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"State of Change: Fostering practical innovation in Rhode Island state government" - by Emily Dietsch

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State government has long held a reputation of constancy, at best, and
stagnation, at worst. Non-political offices, agencies and programs
exist in seeming perpetuity, not often subject to the whims of electoral
preference or trends in government and business management. This may be
especially true of a state like Rhode Island, significantly dominated
as it is by a union work force and voting bloc, and proudly devoted to
tradition despite a fierce independent streak.

While these tendencies have enabled a secure, well-supported state work
force, they have also impeded the innovation and flexibility necessary
to sustain it. Consequently, state processing has failed to keep apace
technological, economic, and cultural changes, and individuals'
abilities to foster personal or institutional growth within state
government are slim to none.

Circumstances such as these are always discouraging, but proved
especially detrimental in the crucible of a recent recession. As
Strategic Projects Coordinator for the RI State Treasurer, I witnessed
daily the frustration of talented and committed people grappling with
antiquated systems, limited resources, and constant belt-tightening.
Ideas for improvement lacked proper channels for recognition and
incubation.

My job in Treasury entailed finding and capitalizing on loopholes in
this impossible scenario; one might call it "tenacious cleverness". As
part of a pilot program I helmed in partnership with the Treasurer's
Chief of Staff, I had the assistance of a talented group of mavericks
dedicated to developing and implementing a 3-year strategic plan. Our
plan, the first of its kind adopted by any RI agency, was based on
realistic yet ambitious goals to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and
find creative approaches to old and new tasks. A snapshot of our
results speaks volumes: millions of taxpayer dollars saved; an
unprecedented employee review system negotiated with union
representatives; a statewide transparency program for reporting
expenditures online; and vastly improved communication among employees,
as well as with outside agencies and state residents in need of our
services.

We discovered that communication was key to our projects, in fact.
Whether we succeeded or fell flat, the ability to communicate, assess,
and update out teams was essential to progress; conversely a lack of
communication, more than bureaucratic structures or backroom politicking
per se, often anchored stagnation. Harnessing communicative
technologies and systems of constant feedback was key to the rather
drastic accomplishments we achieved in year one of our pilot program.
We took Treasury quite literally from the typewriter age to the digital
era.

Unfortunately programs like ours, and my position within it, are not
often proscribed by state charters and require outside funds. A grant
secured through GovLoop's scholarship program would enable me to
continue what we began. Despite initial successes, we still need to
intensively assess our first year and delineate potential expansions in
Treasury and statewide. Ultimately what we can produce will offer a
third option, beyond hand-wringing or one-off miracles, for solutions to
governmental ills: a sustained and sustainable program of pragmatic
yet novel innovation.


While these tendencies have enabled a secure and well-supported state
work force, they have also unintentionally impeded innovation and the
necessary flexibility to accommodate it. Consequently, state processing
has failed to keep apace technological, economic, and cultural changes,
and individuals' abilities to foster personal or institutional growth
within state government are slim to none.

Views: 30

Tags: GovLoop-CampusGov Scholarship, jobs, leadership, project management, state government

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Comment by Nick Dietsch on September 9, 2010 at 1:50pm
I vote for this essay! "Sate of Change: Fostering Practical Innovation in Rhode Island State Government."
Comment by Danny Chapman on September 9, 2010 at 1:31pm
I vote for this one! "State of Change: Fostering practical innovation in Rhode Island state government" - by Emily Dietsch
Comment by maggie jones on September 9, 2010 at 10:39am
I vote for this essay, "State of Change"

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