Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Bringing Business Smarts to Georgia Government

Reason Foundation’s Innovators in Action 2009 features an article by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (PDF version here) in which he describes the successes of the Commission for a New Georgia (CNG), an organization of business executives formed at the governor’s request and tasked with leading a management turnaround in the Georgia state bureaucracy:

As a new governor, surveying the vast totality of the government enterprise, I found that what I had long suspected was true: Not even the governor could get a simple accounting of how many cars or buildings the state owned, or timely spending spreadsheets, or basic per formance data to make sound decisions about deploying resources. The state’s business ledger was a puzzle wrapped in a maze defended by 100 silos. Any CEO knows you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Government’s monopoly on state services nurtured red-tape routines, where customers often felt like widgets on an assembly line.

This mega-billion-dollar conglomerate unquestionably held untold potential for cost savings and unrealized opportunities for improved service. The question was how to get at it. Change rarely happens as an inside job. Breaking through administrative layers to core issues would take the right wedge, a driving force of fresh eyes and ideas focused on key functional areas from a corporate operations perspective. The best possible answer was obvious:

What if top executives from high-performing corporations evaluated state government operations as they would their own business…what would they change and how would they do it?

Shortly after I took office, I put that question to a delegation of highly respected corporate executives, considered statesmen of private enterprise in Georgia. I challenged these business leaders to engage Georgia’s robust private sector as a working partner in re-engineering Georgia’s bureaucratic machinery into a 21st Century business model.

They were being asked to do more than help state agencies work through a task list of tactical problems. Their charge was to initiate a manage ment turnaround: converting bureaucracy-as-usual to business principles and best practices across the board in government. Our overarching mission encompassed streamlining operations with lean processes and new technologies, putting the enterprise on a sound, data-driven business basis, and building a culture of performance and public service, where continuous improvement is systematic and sustainable. In short, to transform Georgia to the best-managed state in America, giving the best value citizens can get anywhere in the public sector.

Thus was formed the CNG. Read the whole thing for details on the work and successes of the CNG, which has been credited for driving cost efficiencies and revenue returns totaling over $200 million.

For other examples of innovative policy and management approaches in government, don’t miss the rest of Innovators in Action 2009.