Entering office in 2003, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty immediately had his hands full. The state budget was $4.5 million in the red, and nearly half the state's work force would reach retirement age in fewer than 15 years.
Pawlenty's solution was transformation. The governor demanded, through a series of executive orders issued in 2005, that Minnesota state government begin acting like a single enterprise instead of a loose amalgamation of independent agencies.
Pawlenty's plan, known as the Drive to Excellence, called for changes in a wide range of state operations -- addressing how the state purchases goods and services, how it licenses and regulates businesses, and how it manages grants and real property, to name a few.
Slightly more than a year later, the reforms -- powered by a healthy dose of new technology -- are starting to pay off.
A strategic sourcing initiative is expected to save more than $20 million annually on state purchases. A new Web portal provides one-stop access to more than 600 licensing programs operated by more than 40 state agencies. And construction-regulation reform is consolidating activities previously spread across five state agencies into a single Construction Codes and Licensing Division.
As chairman of the initial Drive to Excellence steering committee, Scott Brener played a key role in selling these massive changes to skeptical state agencies. Brener, commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry, helped lead a process that solicited recommendations from top management and front-line agency employees throughout the state. The result was more than 400 ideas for improving government operations. Ultimately the suggestions were distilled into a road map that guides the massive transformation initiative.
For Minnesota citizens, these reforms are building a government that not only can withstand the upcoming retirement wave, but also delivers better services at a lower price.