REVIEW: Alan Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder — Practical Innovation in Government (BOOK)
Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder’s new book is titled Practical Innovation in Government: How Front-Line Leaders Are Transforming Public-Sector Organizations. The book is essentially a deconstruction of ideals and tenets advocating for government’s structural aspects to be run and pivoted like those of a business. Robinson and Schroeder write with the kind of appropriate removal and intellectual headiness one rarely sees in nonfiction today, never sacrificing appropriately mature tonality for cheap, literary parlor tricks satisfying audience expectations.
ABOUT ALAN ROBINSON: https://alanrobinson.com/
ABOUT DEAN SCHROEDER: https://dmschroeder.com/
Call it old-school, but as a reader I found it a welcome relief. In an era where fact and emotion have become ensnared into a faux-symbiotic rapport, Robinson and Schroeder simply lay out the facts. Akin to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, they unpack everything chronologically, thoroughly, and sometimes with painstaking precision to even the smallest details. However, ultimately, part of Robinson and Schroeder’s craft is bringing even the most micro-cosmological focal points back to the continuity of concepts relatively simple.
In effect, the following. “Whether people want more government or less government, they all want efficient government. Unfortunately, public-sector organizations are generally not known for their operational excellence,” the duo writes. “…We spent six years studying improvement efforts in over seventy government organizations — ranging from small departments to entire states — in five countries. Some were struggling or had already failed. Others were just getting started or had made limited progress in specific areas. But a handful of high performers had developed truly world-class levels of efficiency and service. Our intent was to discover how these high performers had succeeded in transforming themselves when so much of government has not.”
They add, “Throughout our careers, our main interest has been operational improvement (in government). We have studied its history, and have even been drawn into our own historical studies, conducting direct archival research on topics ranging from the earliest suggestion systems at the Arsenal in medieval Venice to the emergence of what would become the modern CI movement during and after WWII in the United States and Japan…Most of our work has been in the private sector, where interest in operational improvement has always been strong.
But several years ago, we experienced a marked increase of interest in our research and consulting help from government managers. They were dissatisfied with the results of their CI initiatives and wanted to know how to do better…We began searching for examples of public-sector organizations with good CI programs, seeking help from academic colleagues, friends in the government consulting world, and our contacts in government…A handful of these high performers were operating at levels of efficiency and service on a par with the best companies we had seen in the private sector.”
From these insights and descriptions, Robinson and Schroeder craft a straight-shooting, no-nonsense, yet ultimately enlightening portrait of positive possibility that is utilizable when it comes to reforming government models. It’s a nice, uplifting thing to hear in an era where politically and socio-politically the word ‘government’ has become something of a bad word.