TOC in state government #TOCICO14

The second day of the TOCICO conference opened with a great keynote from Kristen Cox on "Better, Faster, Cheaper State Government."  What a great way to open the day - TOC and systematic thinking really can come to an environment like state government.  And there are lessons for other implementations. 

Cox is the head of the Utah Governor's Office of Management and Budget which has responsibility for 24 agencies with something like 120 major systems and tens of thousands of employees.  

The basic challenge in government (and beyond) is that there are always more demand than availability of resources (dollars).  But the problem in government, as in business, is that everyone has good ideas and valid needs.  Cox framed the challenge as one of understanding how to manage resources to begin with.  If you don't know how to manage your resources, you will NEVER have enough.  If you know how, you have a chance of having enough.  

In the case of state government, Cox described a scenario where there are many architects of change / improvement / better living who create interesting drawings and then tell someone else to go build it.  But then there are implementation issues that have to be resolved and create conflicts (and extra spending).  She suggested that maybe there is a better way - a more systematic approach to the situation that will make the work of the architects and the builders more effective.

There were many exciting things that came from Cox's keynote. She is clearly energized about the work they are doing, and it is great to see TOC being a centerpiece of this work.  She is also working with leaders in other states to spread the word on how this can work.  It's exciting to see this in combination with the efforts of Alex Knight in TOC for Healthcare.  

An interesting theme that Cox talked about was also raised in a later session: People get enamored with technology as the answer, rather than understanding the underlying problem and finding the right technology to address the problem.  This is one of her "fatal four" types of initiatives that are often pushed on state agencies.  The other three: another reorganization; more training; spend more money.  

What about implementing changes?  Isn't it hard to do in an unwieldily state bureaucracy?  Of course! But it is a change worth making.  Cox made an important clarification about the change matrix. We can intellectually describe the change - why change (or not), dangers of changing (or not).  But you also have to have the heart and guts to see it through.  

Cox also talked about her SUCCESS framework - something I think could apply to any major initiative along these lines.

  • Set measurable goals and targets 
  • Use thinking and analysis tools - and spend the time to do it well
  • Create your strategy and tactics
  • Create your organization
  • Engage staff and customers
  • Synchronize policy and projects (technology isn't the solution for everything)
  • Stay focused

Being a good TOC-led initiative, they have a Strategy and Tactics Tree that is guiding their efforts. The top of the tree?  "Be the best-managed state in the nation."  

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