Reinventing Management, Again

In 1994, Peter Drucker gave a lecture to government employees called “Reinventing Government: The Next Phase.” (The Drucker Lectures, 2010)

In it, he commented on the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, earlier known as the National Performance Review and commonly known as NPR. This was a government-wide management reform initiative spearheaded by Al Gore which led to the founding of the Federal Communicators Network twenty years ago. (I previously served as Chair of the FCN from 2011-2012.)

Drucker praises NPR’s success, crediting the fact that it was “focused on performance.” However, he shares his concern that an “individual, isolated” change effort is “just good intentions unless it becomes permanent, organized, self-generated habit.”

Ultimately NPR had a significant impact, including $137 billion in savings. But Drucker’s concerns were well-placed, as the work of the NPR influenced future administrations, but was not duplicated by them in the same way.

At its height NPR made a tangible positive difference in the way government functioned, not only because it was an interagency entity but also because it was well-funded and well-staffed, with 250 federal employees paid by their home agencies all working together.

Warned Drucker:

“We need ‘reinventing government.’ If we do not make a start on it, then pretty soon we face catastrophe within the next 10 years or so….The danger here is very great that government will be exposed to something very similar to what has happened in a lot of big companies. I call it “amputation without diagnosis.”

If we know what to do and how to do it, is it necessary to reinvent the wheel?

The forthcoming FCN white paper, “Advancing Federal Communications,” makes the argument for integration from a communications standpoint.

But such integration is only doable when there exists an integrated approach toward managing the government enterprise overall.


Photo via Wikipedia. All opinions are my own.