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The Crucible Approach: Texas Ideas

In my previous post, I initiated a discussion on local and regional problem sets that The Crucible approach might address immediately. Clearly, in a new economy, our local governments will need to continue to coordinate in unanticipated ways to improve remote services.

Great Texans like Tom Luce have already called for an Economic Recovery Team to Address Texas' Recovery. After Hurricane Harvey, Governor Abbott and Chancellor John Sharp convened the Team which issued 44 recommendations for the Gulf Coast to recover. These are important overarching steps where leadership can identify the big boulders of old line governance we need to change to be better prepared. But in a new economic world, we also have to have sub-teams which can focus on policy and practice in real-time, in ways which reinforce both.

Texas is better positioned than most U.S. states to rapidly convene Crucible teams to solve an explosion of discrete problems, especially in the talent and education space.


  • Gov. Greg Abbott initiated the Tri-Agency Task Force in 2016 to begin integrating problem-solving capabilities from Workforce, Higher Education and K12 education leaders. Inter-Agency Communication has been fairly well coordinated. After Hurricane Harvey, the Governor asked Texas A&M Commissioner John Sharp to convene the Commission to Rebuild Texas to make 44 recommendations for rapid recovery and readiness for future natural disasters.

  • Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath is a ‘tech native,’ former start-up CEO and serial entrepreneur. He has rapidly compiled strike teams to scale information to superintendents (i.e. create sample multi-lingual collateral for staff & community messaging, daily “Instructional Continuity” webinars, and so forth).

  • Texas Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller is a visionary leader, skilled at using the levers of government to enact and implement an agenda. In his previous job as Vice Provost at UT-Austin, Keller led innovation on higher education policy, on-line counseling, instruction and remote education.

  • Texas Workforce Commission – Chair Bryan Daniels has a cross section of leadership experience as head of workforce, Texas Economic Development, and economic development programs at the US Department of Agriculture. All three Texas Workforce Commissioners (to include Julian Alvarez and Aaron Demerson) have background in economic development.

  • Texas Economic Development and Tourism –Executive Director Adriana Cruz has been the CEO of the San Marcos Partnership, Vice President of Economic Development at the Austin Chamber of Commerce and has spent her career making major economic development projects happen in Texas. Near term job creation and understanding the needs of business will be extraordinarily critical in the next weeks and months – both understanding immediate company needs to mitigate job losses and intermediate needs as some technologies and start-up industries need cultivation to be able to meet the skyrocketing needs in some sectors.

  • Texas Dept of Information Resources – DIR is a major player in Texas’ ability to recruit and prioritize IT talent, create rapid RFPs, create non-traditional approaches to rapid prototyping, create iterative contracts, create ways to connect problem owners and problem solvers, of streamlining paperwork and identifying regulatory and policy barriers and for creating cooperative purchasing agreements at the speed of relevance.

Thanks to Gov. Abbott, Texas has a lot of infrastructure, but they have never had to make complex decisions as quickly as they need to now.

And as the immediacy abates, The Crucible Approach can position Texas state government to partner with entrepreneurs and the private sector at pace and at a lower cost (we all know that after the next stimulus, our federal government will need to be able to stabilize and grow revenue to help manage the massive public debt of $23.8 trillion) to help position Texas to dominate key new technologies and business practices.

Here is the beginning of a list of problem sets (let me know what resonates, what’s you are facing today, what you anticipate we will need to accomplish near and intermediate term):

Education and Talent

  • Rapid counseling to help Class of 2020 successfully transition to training, military and post-secondary education? Nearly 20,000 area 18ish-year-olds will be completing their high school diploma and are likely to walk into a chaotic local job market. Traditional first job experiences will likely take the brunt of the initial ‘physical distancing’ protocols. While much of the transition counseling process is done in an analog face-to-face format, multiple local school districts have launched methods over the last few years through their counselors to digitally nudge students through the steps into university and Austin Community College. The Texas Education Agency has stood up TX OnCourse as part of the virtual ‘instructional continuity’ team. Much more can and should be done.

  • Help immediately unemployed? On 3/26, the Texas Workforce Commission received 1.7 million calls from Texans trying to receive direct guidance on job sharing, wage subsidy and application for unemployment. We need direct to consumer technology to:

  1. Further mechanize the process of UI claimant filings;

  2. Accelerate connection of UI claimants to training, child care, language skills and their next position and digitally support them to secure this assistance;

  3. Accelerate connection of ‘essential personnel’ to a local child care provider interface

  4. Mechanize training of additional talent to assist Unemployment Insurance filers

  5. Digitally connect high school seniors, college students and unemployed or underemployed adults to enrollment in expedited and virtual training programs. In this age, consumers should be able to view and select rapid training programs based upon interest, proximity, percent of instruction virtual, time to completion, expected salary opportunity, cost, provision of free materials (to include device, software, wireless/broadband, content, certification, tools). We must make this easy for individuals to be reminded of key milestones and deadlines and to navigate and enroll.

  6. Rapidly upskill in IT – The Crucible approach requires individuals who are much more T-shaped (broad skills and one (or more) in-depth set of skills). to be able to participate in problem identification, ideation, prototyping, testing. When speed is critical, this means more front-line workers need to be able to acquire programming skills. We need far greater numbers of UI/UX talent to help disseminate information with an eye to understanding and use, not just a list of ‘helpful links.’

  7. Rapid hybrid upskilling and license renewal in health care, IT and other critical growth industries – For both immediate and intermediate intervals, Texas has a shortage of IT and health care professionals to meet the rapid need for digitization of public services and administration of life-giving health services. The Tri-Agency Task Force should look to how to rapidly re-engage with recently retired nurses, medical technicians, computer science faculty, to help teach. They need to configure new classrooms in line with social distancing. They need to determine if there are regulations which can be waived to get a nearly certified health professional certified. They need to waive certain rules for exiting soldiers with health backgrounds who can immediately help deliver health services.

Clearly, events of the last few weeks have shown that compiling a Strike Team – populated with a diverse set of on-point, knowledgeable and empowered leaders – can quickly identify and address problems can help Texas solve problems more quickly and thoroughly. Governor Abbott has seen the tighter integration and faster problem solving through the work of the Tri-Agency Task Force is even more critical.

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