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The Next American Revolution? Applying Business Management Practices to State Government

Tomorrow, we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It is an amazing document written by bright and determined individuals who wanted to throw off the yoke of servitude from the British crown.

It, of course, was signed on July 4, 1776. But five months later, it looked as if the American Revolution was near extinction as David McCullough excellent book, 1776, points out. The Continental army was defeated or retreated from a number of encounters with the better-trained and equipped British Redcoats. The Continental Congress was quarreling. Some believed General Washington should be relieved of his command. Finances to pay for independence were uncertain. England had even enlisted Hessian soldiers (paid mercenaries) to augment its superior forces aimed to defeat the ‘colonial rabble’ and reabsorb the colonies as part of the world’s largest empire at that time.

Only through courage, perseverance, and, perhaps, providence, did the Revolution move forward and eventually achieve victory in 1783.

The end of 1776 was important because of George Washington’s leadership to reinvigorate the spirit of the Patriots with his crossing of the Delaware and defeating America’s opponents at Trenton. He and his ragged team of soldiers put their faith in freedom. It continues to amaze me what dedication they had as it is estimated that one-third of the army was not fit to serve and a sizeable number marched with no boots or shoes!

What does this have to do with applying business management practices to state government?

We are beginning a transformational time for state government as the methods used so successfully for FORTUNE 500 companies can now be applied to state government. For the first time, state leaders and citizens will be able to see how tax dollars are being spent and what results are being achieved – in virtual real time.

The application of these practices and the positive transformation of state government will not be easy. Some state leaders defending the status quo (or nervous about the future) will attempt to thwart attempts to be accountable. Other state leaders will watch from the ‘sidelines’ waiting for someone else to take the risk of putting results into state government.

But, like our Founding Fathers, there will be those among us who know making government more effective and efficient is the right thing to do and will demonstrate the courage of their convictions to bring business solutions into government. They will, incidentally, also reap the immense short-term political benefits for these efforts and long-term historical accolades. These men and women will again show the courage and perseverance demonstrated 238 years ago.

Of course, the application of real business practices to state government will be easier than what the Patriots faced in 1776. There will be no need to create a password, which Washington made his troops memorize – Victory or Death.

The Patriots were willing to sacrifice much more than is being asked of each of us who passionately believe that application of real business practices will transform state government. But we should be no less committed, no less certain in our beliefs.

Perhaps 238 years from now, as others reflect back on what our generation accomplished, they will write that America continues because patriots were willing to transform government to be more effective and efficient, ensuring we do not waste tax dollars or burden free people with excessive taxation. That citizens no longer tolerated not knowing what programs worked and which did not.

Happy 4th of July! Let’s be sure to take a moment to remember whose who were determined to make America free.

David Rehr is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Michael O'Brien

David- Thanks for posting, it is definitely a transformational time for state (and local) government. However, I have to strongly disagree that is the Fortune 500 that our state and local governments should be following.

Many Fortune 500 companies shun transparency and practice regulatory capture as part of their business model. It is easy to see – cab companies vs Uber, hotel chains vs airbnb, auto dealers vs. Tesla – how big business is trying to stifle transparency and innovation.

For another example, look at the implementation of the ACA (Obamacare). Every failed state exchange was built by a Fortune 500 company. Look at the Oregon and Maryland exchanges for examples of giving contracts to friends of the agency officials, hiding problems until they were too big and it was too late to fix. Costing tax payers millions with nothing to show. All the while, promoting their insurance portal as “THE WAY” to buy insurance. Many startup could have built better systems and competed, but they didn’t know that was an option because of the lack of transparency and the wishes of Fortune 500 companies to maintain market share.

It is a transformational time for state and local government, but it going to be a startup revolution!