Public Great

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The Unintended Consequences of Improvement

Leaner government, continuous improvement and innovation are popular topics in government reform today. There are articles, conferences, webinars and trainings galore touting the message of fixing our processes in order to meet the growing demands on the public sector with shrinking resources.

We all want to see government get better. The employees of many agencies have a sincere desire to improve their work in order to serve more people, increase the prosperity of  neighbors and communities and maximize  efforts to accomplish the goals of government. READ MORE

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What to do with the 'Flo's' of Child Protection

Remember the TV series "Alice"? It ran between 1976 and 1985 and featured a trio of waitresses making it through life at Mel’s Diner. If you don’t remember the show, you probably have at least heard actress Polly Holliday’s catch phrase, “Kiss my Grits,” which her character Flo seemed to use almost as much as the show used that 70’s laugh track.

Alice was the star, but I remember Flo the most, probably because I hated her. I don’t know why, but I always wanted Mel to fire her on the spot. She was rude to customers, yelled at her boss and seemed flippant about the entire ordeal. I just wanted her canned. I remember wondering why Mel would have hired her in the first place. READ MORE

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CYA is Killing Kids

For the past two years, one set of pipes has really captured my attention. If you follow the Public Great blog, you know that our guiding beliefs are that “the work of government is noble; the people of government are amazing; and the systems (or the pipes) of government are a mess.” Nowhere is all of this more evident than the pipes we work in to keep children safe.

According to the American Humane Association, approximately 12 in every 1,000 children are victims of abuse or neglect. Is there a nobler calling than to protect those who cannot protect themselves? As a nation, I would hope we can all agree that investigating child abuse allegations and helping the 900,000 kids living in these circumstances is something we should be doing with our tax dollars. This is the work of government at its core. We can argue about how we do it and the effectiveness, but as an outcome, keeping children safe is a noble pursuit. READ MORE

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Learn About Lean and Other Management Fads from Texts

This month, Ken and I wrote an article for another publication on a management strategy known as “Lean.” It’s a strategy that’s being adopted by state and local governments around the country that involves paring any given process down to its bare essentials.

When we were first asked to write something nearly seven months ago, we started a text message string to discuss possible topics. In the end, we thought the texts themselves could be an article. The editors, however, preferred a more traditional column, so we wrote that. But, we hated losing some of the Public Great flavor of the texts. So, now that the article is out, we wanted to print the texts as a way to offer some insight into our feelings about Lean and other management fads, and what governments can do to ensure that once the logos, mugs and t-shirts leave, the best concepts remain. The spelling has been cleaned up and the emoticons removed to hide the fact that we’re not as cool as we think we are. READ MORE

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What Citizens Really Want

60 Minutes recently reran an episode featuring Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer overseeing BP's $20 billion Gulf oil spill fund and tasked with being the chief liaison to the people. Around minute 20, the story showed Feinberg meeting with commercial fishermen in town-hall type settings to discuss the claims process, answer questions and address concerns. I’m sure you can imagine that with the amount of devastation and cost the oil spill caused these people and their trade, these meetings can get a little heated. But Fienberg has a reputation for being a straight-talking lawyer who cares both for his employer and the people looking for help. After Sept. 11, for example, he oversaw (for free) the administration of the fund compensating the victims of the terrorist attack and their families.

After one of his forums, the cameras caught a group of fishermen outside and asked them about the claims process and Feinberg’s credentials. One man was quite blunt when asked if he thought Feinberg had credibility: "I don't care about 9/11 ... I don't even care about any other claims ... I care about my claim." READ MORE