Blair House Papers
Introduction by Vice President Al Gore
In 1993, President Clinton asked me to figure out how to make
government work better and cost less. We called it reinventing government. The
need to reinvent was clear. Confidence in government -- which is simply
confidence in our own ability to solve problems by working together -- had been
plummeting for three decades. We either had to rebuild that faith or abandon
the future to chaos.
We had reason to hope we could succeed. Corporate America had
reinvented itself to compete and win. The same ideas and some new wrinkles were
starting to work at the state and local level. But it was going to be
incredibly difficult, the largest turnaround ever, and management experts said
it would take at least eight years.
Not quite four years later, my hope of succeeding has grown to
confidence. We have thousands of examples of reinvention islands of excellence
in every agency delivering better service and saving money. And public
confidence in government has rebounded up nearly 9 percent since 1993,
according to a recent Roper poll. We are succeeding. We know how to do it.
Everyone in government knows big challenges remain. It is time for
faster, bolder action to expand our islands of excellence and reinvent entire
agencies -- time to entirely reinvent every department of government.
So, even before the second inauguration, President Clinton and I called
the new Cabinet to Blair
House to give them their reinvention marching orders. This
book contains the instructions we gave the
Cabinet in a set of papers on that Saturday, January 11, 1997.
The papers are:
- practical -- there is not much about
paradigm shift theories and such
- written as rules -- we left out the
things we were unsure of
- focused on the highest impact rules for
- golden -- built on the experiences of the
brightest, most creative, heroic people in public service so far.
The book divides our papers into three chapters. The first chapter is
about how to deliver great service -- treating the public the way top
companies treat their customers. Remember, we are trying to restore America's
confidence in solving big problems through self-government, problems like drugs
and crime and the need for better education. How can people trust government to
do big things if we can't do little things like answer the phone promptly and
The second chapter tells how to foster partnership and community
solutions. We have to do big things without big government. Luckily,
partners are ready to help. Businesses have proven effective partners in
achieving a cleaner environment, worker safety, and other regulatory compliance
goals. Communities can solve their own problems with a little help and
opportunity from their federal partners. And when labor and management work as
partners, everybody wins.
The last chapter is about how to reinvent to get the job done with
less. The first section there is the most important for top leaders. It
describes the key to unlocking the enormous, unused, human potential of the
federal workforce. Unlocking that potential will make everything else possible
-- it is the only way. The chapter has other tips for surviving in a balanced
budget world -- like shifting resources and authority from headquarters to the
front lines, and capitalizing on the positive power of competition.
When the President and I gave the papers in this book to Cabinet
Secretaries, we also asked each of them to set clear, uplifting goals and make
sure everyone understands how the goals relate to their own jobs. We asked the
Cabinet to line up their plans, budgets, personnel performance appraisals, and
other management systems with their goals, and then to measure the results they
seek. This is good advice for the Cabinet and for every leader in government.
Indeed, if you work anywhere in government, there is something in these
papers for you. Every supervisor needs to get power to the front lines and
raise the spirit of the workforce. Every service provider needs to put
customers first. Every regulator needs to use the leverage available through
partnerships. Everyone in government needs to know all the rules of the road to
reinvention, because we need everyone's push to propel us down that road fast
I told the Cabinet at Blair House that they would know they had
succeeded with reinvention when all the people in their departments understood
the goals and values of the organization, and could use them to adjust quickly
to changing circumstances. I also said how federal employees would recognize
success: When they wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to
sleep right away, they will be thinking about how to do their jobs better.
Where reinvention has taken hold federal employees do that. Their faith
in the system has been restored. Applied to every part of government, these
ideas can do the same for America.
Not long ago, most Americans believed that we could do practically
anything by working together -- defeat communism, go to the moon, you name it.
We can have that faith in unity again. We can have the strength of unity again.
We need it for the 21st Century.
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