people look for things that went wrong and try to
fix them. I look for things that went right and try to build on
Stone/ Mr. ReGo/ Energizer-in-Chief.
* * * *
PARTIAL REGO* (*Re-inventing Government) HEROES’ HONOR ROLL:
Gordon. U.S. Customs/Miami. Joan Hyatt.
Colorado. Bill Freeman. OSHA/
Maine. Joe Dear. OSHA
Marie Urban. FDA HQ. Ed
FDA. Sue Bruederle. FDA/
Chicago. Bob Wenzel. IRS/
Fresno. Hugh Doran. VA/ Kansas
City. Joe Thompson. VA/ New
City. Jerry Bolden. Ag/
Mississippi. Mike Loh. USAF.
names … damn it.)
* * * *
Bob Stone re-invented
the Department of Defense. Not
content, he then re-invented the entire Federal Government.
actually, that’s bull. The job’s not done.
the progress—mostly unsung—has been stupendous.
(Yes, damn it,
business cards read … Energizer-in-Chief. Which is to
say that Bob didn’t re-invent government. But Lynn
Bill Freeman & Bob Wenzel
et al. did. (See above. See
within. Their stories are the story.)
is, simply, the best text ever on “making it in
government.” That is, getting BIG Things Done That Matter. This may
also be the
BTE/best text ever on large-scale organization change. Anywhere.
Here’s the deal …
Stone was a nerdy engineer. With a proclivity for
solving thorny problems. And,
as we old Navy types put it … Damn the
Torpedoes (i.e.. recalcitrant bosses who failed to see the light/his
fixed things. He was blunt. (Most engineers are.) He was
constantly in trouble. “Didn’t suffer fools lightly” comes to mind.
Bob’s raw skill and sheer chutzpah finally landed him a
job as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installations.
was appalled at what he found. He’s genetically averse
to “good enough for government work”—and believes/believed that Great
the cornerstone of motivated troops and defense readiness. In short, a
bits of petty B.S., ordered from on high, shouted distrust of civilians
government service—and impaired rapid, efficient common-sense practices
every turn. Readiness & troop morale were the victims of this
unintentional, anti-excellence conspiracy.
Stone Way was resisted—mightily—at
(The Pentagon.) But Bob found
real people who cared—mightily—in the field where the soldiers and
airman and marines live and work.
met Bill Creech, one of my all-time “corporate” heroes.
General Bill, in astonishingly short order, had turned around (turned
down!) the massive Tactical Air Command of the U.S.A.F. (Now the Air
Command.) Creech empowered the front line, cut the crap, re-installed
work sapped during the wretched, hyper-centralized McNamara years … and
arguably created the most battleready force in U.S. military history.
TAC’s performance in the Gulf War.)
Bill reinforced Bob Stone’s belief that “it” “could be
done” “fast.” Despite Washington’s micro-management.
make a long story short (read the book), Bob recruited
Bill (or vice versa, it doesn’t matter) … and the field-led, Bob
Stone-energized campaign for more troop-friendly, high-performance
bases was on
with a vengeance.
Creech was the model. And “model” is a (the?!) key word
in this astounding saga. Bob is an avowed enemy of command &
“gotcha” management. And a maestro of “show ‘em an example of someone
who’s doing it right”—in spite of the same B.S. that everyone else
gives me some credit for this, but he ought to cite Ken Blanchard, for
“catching someone doing something right” is Axiom #1 of effective
leadership.) At Defense Bob’s showcase/s (literally) was the Model
Installations Program. And Creech provided the first certified
way from HQ—another Stone-Creech principal tenet. (Message: Good weird
rarely happen in the shadow of headquarters.)
Installations pissed off the Pentagon, whose Ultimate
Authority Over Positively Every Small Thing it challenged—and was
enthusiastically embraced by caring commanders, obsessed by readiness,
field. And the world of Defense wobbled a bit on its axis.
the years (Reagan Years) passed, Bob irritated most
everyone in his hierarchy—which proved to be the right launching pad
Main Game reported in these pages.
remember well sitting at my desk on my farm in Vermont late one evening
The fax clattered … and out spooled a brief handwritten note on the
of the Vice President of the United States of America. “Guess who’s
to re-invent government?” it read. Signed … Bob Stone.
No, it turns out. VP
Al Gore made an early decision, supported by his boss, to make
the dull (or so it appeared at the time) task of “reforming government”
moral crusade of the first order. And he chose an apparently
unassuming-but-uncivil servant to do the job. (Message: In the
past, a “famous” businessman was typically chosen to do “it”—and the
“product” was an inflammatory report informing us that all two million
government “bureaucrats” were jerks. This time Gore wisely chose an
fervently believed the gov’t was loaded with “radicals” who ached to
insipid rules, make big waves and do a great job of serving their
customers—soldiers and sailors and U.S. taxpayers.)
one of those “networking things” Mr. Gore
encountered Mr. Stone. (Stone admits that “learning” networking didn’t
easily for a reluctant, just-the-facts engineer … but master the art he
And he commands all would-be change impresarios to do the same. TP1:
Bro Stone. TP2: Networking = Suck up, build and mind your Rolodex =
Essential for those who want to Make a Difference in large systems.)
got his Moment-in-the-Big Office. He was the consummate
“briefer” by now. Not the typical engineer-bureaucrat-consultant’s
slide-after-slide awash in 8-point-type numbers. But Story
after Story of Hero after Hero
after Hero …
illustrated with physical props that graphically revealed the silliness
life-in-gov’t for those determined, against all odds, to make things
their “Customers” (whoops … the “dirty” C-word … see below.)
got the job! The Dream
Job. Only one thing left … make it happen. Fast.
was painfully aware of the dusty fate of most “Commission
Reports” on “good government.” The war against excess paperwork usually
resulted in … more unread paper.
Bob and his Merry Band of Battle-scarred Reprobates from
all across government took a diametrically opposite approach,
reminiscent on a
large scale of his DOD effort. And that approach is the cornerstone of
magisterial book. Stone & Co. chose not to pontificate and
chose not to hire a battalion of consultants. (Beltway Bandits, as
too appropriately called.) He and his instead sought Heroes. Within. He
out what Nancy Austin and I, in A Passion for Excellence,
“pockets of excellence.” Those daring souls who had already chosen,
odds and at risk of job (yes, even the civil service), to follow the
of Public Service … and Make a Damn Difference by Providing Excellence
to Their Customers.
the unearthing—and boisterous celebration—of those whose names led off
Foreword. Lynn Gordon, Bill Freeman et (many, many) al.
important Executive Orders were written along the way,
but it turns out mostly that we didn’t need to re-invent government. We needed instead to
recognize the heroes
within—and do anything and everything to make their way the new way. Which often meant just
getting out of their
way.* Celebrating their
successes with megaphones
in hand. Urging others to walk-trot-sprint down this same path to
bullet wounds for pioneers not withstanding.
Drucker: “Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ consists of
difficult to get things done.”(And PD was talking private
& Change are my bailiwicks. Such work has
traditionally been tuned into The Plan … The Processes … The Edicts
Holy High. Bob
Stone turns that
conventional wisdom on its head. And I say … Hooray! Long overdue!
slides are the staple of my 100 seminars per
year. I tried to capture Bob’s Grand New Change Message on just one
ignored his “rule of three” (sorry, Bob) … and offer my 12
in Stone instead. To wit:
- Demos & Models. “Model Installations.” (DOD.) “ReGo Labs.” (Re-inventing
Government Laboratories.) In any event the idea is that we learn … By Example. Period. “Go
there.” “Look.” “Do your own version, but understand that we have some
Concrete Exemplars of the New Way … performed by people like yourself.”
- Heroes. An obvious extension of
the above. Consider the folks the President puts in the House Gallery
during the State of the Union address. These heroes are the living
embodiment of folks “just like us” who have made a damn
difference—relative to topics central to POTUS’s strategic agenda.
- Stories & Storytellers.
Several prominent students of leadership, notably Harvard’s Howard
Gardner, have argued that stories are the leader’s … most
potent tool. I’d add … AMEN. Such stories take on added
potency when there are—a la Bob Stone—leave-behind props that
illustrate graphically the Main Point. Addendum: There were … and are …
Great Storytellers. Effective leaders need a Garrison Keillor gene,
perhaps. (Or they can learn it—again, see Formerly Nerdy Stone.)
- Chroniclers. We need
the Hard Evidence. Bob S. did a masterful job of spreading
The Stories … via world-class Videography, Pamphlets, etc. If it’s not
solidly chronicled … then it never was!
- Cheerleaders & Recognition.
As always, Positive Reinforcement remains the most powerful “device”
known to man. Bob S. was a badges & buttons & baubles
fanatic … in a world where praise is sparing. (Understatement.) (Hey,
Mary Kay had nothing on the ReGo troops when it came to
- New Language. Winston Churchill
famously said, “We shape our buildings and then they shape us.” So,
too, words. Bob Stone’s insistence on using the word “customer” was
mocked by some—but made an enormous difference over the course of time.
In general, he changed the vocabulary of public service from “procedure
first” to “service first.” From “HQ
boss first” to “field service provider first.” From
to “trust” (of the service-delivery team). From “adversary”
aiming to “score” at the customer’s expense to “partner”
aiming to “get the right things done.” And so on. A
Very Big Deal!
- Seekers. Finding the New Heroes
is not necessarily a walk in the park—they’ve been working to stay
beneath the radar scope for years; hence, a/the primary mission of ReGo
staffers is to ferret them out.
- Protectors. Some of Bob’s New
Heroes didn’t want the publicity—they were already at odds with their
bureaucracies. Hence, staffers must protect those they discover. (Face
time with VP Gore kept a few of Stone’s Heroes from losing their
jobs—hard to fire someone who just pocketed an Award of Valor, in front
of the press, from the Vice President of the United States!)
- Support Groups. Pioneers need
pals—like-minded souls to commiserate with and learn from (new tricks
for beating the system and avoiding capture). ReGo events and
networking practices helped here. Lots.
- End runs/Pull Strategy. This is
less a ReGo strategy than a corporate strategy I’ve observed among
change masters. Forget changing recalcitrant insiders; hook up with
oddball customers and vendors who end up pulling the enterprise,
kicking and screaming if necessary, into the future. In as way, of
course, this was the Whole Deal for Stone & Co.
- Field/ “Real People” Focus. At
DOD, Stone started revolution—among concerned Base Commanders … a long
way from home. “Headquarters revolution” is by and large an oxymoron!
- Speed. Move fast, Stone counsels
… before the forces of evil have a chance to kill you by memo and
endless reviews. Former Air Force Colonel John Boyd said whoever has
the fastest O.O.D.A Loops wins (O.O.D.A. Loop=
Observe-Orient-Decide-Act Cycle). Confuse and confound the enemy by
your speed per se: He’s busy scheduling the review … as you finish the
above, I believe captures the outlines of a most
remarkable transformation executed by Bob Stone and a small and
of True Patriots—aiming to allow those closest to the scene to serve
customers with vigor, imagination and efficiency. As I said at the
job is not done … by a long shot. But perhaps the process is close to
irreversible. Public Servants who care have been exposed to a Taste of
Excellence & Empowerment. They are not likely to soon lose
et al. found the best of the best and paraded them
before the Veep, their compatriots, and as often as possible the
These new exemplars offered heart and hope to others. While not all
servants have the pioneering spirit, Bob Stone and I believe that the
majority would rather do a good job than a bad job. A well-intentioned
of government checks and balances run amok has often kept them from
“By the book” has become synonymous with delay and obfuscation … and
disregard/contempt for the “customer” (soldier, sailor, taxpayer).
Stone has a lovely array of commendations in his quiver.
But each one is matched—times ten—by barbs and arrows shot at him. Yet
persevered. He believes in the basic tenets of Public Service. And he
an enormous contribution. By taking the time to share his extraordinary
experiences with readers in the private as well as public sector, he
us all one more great service.
Tom Peters/19 May
2002/West Tisbury MA