Governor Deval L. Patrick
Performance Management Conference
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thank you, Ira, for that warm welcome and thanks to UMass Boston for hosting us again today. What a great resource you are to us, in so many ways, including the MassResults program.

I also want to thank Secretary Shor and his team at ANF for leading our performance management initiative and organizing this morning's gathering. Indeed, I thank each of my Cabinet secretaries and each of you for your continued leadership throughout state government.

The focus of today's conference is on delivering measurable results. I submit that that has been our focus every day, and it is making a real difference across the Commonwealth.

Take a minute and reflect with me on a few examples.

When we entered office, Massachusetts was 45th in job creation. Then came a global economic collapse. By last week, not only had we re-gained all the jobs lost since the Great Recession (one of the first states in America to have done so), but we have achieved the highest level of employment in nearly 25 years. 

When we got here, health care reform was but words on paper. Today, over 98 percent of our residents are insured, health care costs for families and small businesses are coming down, and the people of the Commonwealth are not only secure in knowing they are covered, but, on a host of measures, are also healthier.

When we got here our roads, rails and bridges crumbling after 20 years of neglect. Today, we are investing an unprecedented amount to rebuild our infrastructure – faster and cheaper and in every region of the state – and have reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges by 23 percent.

When we got here, the public schools were making progress after years of reform efforts, but achievement gaps persisted. Today, we are number one in the Nation in student achievement, we are closing achievement gaps, we have more charter schools and other innovative models than ever, our community colleges are a coordinated system for workforce development, and our universities are supported and well funded again. 

When we got here, there was no energy policy and electricity rates were at an all time high. Today, we are first in the Nation in energy efficiency. We have a booming, nationally-recognized clean tech sector that is growing jobs at double-digit rates. We've grown wind and solar generation from 3 kilowatts each to over 100 and over 500 kilowatts respectively. Emissions are sharply reduced. And we've cleared the way for America's first offshore wind farm.

Broadband has reached every city and town. 

The ethics laws are tighter.

Auto insurance rates have gone down sharply and drivers have much more choice in the market.

We use flaggers at state construction sites.

The CORI system is more fair and we are rebuilding our re-entry system.

The pension system is strengthened, more rational and sustainable.

Municipal health care reform has saved hundreds of millions for cities and towns.

The transportation bureaucracy is simpler, the Turnpike Authority is gone, transportation finances are stabilized, and Massport has record numbers of travelers traveling to a wider variety of destinations than ever before.

Our budgets are balanced, timely and fiscally responsible. We are the first Administration to publish a formal policy to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability. Our rainy day fund is again one of the strongest in the country. And we have earned the highest bond rating in Commonwealth history.

And more and more and more.

I mention all of this at a conference on performance because I think it's important to acknowledge that you have performed. I think it's important for you to know that I appreciate what you have done and, most of all, what it takes to do it. And I think the citizens we serve appreciate it, too.

This is not easy work – not if you're serious about results. I'm not talking about scoring political points, but about real and meaningful results. That's not easy. This job is a funny blend of substance and performance art. And the pressure to substitute performance art, the dramatic gesture, for substance is intense. 

The economy collapses and revenues shrink? Cut spending and headcount across the board! Somebody tries to buy makeup with an ABT card? Overhaul the system! The new connector website won't work?  Health reform is a disaster! A child is lost at DCF? Fire somebody! Things go wrong in government because occasionally things go wrong in any large organization. And outrage never once solved a problem. 

The measure of your success is not whether things ever go wrong. The measure of your success is how you addressed the problem. Steady, unflinching, root cause analysis and then thorough and methodical reform has marked our approach and made the solutions real and meaningful.

So, when the economy collapsed, we made the necessary and painful cuts, but in targeted ways that preserved the initiatives we knew would speed our economic recovery and preserve our safety net. And we enlisted labor in the solution, which helped to stabilize services during the worst of the crisis.

When there was fraud in the welfare system, we focused on what kinds, where the system was weak, and what the true scale of the problem was, and then tightened the system sensibly without demonizing or humiliating the poor people we serve.

When the connector website jammed, we developed workarounds, brought in a proven crisis IT manager, thoughtfully unwound our relationship with the contractor so we would not set ourselves even further back, and brought in hundreds of people to help us keep moving forward – adding hundreds of thousands more to the ranks of the insured while staying within the original budget.

When DCF lost a child, we held specific individuals accountable (without demonizing every case worker), comprehensively reviewed the policies and practices, and added resources and better technology where most needed.

There were easier, faster ways to get better headlines. But we chose ways, albeit harder and more tedious, that get better results.

The tough part is that we work in an environment where the easier and faster often trumps the lasting and the meaningful.

The Big Dig is a classic example. Here was a failure of historic proportions – unprecedented cost overruns, an imprudent plan to pay for it that depended mainly on pushing the reckoning off to another day, and the intentional neglect of basic upkeep in every part of the state outside of Greater Boston.

Previous leaders papered over the issues, entered into risky swaptions deals and paid more payroll on the capital budget. We by contrast shined a light on the fiscal realities, negotiated our way out of the swaptions, moved nearly 1600 state employees off the capital budget and back onto the regular payroll, rationalized the pension plans, consolidated agencies, and raised revenue to meet modern transportation needs.  

One approach makes the problem look less like a problem. Our approach solves the problem.

I remember visiting Baghdad a few years ago to see our troops during the war in Iraq. The US military headquarters were in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. What a magnificent first impression it made! It was huge, imposing, with marble floors and columns and massive crystal chandeliers. When you got up close, you could see that the marble was some sort of synthetic veneer and the chandeliers were plastic. In some of the rooms, you could push right through the walls. This palace was meant for TV, not for living.

You build structures to live in. You build structures that are lasting and meaningful. Whether it was fixing the water main break in three days (instead of three months) or responding to the opioid crisis or repairing Boylston Street or the Commonwealth's spirits after the Marathon bombings, we have consistently favored the lasting and meaningful over the splashy and the showy. And while you don't get the headlines with that approach, you do make the Commonwealth better.

So, again, to the 8 special leaders we honor this morning and to each and every one of you, thank you for delivering such impressive results in such honorable ways.

I hope that you continue to set ambitious goals for your agencies and for yourselves.

With that, I want to recognize a number of your colleagues with an honor they well deserve. These are dedicated public servants who have made state government more results-oriented, data-driven and publicly accountable – so allow me to bestow on them the Governor’s Award for Performance Management Excellence.