The Politics Blog

Inslee rolls out his Results Washington agenda - including a few blanks for the public to fill in

OlympianSeptember 10, 2013 

Gov. Jay Inslee

COURTESY OF GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out his “Results Washington” reform plan Tuesday that calls for a more effective and efficient state government, better schools and a stronger economy with 150,000 more jobs by 2015. But Inslee’s reform team – which left a number of gaps in its plan on purpose – is seeking the public’s help narrowing down its goals and filling in the blanks.

Inslee held a press conference at the Capitol to offer a broad-strokes view of his effort, which he said is aimed at making state government more efficient, effective and transparent.  

He promised an online performance gauge for government is in the works. To be dubbed GovStat, it will have data and charts showing show how the state is doing in five major areas – from educating the young to protecting the environment , encouraging a health economy, and keeping people healthy.

“I’m excited to move forward with this initiative. We’re going to build a faster, smarter, and more accountable state government with this Results Washington tool,’’ Inslee told reporters.

The Democratic governor had campaigned on using Lean management – borrowed from Toyota and Boeing – to improve the way state government functions by using line workers’ ideas to eliminate wasteful steps on everything from processing claims to issuing water permits.

And his new Results Washington team, led by his chief of staff Mary Alice Heuschel and veteran Lean advocate Wendy Korthuis-Smith, plans to make Lean a large part of their reform effort, building on the efforts of former Gov. Chris Gregoire who relied on Virginia Mason Hospital and Boeing experts to teach Lean to state employees.

But Inslee said any concrete results for state government might not be seen for another six months or longer.

Some interest groups met last month with the Governor’s Office to get a preview about Results Washington, according to Korthius-Smith. These included the Association of Washington Business, Washington Federation of State Employees, the Sierra Club and others.

Tim Welch, spokesman for the federation, said the union is interested in seeing Inslee’s effort succeed. Unlike some top-down reforms, Lean requires more participation by line workers to identify better ways of doing their jobs.

“We think quality initiatives come and quality initiatives go … So we have a healthy bit of skepticism,” Welch said. “We have skepticism about past history but we do want this effort to succeed on the ground. I don’t remember another governor inviting representatives of his employees to come in and comment on a draft of what he is doing.’’

AWB spokeswoman Jocelyn McCabe said, “All in all, it’s a great start — we appreciate the work of the governor and his staff to identify key goals for our state, including job creation and a prosperous economy.”

McCabe said a world-class education system with well trained workers and an efficient government can help businesses expand. But she said “the reality is businesses are still very skeptical about the economy and what’s going to happen next.  There are a lot of uncertainties out there, particularly given the implementation of the new federal health care law.”

“What they need and want are assurances about permitting, about regulations and about taxes so they can plan for expansion and job creation.  How we get there remains a work in progress,” McCabe said.

Patrick Connor, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, which did not get a invited for a preview, said he also is keeping an open mind.

“With every new administration you try to give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ll remain optimistic until he proves otherwise,’’ Connor said of Inslee. He also said his group is meeting with leaders of a few key state agencies later this week and he hopes to give feedback there.

Inslee has set down some specific goals such as boosting the state’s economy by $26 billion value by 2015, adding 150,000 jobs, and increasing the percentage of high school students who meet exit-exam standards by 2 percentage points from 2013 to 2014.

But he also left a lot of blanks in his plan.  A Results Washington chart describing the goals, for instance, sets a goal of increasing the number of high school students getting access to “high quality online learning.” but it leaves blank the number of students now getting online education, the goal for improvement, and the date the goal is to be met.

He said his team is waiting for more data before setting some goals and waiting for public feedback before setting others. To get that feedback, his staff proposes an outreach effort over the next month to learn what residents, businesses, labor groups and others want to see.

For instance the governor is holding a Twitter town hall from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, inviting participants to pose questions using the social-media platform and share ideas or feedback about his proposals. His office also has created a Results Washington web site at results.wa.gov and plans to announce additional ways the public can get involved on Sept. 19; the public would be able to give feedback until mid-October.

Heuschel said they hope to refine their plan and finish writing its goals by mid-October.

Heuschel also said they plan a fellowship program to guide Lean work in agencies. This will take five state employees experienced in Lean away from their regular agency duties, and each one will be assigned as an adviser to one of the five separate teams being created to tackle the five major Results Washington topics.

Inslee identified the five major areas of improvement that he hopes will be seen –  a world class education system, a prosperous economy, a clean environment and sustainable energy, healthy and safe communities, and a better-functioning government.

Although his plan is different from the Government Management and Accountability Program (GMAP) that Gregoire used to set agency goals and judge their performance, Inslee said “Results Washington builds on the best aspects of GMAP” and other past efforts to improve government. He said the difference is “this will be broader and a deeper effort.’’

He also issued an executive order that affects agencies - linked here.

A print version of this story is being prepared for Wednesday's newspapers.

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