Great minds think entrepreneurial

“The Entrepreneurial Mindset” is the latest great program to land in New Mexico.

It’s not just for people who want to start businesses.  It’s a way of thinking that enables any individual in any job to take personal responsibility for his or her work, applying initiative to the job and committing to be of service to others.   It’s based on in-depth studies of hundreds of successful entrepreneurs.

Through Central New Mexico Community College, the program has been taught to 100 employees of the City of Albuquerque. Mayor Richard Berry has committed to having at least 1,000 employees trained in it.  It’s also offered to the public.

The model was developed by Gary Schoeniger, CEO of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, who was here recently to train the facilitators who will teach the program to their colleagues from the city and other major local employers.

If it works, hundreds of city employees will develop the entrepreneurial attitudes that let every person become an idea factory for process improvement and better service to the customers and taxpayers.

Quality New Mexico, around since 1991, is also still going strong.  It’s about to have its annual conference (Isleta Resort, April 12-13), featuring keynote speaker Jim Collins, author of the bestselling book, “Good to Great.”  Awards will be given to organizations that have reached milestones on the “Quality Journey.” Among those listed for awards are several divisions of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, Taxation and Revenue Department, Department of Health and the Motor Vehicle Department.  Maybe the next time you renew your license you will walk out glowing with pleasure at the customer service you received.

The Quality process is also an approach to align workers with organizational goals, engage people at every level of the organization and provide workers with satisfaction through knowing the value of their work.  When successful, it leads to process improvements and satisfied customers.

A key feature of the Quality process is that top management is open to receiving feedback and good ideas from all sources, including lower echelon employees.

Except when it isn’t.

I’ve been through this.  My former agency participated in the Quality process for several years through three successive directors.

One director told me, in private, that he was going to run his agency the way he saw fit and was not going to listen to a bunch of stuff from the employees.  We went through the motions of the Quality process anyway.

The next director invited employees to submit recommendations in memo form, to be considered by himself and the management team.  This so-called team was stacked with political appointees who were not inclined to teamwork.  Most of the memos were never responded to.  We still got a few awards.

These programs are great if they work.  Government employees often are in routine jobs where they are told what to do by managers who learned how to manage by being told what to do.  Some managers will be very uncomfortable when their formerly docile subordinates start acting like free spirits and having ideas of their own.

In government, there is also a serious concern with what passes for accountability.  Government structures like to assure themselves and the taxpayers that matters are under control by applying productivity measurements, which can stifle initiative.  For an initiative mindset to take hold, employees must have management support to experiment, take risks and occasionally fail.

Schoeniger says the ability to take initiative, be flexible and respond to challenging circumstances will be the hallmark of the 21st century workforce, including the public workforce.  This may not be compatible with our long-standing habits of demanding accountability by the numbers.  The City of Albuquerque may be the experiment that demonstrates to the rest of our state’s public entities whether we can handle such a change.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2016

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