John Florez: Doing the same thing is a recipe for failure

Published: Saturday, May 21 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

How often do you find yourself, like Charlie Brown, wanting to believe, only to be duped?

Remember the Peanuts comic strip where Lucy invites Charlie Brown to come kick the football while she holds it in place, and then at the last second she pulls it away and laughs, as he falls on his back? Each time Charlie Brown thinks, "This time she will let me kick it."

Well, that's how I feel every time politicians say they are appointing a commission to study an issue and come up with a final report on how to deal with it. They also keep telling us, "This commission report will be different; it will not have the same fate as all the others, buried and gathering dust on the shelf." And like Charlie Brown, I want to believe Gov. Gary Herbert's Utah Advisory Commission To Optimize State Government will be different.

Herbert, immediately after his inauguration in August 2009, appointed the commission that would advise him how to improve Utah government by "looking for ways to improve efficiency, enhance effectiveness and optimize performance." The commission was also charged with identifying "areas where innovation and efficiency already exist, and explor(ing) ways to expand those measures." It was to provide a set of written recommendations to the governor in the fall of 2010.

The commission, comprised of dedicated volunteers from business and the community, completed the yearlong 65-page report in August 2010, with 56 recommendations for the governor to consider in making Utah government more efficient and effective. As the chairman, former Gov. Norm Bangerter said, "Many of the commission's findings are ready to be adopted immediately. Others will take time to implement." (See the report at www.utah.gov/governor/).

If the recommendations are implemented, it's possible Utah could have a more efficient government; however, those recommendations will not help solve the problems brought about by globalization that have dramatically changed our social, technological, and economic life. It seems we would be making our government more efficient only to do more of the same. Corporations that did that are long forgotten. The successful ones are those that retooled themselves to meet the demands of the new economy. Our elected leaders would do well to do the same.

Successful organizations have leaders that take the time to understand their environment, conditions and the forces of the times that cause change, and then renew the organization's mission to respond to the change. Utah's elected leaders must do so as well if we are to have a government that can meet the needs of a changing world. Being more efficient at doing the same is a recipe for failure. Making our state government more efficient without an understanding of whether our state's departments are solving today's problems is a waste of tax dollars and perpetuates the bureaucratic culture that says to follow procedures properly because it's policy, resulting in a bureaucracy that loses sight of its original purpose while doing more of the same.

The commission did what it was charged to do — make recommendations for government to be more efficient. It was not charged to do the most critical thing, which is to determine whether agencies are meeting current needs with results. It is the responsibility of the legislature to exercise its oversight mandate by examining whether agencies are meeting their initial legislative intent, identifying where they need to change and determining whether they are still needed.

Like Charlie Brown, let's keep believing.

A Utah native, John Florez has served on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, was former Utah Industrial Commissioner and has filled White House appointments including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and a member of the Commission on Hispanic Education.

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