Friday, July 29, 2016

Award Winning Innovations of Minnesota State Government

In reading a daily news service of government stories nationwide, I was struck by the preponderance of negative stories. Why do we focus so much on what government does wrong when government does so many things right?

On July 21st, the State of Minnesota is going to celebrate ten examples of state government innovation. As the chair of the judging committee for the awards, I can report that MN state government is making great progress. Nearly 70 applications were received from 18 different state agencies demonstrating that our government officials are trying new ways to deliver government services more efficiently and effectively, which made are judging difficult.

We chose three innovations to receive the highest commendation:

· Department of Transportation: Government-to-Government Tribal-State Relations Training
State agencies have long grappled with how to properly communicate, interact and consult with Minnesota’s Tribal Sovereign Nations. Employees of state agencies are mandated by the Governor’s Executive Order 13-10 to consult with the tribes on matters of mutual interest, yet they have not been equipped with the knowledge or skills they need to properly consult. Some agencies hired tribal liaisons to coordinate the work between their agencies and tribal nations. Due to the high demands, many tribal liaisons are overloaded. Alternatively, training for state officials was developed that included content needed to incorporate both the concerns of Minnesota’s Tribal Sovereign Nations and the needs and the requirements of state agencies. The University of Minnesota Duluth partnered with the state to develop the training.

· Department of Labor and Industry : PIPELINE Project
The Department of Labor and Industry is integrating and expanding the dual-training and registered apprenticeship system in Minnesota through the industry-based, employer-driven PIPELINE Project. Leveraging Minnesota’s success in registered apprenticeship programs, dual-training programs offer employment, education, and training to deliver industry required skills today for the high-demand, high-wage occupations of tomorrow. Industries included are advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, and information technology. While housed at the Department of Labor and Industry, the PIPELINE Project is directed by employers and their industry representatives.

· Department of Transportation: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Bridge Inspection Project
The Minnesota Department of Transportation found that Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for bridge inspection improve safety, provide less disruption to traffic, and reduce work time per bridge from eight to five days. Traditionally, bridge inspections are accomplished by a "snooper truck" that sits on the bridge deck and extends a bucket underneath the bridge. UAS provide inspection detail that replicate the information gleaned through traditional measures, and costs significantly less in equipment and traffic control needs. 

The following seven innovations were also commended for their creativity, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness:

· An interactive online tool called ParkFinder that helps Minnesotans find a park that has just what they are looking for (e.g. beaches, bike trail, cabins, etc.);

· Design, construction, and restoration of aquatic habitat in the St. Louis River feeding Lake Superior to achieve Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement goals;

· A program for U. S. military Veterans in adult day care that uses songwriting, photography, and performance to entertain audiences, while giving purpose to the veterans;

· A first in the nation Army Compatible Land Use Buffer for Camp Ripley;

· A voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help Minnesota cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals;

· An outreach effort for state employees and their adult dependents who are at risk for type 2 diabetes that provides access to a digital program designed to lower participants’ risk for obesity-related chronic disease; and,

· An innovative community engagement process to update the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan and the 20-Year State Highway Investment Plan.

Each of these state innovations had a significant positive payback for the dollars invested while improving services for Minnesotans. The next time you are troubled by something government doesn’t do right, think about all the services like water quality, meat inspections, road design, public parks and forests, and universities that are done well. And know that Minnesota state public servants are continuing to innovate and improve what they do.

By: Jay Kiedrowski 

Jay is a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and directs the Minnesota State Government Innovation Awards, which are co-sponsored by the Humphrey School and the Bush Foundation.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

New Leadership Book Integrates Heart, Head, and Hands

Last night John Bryson and I walked across the street from our condo and bought ice cream cones to celebrate the arrival of my new book Teaching Leadership: An Integrative Approach. The book was at least seven years in the making: I devoted some of my sabbatical in 2009-10 to deepening my understanding of effective teaching and leadership development in order to prepare for the book. Then when I returned to the Humphrey School in the fall of 2010, I started working with my colleagues Gary DeCramer and Jodi Sandfort to outline a book that would capture our approach to leadership education at Humphrey and highlight essential leadership practices.

Eventually these conversations extended to more than two dozen accomplished leadership educators in the U.S. and elsewhere. The result is a book that I avidly hope can help novice and seasoned leadership educators alike better prepare themselves for their important work. The book integrates the “heart, head, and hands” of leadership practice. By heart I mean the passions and core values that energize leadership work. Head refers to key leadership theories and research findings. Hands refers to the careful work of conducting learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.

I am especially appreciative of all the Humphrey and University of Minnesota colleagues who contributed their ideas and experiences to the book. I have mentioned John, Jodi and Gary already. Others are Kevin Gerdes, Kathy Quick, and June Nobbe. The book is described further at

By: Barbara C. Crosby

Barbara C. Crosby is associate professor at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and former academic co-director of the Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota. She has taught and written extensively about leadership and public policy, integrative leadership, cross-sector collaboration, women in leadership, media and public policy, and strategic planning. She is the author of Leadership for Global Citizenship (1999) and co-author with John M. Bryson of (Leadership for the Common Good: Tackling Public Problems in a Shared-Power World 2d. ed. 2005).

Friday, July 22, 2016

Teaching and Learning in Australia: Strategy Mapping, Public Art, and Resilient Leadership

During the last two weeks of May and first two weeks of June, John Bryson and I were visiting fellows with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), an impressive collaboration among national and state governments and universities. In a previous post, I wrote about our experience in New Zealand so here will concentrate on our work in Sydney and Melbourne, where we conducted workshops and presented research.

First, a quick description of ANZSOG: Aimed primarily at educating public servants, it offers an executive master’s degree, an array of workshops and forums on topics in public management and public affairs, and a variety of short courses. Several internationally respected public management and leadership scholars are on the faculty.
Being in Sydney in early June gave us the chance to be wowed by a public event called Vivid Sydney. At night, downtown buildings, including the iconic Sydney Opera House, were splashed with projections of colorful lights and animated patterns. Playful light sculptures were sprinkled along sidewalks and plazas. The event was a wonderful example of the power of public art to draw a diverse array of citizens (and visitors) into the heart of a major city.

In Sydney, John and I conducted a three-day workshop for national and state civil servants on strategic planning and visual strategy mapping. To prompt strategic thinking, we invited participants to compare the strategies employed by Alexander the Great and his commanders at Gaugemela and those used by community organizers in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

In Melbourne, we conducted a day-long visual strategy mapping workshop for not-for-profit leaders aimed at strengthening their collaboration with government agencies. These leaders highlighted the importance of developing stronger cohesion and leadership within the not-for-profit sector as well as building greater mutual understanding between governments and nonprofits. We also gave a public talk on identifying collaborative advantage and we met with senior civil servants in the Victoria state government to convey insights from the not-for-profit workshop.

Being in Melbourne also gave John and me the chance to see a highly energetic production of Matilda, based on Roald Dahl’s story of resilient leadership from below, at the historic Princess Theatre. Toxic leaders in home and school were also on tragicomic display.

I’ll conclude with a couple of observations about public leadership and government in Australia: Like New Zealand, the Australian government has adopted much of the business-minded results-oriented approach of the New Public Management. The two countries have thus experienced benefits (e.g., attention to outcomes) and drawbacks (e.g., over-reliance on narrow cost-benefit analysis) of the approach. We detected (and tried to foster) growing interest in focusing on a wide range of public values (beyond efficiency) in developing public policies and programs. At the same time, we had to admire the relative efficiency of Australia’s national elections underway while we were there. Everyone was complaining about what citizens and commentators felt was an unusually lengthy campaign: all of two months.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kevin Gerdes in Croatia

Kevin Gerdes, a retired Brigadier General, PNLC faculty member, and current Director of the Master of Public Affairs (MPA), traveled to Croatia with the Minnesota National Guard in April – his second trip over the past two years. While the MN Guard has enjoyed a 20-year “Partnership for Peace” military-to-military relationship with Croatia, the objective of his trip was to develop civilian partnerships that help advance public governance in this Eastern European country. While in Croatia Gerdes made a presentation at the International Crisis Management Conference on public-private collaboration by critical infrastructure protection partners. He was also a guest lecturer at the University of Zagreb where he presented on executive leadership during crises. 

The Dean of the Political Science department at the University of Zagreb expressed interest in seeking new international engagement opportunities and was excited to learn about the international focus at the Humphrey School. As a result of this visit, Gerdes and the Humphrey School will be hosting the Dean and another professor from the University of Zagreb during an October 2016 visit to Minnesota. Other partnership opportunities being explored include joint participation in the University of Minnesota’s fall simulation humanitarian assistance exercise, student/faculty exchange, and development of curriculum for a summer 2017 academy in Croatia that focuses on crisis management.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Learning How to Learn: Kristi Lahti-Johnson, Hennepin County

This is the second post in our summer series, "Post-Humphrey". We highlight the theory alumni learned while in school, and what they've learned in practice since, among other tidbits of advice.

Today I am the Data Governance Officer for Hennepin County. It is a position that didn’t exist 24 years ago when I entered the Humphrey School. In fact, it didn’t even exist 3 years ago.

In this evolving career landscape what I most appreciate about the Humphrey School is that it did not teach me a specific job. It taught me valuable skills that I have been able to apply to every single position I have held in Hennepin County.

There are 3 skills that I think every student should gain from their time at the Humphrey School:

1) How to think critically. The classes at the Humphrey School challenge students to analyze problems, ask questions and make informed decisions. This is a skill that I use every day. Hennepin County operates under many different regulatory requirements that often overlap and sometimes conflict. There are times in which a proposed approach is at odds with one or more regulatory requirements. While any initial response may be “no”, by asking questions—“what is the problem?” “what are you trying to accomplish?”—and analyzing the rules, it is often possible to identify a different approach to achieving the desired outcomes while still remaining compliant with regulatory requirements.

2) How to communicate clearly and concisely. My favorite assignment at the Humphrey School was to compare and contrast the decision making process between the decision not to launch a nuclear attack during the Bay of Pigs and the launch of the Challenger Space Shuttle, in five pages or less (thank you very much Professor John Bryson!). Five pages seemed like a novel by the time I started in Paul Light’s class which required us to summarize huge quantities of information into a 1-page memo. My effectiveness in my job is a direct result of my communication skills. Know your audience. Know what is important to them and what is most critical for them to know. Know the best way to get your message across and be an agile communicator, able to reach people in multiple ways. And, know that offering your time to answer any questions or concerns goes a long way in building trust and effective and lasting relationships.

3) How to learn. There are two interns working with my team this summer looking at Key Performance Indicators. They decided to use a Likert Scale to collect information. It was an exciting opportunity for them to apply a tool they learned in one of their classes at the Humphrey School to their work. That got me thinking: what were some of the tools that I learned at the Humphrey School? I couldn’t remember a single one. That is okay. What I learned is how to learn. That has helped me to evolve and grow over time; take in new tools, theories, and approaches. During my 22 years at Hennepin County, I have helped to support the county’s and my department’s missions and goals by working on initiatives such as the balanced scorecard, dashboards, competencies, strengths, strategic planning, disaster response and recovery planning, project management and many more. In almost every case, I came into the initiative with little knowledge about the tool or the subject matter, but was able to apply similar experiences or skills and quickly get up to speed.

Ten years ago, a department director approached me and asked me what I knew about the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. My response was, “little to nothing, but I’m willing to learn.” That approach has taken me a long way.

By: Kristi Lahti-Johnson
Kristi is the Data Governance Officer for Hennepin County. In this role she has been appointed as the county Responsible Authority and Data Compliance Officer. Her team provides support and direction to county departments on the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity and security of their data. Kristi has been with the county for 22 years. She started as a planner in the County Attorney’s Office and then moved to the Human Services and Public Health Department where she provided support to the Assistant County Administrator for Human Services and served as the data practices official. She loves to support students at the Humphrey School, including connecting them with local resources in their field and hiring Humphrey interns whenever she has available funds.