Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Government Can Learn From A Startup

While our government continues to struggle with dysfunction and  ineffectiveness, the private sector is slowly and steadily rebuilding the economy and jobs that were destroyed when the real-estate bubble burst in 2008. The contrast is striking as I consider how we, as a startup company, have dealt with the challenges of the past 4 years, compared to the self-imposed struggles of the federal government. While we have accomplished more with less, the government continues to stagnate even as it consumes 27% more of our limited resources (U.S. government spending has grown from $3.0T to $3.8T between 2008 and 2012).

Here is a entrepreneurial lesson that the government should learn: Define your core values and use them to chart your course. Our core values are: Contribution, Common Objectives, and Character.

Contribution: In our startup, contribution means making a difference...making a positive impact to our customers, to our industry, to our partners, to our communities, and to the professional advancement of our people. For our government leaders, contribution should be a core principle. Our leaders should serve the public interest and do their utmost to make a positive impact on our nation. Government service should be just that...service to the constituents who have entrusted elected officials to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions that will advance the greater good.

Common Objectives: For us, common objectives mean that we all work, sacrifice and share the successes together. We work towards common objectives, even though different departments often have competing goals and perspectives. We value the contributions of everyone, and we are more effective when we leverage the diversity of ideas and experiences of our entire team. The same is true of our elected officials. Instead of treating the opposing party as an enemy to be defeated, our leaders could work together with respect, understanding that their diversity brings strength and a broader set of ideas and experiences to solve the challenges that we face. Questioning the motives and principles of the opposition destroys any chance of teamwork. Conversely, respect and constructive conflict brings out the best in a diverse team.

Character: Character defines the integrity, professionalism, honor, decency, and ability to put the common good ahead of self interest. This is essential when selecting people to join any company, and equally important when selecting our government leaders...enough said.

Our legacy of the American dream, of opportunity for all still provides tremendous advantages for our future. On the other hand, much of the world is adopting our model of a free market economy and individual liberties. Our world is more competitive and resource-limited than ever before. I believe that our government will eventually remember our core values, and great leaders will emerge to bring us together to face and resolve the challenges ahead. I believe that our country will continue to achieve greatness, just as any startup achieves great success in the face of significant competitive challenges.

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