In their book Reinventing Government, Osborne and Gaebler (1992) suggest that there has been a transformation in the confidence in the government and an overall decline in efficacy of government structures. The book outlines some effective trends and imperative changes that need to be put into place to restructure the floundering governmental system in the United States. Osborne and Gaebler suggest that in 1990, the government in general hit rock bottom.
State governments, which struggled to deal with multi-billion dollar deficits, began the process of laying off government employees in order to reduce their costs (p. 1). At the same time the federal government battled with a ballooning national deficit and increasing unemployment rates. The necessity for change was imbedded on the recognition of the fallibility of government. Osborne and Gaebler go on to outline the reason for the bankruptcy of the bureaucratic system currently in place and the reasoning behind a general emergence of proposals for a more entrepreneurial government (p. 16).
But while a number of economists and politicians, like Ross Perot, have proposed the running of government like a business, Osborne and Gaebler outline the reasons, especially the multifaceted role of government, that make this venture impossible (p. 20). Instead, they propose that it is possible to encourage a greater degree of entrepreneurialism within the government structure without a corporate design (p. 22). One of the major issues that Osborne and Gaebler address is the fact that government officials have generally outlined two avenues for creating necessary change: to cut spending or to raise taxes (p. 2).
The problem that becomes apparent in this design is that people still wanted education, public road repairs, and many of the programs supported with the American tax dollar. However, they want government to find a way of meeting these needs in a more efficient manner. Osborne and Gaebler suggested support for Deming’s approach, called Total Quality Management. Not only because it is considerably popular in the private sector, but also because it pushed public institutions towards focusing on five elemental principles: results, customers, decentralization, prevention, and a market approach (p. 2).
These five basic principles become imperative to the author’s contentions regarding the changing face of the American government. The authors suggest that there is the capacity within the design of social structure to support a government of change. That through the process of redefining government, including grasping an understanding of the way bureaucracy has developed, it is possible to implement change (p. 26). One of the major premises in this chapter is that it is possible for government to reduce the size and the bureaucratic complexity of government while making it stronger.
The key to this kind of change has to come from the people (p. 30). Throughout their work, the same recurring theme comes into focus: that change necessitates individual action. Key also is the premise that there is a difference between support that keeps the governmental process in action and support that directs government processes. Osborne and Gaebler describe this as the difference between rowing and steering (p. 34). They consider the role that individual action has within government.
They also recognize some of the basic misconceptions, including the perception that public employees are victimized within the existing system (p. 7). They promote the idea that individual action, including action taken from within, can create ways of defining steering organizations that can effectively promote government action that represents the needs of the people (p. 39). Conservatives have called for the privatization of government. Though the authors consider the importance of entrepreneurial elements to government and a greater role of the people in developing effective decentralized government, they do not contend that privatization is the only solution that can provide support for the changing governmental structure (p. 45).
While they recognize that the private sector can provide tasks more efficiently than government could, they also recognize that private markets cannot benefit in all tasks currently within the scope of governmental design. Osborne & Gaebler provide an overview of the most elemental point to government involvement on a local level. They support public choice and believe in the impact of the voice of the people on governmental processes. Although empowerment is an “American tradition” (p. 51), there appears to be a general lack of empowering the American people towards organized public action.
The authors believe that we let bureaucrats control too much of our public services (p. 51). Rather than empowering communities to solve their own issues and find unity based on interactive modes of participation, the governmental process has reduced Americans to individuals willing to be controlled. Public housing is an important issue, especially in large urban communities, and Osborne and Gaebler use the Kenilworth-Parkside development in Washington, DC, as an example of effective community action designed to improve what government was unable to improve over many decades.
The ability of the community members to work together from 1982-1990 to improve the overall status and quality of life in this housing development demonstrates effective community action at its best (p. 60). Osborne and Gaebler recognize that there is a difference between professional services and community care. They believe that there is a greater need to focus on community care as an inherent part of societal development and effective government (p. 65). Within the design of this premise is the necessity to recognize the transition from expectations surrounding the governmental provisions of services to empowering the people (p. 0).
They suggest that participatory democracy is the most important factor in the empowering of the citizenry (p. 73). One of the basic problems in government today is the lack of competition, based on the essential monopoly that government holds on many different kinds of services. Osborne and Gaebler reflect on the advantages of competition (p. 80) and the three basic varieties of competition within the American structure: 1. Public versus Private Competition; 2. Private versus Private Competition; and 3. Public versus Public Competition (p. p. 84-90).
They suggest that it is possible to design government structures that support internal competition and focus on the citizens as consumers (p. 90). Osborne and Gaebler present public education and the emergence of different options, including pilot schools, within the public education system (p. 93). They do not suggest that widespread competition is necessarily the way to go. Instead, they suggest we focus on the nature of competitiveness in creating distinctions and increasing the quality of services provided (p. 102).
Osborne and Gaebler also demonstrate advantages of government driven by a definitive mission and suggest hat state governments can benefit from this new way of defining governmental process (p. 113). They also suggest that creating a budget around this kind of mission system has definitive benefits over the rule-driven systems that are commonly in place (p. 122). By recognizing that mission-driven systems allow for effective design of appropriate services and also create a focus for the organization.
They also suggest that there is a new format in this system to focus on greater levels of accountability (p. 136). The authors believe that a mission-driven government would lead to the development of performance-based overnmental structures. Osborne and Gaebler believe that this would lead to a result-oriented government (p. 138). By providing the example of one local government that put into place result-oriented government processes, (Sunnyvale, CA) the authors suggest that performance measurements and a focus on the results of governmental action can be an effective means of promoting governmental change (p. 146).
Osborne and Gaebler explain the effective systems that can be designed to demonstrate how performance measures can be put into play within the local governmental structure (p. 55). They believe that the government actually does have consumers, the citizenry. A greater understanding of the consumer base should be as important a requirement to the government as other businesses (p. 169). They then go on to propose support for the business structure, Total Quality Management, a method that has directed many business operations in recent years. By providing more effective services for the customers, and giving more responsibility to the individuals, it is possible to turn agency driven government into customer-driven government.
Osborne and Gaebler suggest that it is possible to direct government with a profit motive. They give examples of local governments that have produced ways of raising money by charging fees and spending money to save money through investing for a return (p. 203). But perhaps the most important message in the book is demonstrating that managers in governmental systems can be more entrepreneurial and can more effectively determine creative ways of financing governmental improvement (P. 09).
The authors believe that one of the flaws in the perception of local government is that it should simply deliver services rather than taking measures of prevention. Governments need to solve problems before they occur rather than putting out the fire after the fact (p. 222). The only way that this can be achieved within the scope of government is to demonstrate a greater level of anticipation and by changing the incentives by which individuals work within the government to achieve simple goals (p. 29).
Osborne and Gaebler suggest that decentralized government is more flexible and that it is quicker to respond to the needs of the individual. It also provides a more effective avenue for response based on a focus on the needs of a smaller public base (p. 252). At the same time, they also recognize that like the process of determining a customer focus in government, change towards decentralization will have to come from the people as a collective voice for change (p. p. 252-253).
They believe that decentralized institutions generate higher morale, more commitment, and greater productivity and that they tap the skills and talents of the workers and provide a greater level of participatory action. Participatory management is one effective way of pursuing decentralization (p. 259), and it is necessary to create institutions that support bottoms-up innovations for change (p. 271). By creating participatory management, investing in the employees and promoting decentralization, even in the federal system, the authors suggest there is a route towards more effective systems of governing (p. 75).
Osborne and Gaebler believe that through market-oriented governmental structures, it is possible to develop incentives rather than commands and have a greater understanding of the markets. Creating what the authors describe as the emergence of smarter markets (p. 305).
Through the restructuring of markets within the public sector and balancing the markets within the existing community structure, the authors demonstrate another way of perceiving governmental change (p. 306). They provide a look at the way in which changing government structures can create more effective health care systems (p. 312), better means of providing public education (p. 314), and a new approach to crime prevention and management (p. 319).
The authors demonstrate the improvements that can be derived from applying some of the techniques and concepts outlined within the book as a whole, and suggest that change is the course of the day. Rather than living within the directive of stagnating government, Osborne and Gaebler suggest the necessity for a new paradigm and a revolution in governmental process.