Obama’s Blockbuster State of the Union Surprise

Obama’s Blockbuster State of the Union Surprise

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Almost lost in salmon and laughter was one of the biggest surprises of the night: President Obama’s call for the most aggressive reorganization of the federal government in over half a century.

Although there were not any clear next steps, it is evident that the president is serious about making government more efficient, more cost-effective, and better able to serve the people. The president’s call for a major reorganization effort has to be looked at in a larger context: this country needs to have a deep national conversation about the role of government. This would be quite a shift from the conversation of the last 20 years, which has unproductively revolved around the size of government.

As the administration moves forward with the reorganization process, those strategizing should be mindful of the necessity of shifting the national conversation and making it as inclusive as possible. By following two principles, the president and his team can take full advantage of that opportunity and make the shift a reality.

1) The front line federal employees who have delivered services for decades should be engaged on an unprecedented scale. As any executive in the private or public sector knows, reorganizations of this magnitude will only succeed if they capture the hearts and minds of employees.

2) Build on the participation and collaboration goals of the Open Government Directive and engage the general public so they understand the process, are able to weigh in on key issues like changes in services to which they are accustomed, and have the opportunity to be co-creators of the new systems that will emerge.

The good news is that the public is ready, able, and eager to play a much greater role in public decision making than it is often given credit for. And the country is ready to engage in a meaningful and civil discussion of the role of government in our lives.

Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Founder and President of AmericaSpeaks, has made her mark as an innovator in deliberative democracy, public administration, and organizational development.  Prior to founding AmericaSpeaks, Carolyn served as Consultant to the White House Chief of Staff from November 1993 through June 1994, and as Chief of Staff to Governor Richard F. Celeste of Ohio from 1986 to 1991. Dr. Lukensmeyer led her own successful organizational development and management consulting firm for 14 years.

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