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updated 2:54 PM UTC, Jul 28, 2018

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Business Alliance hopes to get Inslee to adopt strategic-planning process

The Washington Business Alliance is hopeful it can help Jay Inslee, sworn in this week as Washington's 22nd governor, put in place a strategic-planning process for state government similar to what successful businesses employ. Perhaps aiding their cause is that neighboring Oregon is well down the road on that kind of approach to governing.


The attentions of a new governor are inevitably sought by an array of pressure groups and for a Democratic governor, those pressure groups are less likely to represent business interests.


But the Business Alliance, created by successful entrepreneurs David Giuliani and Howard Behar to bring "a reasoned, collaborative approach to public policy that transcends partisan politics," seems optimistic that Inslee will respond positively to the idea of strategic planning for Washington State.


WaBA gained visibility and respect during the recent gubernatorial campaign with its even-handed approach to the two candidates, including several "debates" that were more like interviews with Inslee and GOP candidate Rob McKenna. The organization takes no political positions and does no endorsements, since politics isn't what it's about.


Now WaBA wants Inslee to look no further for a good strategic-planning model than south across the Columbia River at what fellow Democratic chief executive John Kitzhaber has embraced, including creating the business-sounding role of chief operating officer.


While the WaBA's effort is to transcend partisanship, there's likely little doubt that it should be easier to convince Inslee to emulate a respected governor from his own party then if, for example, the model were New Jersey's Chris Christie. New Jersey was, in fact, one of four states where WaBA, in a 50-state assessment of where best practices were occurring, found efforts under way to institutionalize strategic planning.


The four were New Jersey, Indiana and Colorado, where Republican governors were in place, and Oregon, where Kitzhaber is a year into his second stint as state chief executive.


Strategic planning is the process by which an organization defines its strategy and makes decisions and allocates resources based on pursuing the preferred outcomes of that strategy, ideally over a long term.


It's a process that often eludes government because decisions at the local, state and national levels are usually driven by the most high-visibility needs and allocation of resources by the most influential special-interest groups.


Norm Levy

.WaBA board member Norm Levy, who has guided corporate strategy for major Washington companies for nearly 30 years, said what the 50-state assessment turned up was that coordinated business involvement had helped establish best practices in several states.


Levy, who had been head of strategic planning for the former Seafirst Bank and who got involved with WaBA because both Behar and Giuliani were clients, said "the states where long-term goals with specific outcomes were being put in place had collaboration of all key stakeholders."


"The accountability that is necessary to carry out a strategic plan has to be at the top level," Levy said. "And that leads to a position like Oregon's COO because someone has to be responsible for oversight of all the agencies in state government and the critical issue is that all those need to be aligned across silos."


The framework for strategic planning in Oregon is called the Oregon Business Plan, conceived a decade ago as a forum for collaboration on improving Oregon's economy and championed by Oregon's two U.S. senators in the absence of support from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, the Democrat who replaced Kitzhaber in 2003.


Early on, the plan was unable to garner the support of Oregon's various business organizations. But that gradually came about as influential business leaders embraced it and it has endured, becoming an effective tool for cooperation and collaboration.


And Kitzhaber, re-elected in 2011 after sitting out for either years after his constitutionally limited two terms ended in 2003, has fully embraced the concept and its strategic-planning underpinning.


In fact, in his State of the State speech this week, Kitzhaber invoked the Oregon Business Plan and its goals of, by 2020, raising per-capita income, creating 25,000 new jobs per year and significantly reducing the poverty rate.


Kitzhaber is proposing an ambitious state strategic plan called the 10-Year Plan for Oregon, which will include his proposal for a 10-year budget to support identified goals.


Washington Business Alliance, some of whose members have been at work with Inslee's transition team, express confidence that the new governor may adopt the Oregon Business Plan approach to governing.


New Jersey's Christie, as one of the models for success that turned up in the Business Alliance's 50-state examination, began strategic planning by applying it to commercial land development, after the state had discovered it had been planning for large industrial complexes in which businesses had no interest.


The initiative was successful, and strategic planning spread to other functions. Christie then brought to bear the interesting hammer of requiring strategic planning within each branch of state, regional and local governments in order to obtain funding.



Ironically, the Business Alliance may face a larger challenge in getting all of the varied business organizations in the state on board with creating a Washington version of the Oregon Business Plan than winning over the new Democratic governor.
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A business organization focused on 'public policy that transcends partisan politics'

David Giuliani, the Seattle-area entrepreneur who launched two companies that became new-innovation success stories, has co-founded a statewide business organization named Washington Business Alliance that he hopes can help bring a new innovation to the way government makes decisions. It might be said that Giuliani, who launched and built Optiva and Clarisonic into hugely successful companies that revolutionized teeth cleaning and skin cleansing, has set his sights on building a business organization that would cleanse government of the need for ideology in its decision-making. Basically, his Washington Business Alliance is focused on bringing "a reasoned, collaborative approach to public policy that transcends partisan politics." Optiva, of course, was the maker of SoniCare, the first electronic toothbrush. After Giuliani guided Optiva into the hands of Philips Electronics, he created Pacific Bioscience Laboratories and produced the first electronic skin-cleansing device, Clarisonic, and sold it last fall to cosmetics giant L'Oréal USA. Giuliani stayed on as Clarisonic CEO, though he made clear in an interview that he will be stepping down from that role this fall to devote full-time attention to the task of chairing Washington Business Alliance, which he co-founded last year with Howard Behar. Behar's credentials are about as impressive as Giuliani's. He spent the last 21 years with Starbucks, which included serving as President of North America and as founding president of Starbucks International. Giuliani says the organization, which is seeking business members rather than individuals and has a dues structure ranging from $500 to $15,000 per year, is "committed to developing effective solutions that are not constrained by political expediency or ideology, with an emphasis on data-based solutions for long-term results." That phrase, "not constrained by political expediency or ideology," is a stop-and-reread phrase because what has struck me about the organization, and the leadership composed of successful entrepreneurs, is that it is truly seeking to look past the political to arrive at solutions in a process beyond the ideological spectrum. It seems to me that for business people who wish to depart from the process of having to first vet ideas by placing them on the ideological spectrum before we can discuss them, that focus alone merits a conversation and moves the organization's goal from the Quixotic to the possible. And Giuliani and Behar have attracted other business leaders to their leadership ranks, including Norm Levy, who has served as corporate strategy counsel for almost three decades to companies like Starbucks, Boeing and John Fluke Manufacturing, and long-time Boeing executive Debbie Gavin. With a background as financial vice president of several Boeing units, Gavin will be the association's treasurer. "The idea isn't for business to disengage from government, but to engage differently," says Roz Solomon, who was plucked from the legal consulting business with a background that includes having been an administrative law judge for Washington State, to be executive director of the organization. "Our goal is to ferret out those things that government is doing well and reinforce them," Solomon adds. "There are a lot of parts of government that are intractable, but there are also a lot that aren't." Giuliani, 66, who was Ernst & Young's manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year nationally in 1997, explains "we're focusing on a non-political methodology, seeking to attract business people who realize that solutions to problems don't necessarily happen through political means." I asked Giuliani and Solomon during an interview whether seeking members for a non-political organization at a time of the political intensity of an election year was really a good decision. "It's important to use the political cycle as an opportunity," Giuliani replied. "There are a lot of people who are writing checks for candidates and asking themselves 'should I really be writing this check? Then why is it so dissatisfying?'" "The election process tends to intensify the frustration people feel about politics, causing many to wonder - what can I do to fix it?" Giuliani added. "There are likely to be a lot opportunities for post-election messaging for Washington Business Alliance that will resonate with the voters." And while the focus of the new organization is the state races for now, Giuliani notes that there's what he describes as "a national movement to create this type of organization in other states," which in the future could lead to initiatives relating to influence on decision making at the national level. Giuliani says his group has already had a lot of interaction with the Oregon Business Association, a group, similar in focus that has been in existence for several years. "There are a lot of people dissatisfied with what they view as a dysfunctional, polarized system," Solomon added. "It's people left with those sorts of questions about politics that we want to engage for the future."
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