Public Service Innovators -- Ryan Church, MPA 2001: Building Pathways to New

July 18, 2002
Miranda Daniloff

As a management consultant Ryan Church (MPA 2001) doesn't work in an ordinary consulting practice. He works for a special division of Minnesota's state government that advises state department directors on how to bring the best of private business practices into their government operations. It's the only one of its kind in the nation, known as the Management Analysis Division, or MAD."We speak the language [of state government]", says Church about the advantages MAD has over other consulting practices. "We understand the nuances and the culture and have experience in every government agency in Minnesota."

"We speak the language [of state government]", says Church about the advantages MAD has over other consulting practices. "We understand the nuances and the culture and have experience in every government agency in Minnesota."

MAD offers a variety of services to help state managers. Cost-benefit analysis, change management, organizational planning, legislative study and workflow analysis are just some of the services it offers. What makes MAD so different is that it is a fee-for-service operation, often competing with the private sector for contracts.

Its first statewide improvement project won a Ford Foundation/Kennedy School Innovations in Government award in 1986. The Strive Toward Excellence in Performance (STEP) program encouraged innovation through partnerships between mid-level government managers and their private sector counterparts.

Church says MAD's work has been critical this past year after public sector strikes and a near government shutdown due to budget constraints. Minnesota's $2.5 billion shortfall required major reallocation of state resources. Managers had very little time to make those adjustments. That kind of change, notes Church, calls for both analytic and personal support such as coaching managers as they make difficult decisions around realigned priorities.

Recently Church helped the early childhood and family support division of the Department of Children, Families and Learning develop a more integrated state support system that helps local communities pool their resources and coordinate a variety of community services for young children and their families.

MAD is also offering executive coaching to potential managers in the state department of transportation. This coaching is helping the transportation department prepare for an anticipated massive retirement. In six years, 80 percent of the Minnesota transportation department workforce will be eligible to retire. Currently, MAD is facilitating bio-terrorism planning groups composed of law enforcement, public health, emergency managers and others. The goal is to strengthen the state's legal powers to deal with a bio-terrorist threat while protecting the constitutional and other rights of citizens.

Church, who has spent twenty years in public health administration, came to the Kennedy School because he was curious about other dimensions of state government. He says he enjoys helping his clients "build pathways to a new approach" and believes more states could benefit from this kind of in-house consulting resource.

Minnesota is the only state with such a specialized division. So far only Alaska has consulted with MAD about replicating the program, which was favorably mentioned throughout the 1992 book, Reinventing Government, by David Osborne and Tad Gaebler.

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