Baseline Magazine has a nice article featuring Val Oveson, Utah's CIO. In the article Val talks about Utah's use of, and problems with, simple ROI measurements. Dave Fletcher talked about better performance measures earlier this week. I'm confident that Val's the right person to pull this off given his strong backgrounds in both technology and accounting. He seems perfectly situated to bring Utah's technology planning out of the dark ages. I'm looking forward to hearing his ideas.
Seems like the State of Utah's witch hunt against blogs continues. Andy Sullivan, who works part time for the CIO's office had a blog at licyeus.net, but its gone now. He must have said something that people didn't like, so they shut him down. You can see a cached copy of his blog on Google. Maybe its that state employees, in their free time are not allowed to swear? Oh no, that can't be it. I've heard plenty of them swear. Interesting that as a condition of employment in the CIO's office Andy had to agree not to write his blog. So much for free speech. Sometimes, this isn't a very enlightened place to work.
The laws and rules that explain how State of Utah workers are hired, promoted, paid, fired, and retired goes by the Orwellian name "State Merit System" even though hiring, pay, and promotion in the State have precious little to do with "merit." I've heard numerous candidates for Governor this year talk about how they're going to change government when they get into office, but no one talks about the Merit System. I read something Fred Lampropolous said the other day and I wanted to write and tell him "be careful what you wish for." He sincerely believes, as do many other candidates that they'll be able to take the reins of government and really effect positive change. Well, I think they're bound to be severely disappointed and the Merit System is what's going to trip them up.
The Merit System with its many rules and regulations creates a culture among State employees the disincents innovation and personal responsibility. I've worked with hundreds of State employees over the years and contrary to some popular opinion, they are, for the most part, willing to work and quite smart. However, they're in a system that beats them down. The best State employees are equal to the best people I've worked with in the private sector, but the worst are much worse because they cannot be incented and they cannot be fired. Any talk of removing the deadwood is met with stiff resistance, even by the top performers because the culture has taught them that removing people who don't perform is "bad" and could affect them next.
Another favorite topic among gubernatorial candidates is lowering taxes. Of course, none of them actually run through the actual figures and get to the bottom line. If you subtract out of the State budget all the money that is Federal pass through, goes to education, goes to prisons and public safety or is controlled by mandates, you'll find that there's very little left. Most of that is employee costs. The only way to save money in State government is to cut employees. Believe me, the Merit System will stand in your way and make cutting employees very painful since you'll have to cut without regard to merit. Ironic, isn't it?
Of course, any candidate would be a fool to talk of changing the State Merit System during the campaign since they would incur the wrath of the UPEA, the State employee's union. UPEA has the ear of the press and no grounding in reality. The interest of the citizens is not the UPEA's prime directive.
My advice to any gubernatorial candidate who wants to change government: talk in generalities now, but realize that as soon as you get into office, you have to go after the Merit System. Overhaul the Merit System and everything else you want to accomplish in State government will suddenly become possible. Fail to change the Merit System and you will spend some very frustrating years in office. Its that simple: overhauling the State Merit System is the key to changing government and lowering taxes.