureaucratic secondguessing. I want to work with you to create a federal government that empowers its work force and truly focuses on delivering the best quality results to its customers.
As President Clinton said, "Together, we can create the government that we need for today and that we need for the twenty-first century."
I wish you well and along with President Clinton, I want you to know how much we're depending on you. Thank you for all of your hard work, your innovation and your enthusiasm and keep it up. Thank you.