Recommendations for New Jersey and Virginia State Governments


Two new political parties are now taking over the states of New Jersey and Virginia.  One of the most daunting tasks in government faces them . . . the task of transferring power from one party to another in about 3 months or so.  It is a monumental task.

Here are some recommendations for incoming Governor’s Bob McDonnell (Virginia) and Chris Christie (New Jersey).  These won’t be the normal things they will hear, so hopefully they and/or their staff will give them some thought.

  • Get Knowledge.  You will face resigning leaders and others that will leave with the political overhaul.  Most of what they learned will be lost.  Before any political agendas come roaring in, the new administration must get knowledge of the systems they wish to change.  This needs to be done by the leaders and not abdicated to a vendor, underling or anyone else (as most of these folks have their own agendas).  So, before the first plan, milestone, schedule, etc please begin by understanding the “what and why” of current performance (please see: performing “check“).
  • Understand that to Manage Costs is to Increase Them.  New Jersey is in a poor fiscal state and Virginia is better than most other states, but let’s face it this is hard times for state government.  The immediate reaction is to focus on cutting costs.  The government management paradox is that this always increases costs.  Governments work on what seems obvious missing the causes of costs. (Please see: Managing Costs Increases Them)
  • Don’t Start with the Bad Assumptions.  There are several I see in government here are three:
  1. Bad Assumption #1:  Technology is the Answer.  After a decade of working with large technology vendors, I can tell you this is not true.  In most cases, technology locks in the waste and sub-optimization of a poorly designed system.  The will tell you about other government successes, best practices, benchmarks, government analytics and more, but fail to deliver the value governments so desperately need to reduce costs and improve service.  Their aim is to improve their own bottom-line . . . not yours.  (Please see: Throwing Technology at the Problem)
  2. Bad Assumption #2:  Shared Services Strategy.  Sharing services is NOT a no-brainer.  Government management must understand that sharing services without knowledge leads to higher costs and worse service.  (Please see: Dos and Don’ts of a Shared Service Strategy and The Case Against Shared Services)
  3.   Bad Assumption #3:  Outsourcing/Privatization.  I’ve been a CIO in state government, it is unrealistic that we wouldn’t have outsourcing and/or privatization.  The problem is that in many cases we are outsourcing our failure demand from constituents (demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for a customer).  This locks in waste, we need to improve the system by redesigning the management and work.  I have found this reduces technology spend, improves service and costs less on a large scale.  (Please see: Outsourcing: Why it’s a Bad Idea and Better Tips for Government IT Outsourcing and Shared Services)
  • Understand that Your Greatest Lever for Improvement is the Design and Management of Work.  Understanding that a different line of thinking about how to manage and improvement through better work design is a huge leap in reducing costs as it addresses the fundamental thinking problem around the causes of costs.  Government management should take time to browse “Systems Thinking in the Public Sector” and the website for government systems thinking at

My hope for both of these new governments is that through better thinking you can serve constituents better and be good stewards of their money.  Government management requires a different look at some age old problems . . . doing more with less.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

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Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at

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