Robert Behn is a GOVERNING contributor. He is the faculty chair of the Harvard Kennedy School's Executive Education program on Driving Government Performance: Leadership Strategies that Produce Results.

Robert Behn
April 2, 2008

What to Measure?

Usually, what we really want is an outcome, but all we can actually measure is an output, writes Robert D. Behn.
December 12, 2007

The Five Big Errors of PerformanceStat

Struck by how many "stat" programs fail to appreciate some of the core principles of the strategy, Robert D. Behn identifies the five big errors he routinely encounters in such programs.
August 22, 2007

Beyond the GASB-GFOA Brawl

The case for standards in financial reporting is clear, writes Robert D. Behn. We need to know that government is using our tax dollars properly.
May 16, 2007

The Tyranny of the Template

Electronic databases make some things easier. At the same time, writes Robert Behn, they have made some things impossible.
February 21, 2007

Public Purpose and Public Leadership

Unlike business executives, who need only think about how to achieve their organization's goals, public leaders have the added responsibility of discerning the "right" goals.
November 8, 2006

Forced Ranking and Its Many Consequences

The all-too-human tendency is to be nice to people. For good or bad, ranking restrains this behavior.
September 6, 2006

Katrina Management

You don't have to be an emergency management specialist to manage FEMA. After all, you will quickly face a variety of emergencies.
June 28, 2006

Teams, Individuals and Rewards

Organizations hope for teamwork, but reward individual behavior. They hope for cooperation, but reward competition. What folly!
April 19, 2006

Replication (continued): It Takes a Nut

The challenge of replication is "going to scale." Sure, you can do it in the small. But can you do it in the large?
February 8, 2006

The Replication Challenge

Unless someone can somehow determine how exactly an innovation is producing the benefit, this innovation is impossible to replicate.

A Threat to the Team

"Are the rumors true?" Kay Rodd demands. "Has HR really changed the rules?" As the district attorney of Spalding County, you've been dreading this question. And you know the honest answer is "yes." Still, you search for an equally honest answer that can delay the crisis for a little while.

Changing the Cops

Like just about every police chief, you are attempting to launch your own version of Compstat, the much lauded crime-fighting program created by William Bratton when he was police commissioner in New York City.

Leading WIthout Authority

When the brother of Mirabel Douglas, the speaker of the West Dakota House of Representatives, died of the hepatitis C virus, members of the legislature discovered this stealthy disease.

Can This Airport Be Saved?

Even before September 11, the Zenith City Airport Authority was in trouble. Everyone knew it--sort of. The mayor and city council knew it. So did the governor and the legislature.

The Flex-Time Conundrum

Once again, Lee Honsan isn't in the office. Once again, his staff needs some guidance. Once again, they call you. Once again, you have to drop your own work to do Honsan's.

The Tyranny of E-Mail

You made the choice last night. It was 5:45 and your turn to pick up the kids from day care. You'd spent the morning in a series of meetings, covering all those crises big and small that inevitably land on the desk of the chief of staff to the mayor of Zenith City. After lunch you did get a chance to scan your e-mails, checking the subject line for items that seemed to demand immediate attention.

Big Cuts, Big Pain

The memo from Harriet Rangstrom, Zenith City's budget director, was unambiguous. Like every other city agency, your Department of Public Works will need to cut this fiscal year's expenditures by 5 percent and next year's by 15 percent. With revenues declining, the West Dakota legislature has reduced its support for the cities and counties in the state. Zenith City is stuck. And so are you.

Grief and the Grievance Process

"Not again!" That's your first reaction (or at least your first printable reaction). Clemma Rogers has filed another grievance, and, if history provides any clue, she'll win this one, too. Clemma, it would seem, makes her living filing grievances, and you, as the commissioner for West Dakota's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, are the one who ultimately has to deal with them.

Coping with Lame-Duckitis

The city council elections are over, and now, as chief of staff to Mayor Jamie Wiliams, you need to turn your attention to the next two years--the last two years. The city charter prohibits the mayor of Zenith City from seeking a third four-year term. Yet Mayor Wiliams has to govern for two more years--during which time everyone will call her (although not always to her face) a lame duck.

The Tormenting Talent Turnover

Originally, Kerriga Joseph, the city manager, had thought Hippiloto was a gamble. Most managers serve up the trendy management pitch about delegation, empowerment, discretion and responsibility. Joseph actually lived those principles.

Failure and the Big IT Project

"Continuous upgrades are no longer an option." On this, the governor, the leadership of the West Dakota General Assembly, the Zenith City Tribune and your staff all agree.

Those Stupid Procurement Rules

"Don't even try that." Once again, someone is telling you what you can--or, more pointedly, can't--do. Once again, it is Gord Tommon, your procurement chief, who is telling you how you can't go about contracting for a new computer system.

The Contracting Challenge

As director of operations for the West Dakota Department of Social Services, you have long advocated a shift to performance contracts. Finally, you won.

The Vacuous Job Description

As West Dakota's secretary of environmental affairs, you have worked hard to convince the governor, the budget director and key legislators that the state needs to create a collection of regional environmental partnerships.