December 27, 2010 | last updated May 30, 2012 12:52 am

It's Time To Flatten State's Bureaucracy/A Sign Of Progress

When the state's Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes recommended saving $119 million by eliminating a bunch of middle manager jobs, it sent a clear message — but one likely to produce unintended consequences.

On the upside, it signaled the time has come for state government to join the private sector in "flattening" the organizational chart. By declaring war on the likes of deputy under secretaries and assistant paper shufflers, the commission fired a long overdue shot.

Predictably, the moaning started immediately, with the attorney general's office saying it couldn't possibly whack that many of its people.

Sure, there may be some individual nuances that argue against an across-the-board leveling of middle management. But the commission is heading in the right direction.

One unfortunate unintended consequence, however, is to give state employee unions new ammunition — "Stick with us and we'll protect you." It may also trigger a new push to unionize the next level of state employees.

Another is that such an attack on middle managers would cost the state some talented employees — after all, those who got promoted were once seen as the best and brightest. Perhaps more importantly, it would dry up the future pool of promotable talent. If nonunion managers take the brunt of the budgetary belt-tightening, why would any sane union-protected employee ever want to accept a promotion into a managerial role? Long-term, that's got to present quite a challenge within agencies.

Laughably, the commission passed on making any recommendation addressing the central issue facing the state -- employee pay and benefits. Its final report spends more time on the joys of direct deposit than on pay and benefits. Yes, it's a tough issue. We get that. But not addressing it isn't an option and, in ducking it, the commission provides no political cover for Governor-elect Dan Malloy.

While middle managers may be the easiest group to get at, as Malloy correctly says, the pain needs to be shared by everyone. Let's hope the new administration has the wisdom to listen to the commission's suggestions on middle managers and has the backbone to confront the elephant in the room.

The Connecticut Tech Council closed the year with a flurry of activity and signaled it's going to be a force to be reckoned with in the year ahead.

As reported on this week's front page, the council has struck an alliance with the Connecticut Venture Group that offers good things to both groups. But the deal is also a sign of the kind of networking issues the Tech Council raises in the report of its Competitiveness Agenda Project. That report, designed to serve as a call to action for the new governor, details the plight of entrepreneurs trying to grow their businesses in Connecticut. While the report is laced with great CEO quotes, the overall effect is a rehash of the usual complaints — the state doesn't listen and hasn't created a climate in which business can grow. It argues for a renewed push for clustering and it asks for help in improving networking among the alphabet soup of group's seeking to address the many business issues.

The truth is that on many fronts Connecticut is a fragmented place. Groups like the Tech Council and the Venture Group are just too frail to have much impact in an environment where even the relatively well funded Connecticut Business & Industry Association struggles to have its voice heard in any meaningful way.

For the Tech Council and the Venture Group, the new alliance is a step in the right direction. We look forward to those groups speaking with one voice in the new year and we can only hope the new governor will be listening when they do.

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