Management Insights

Cybersecurity: Why It’s Not Just About Technology

With cybersecurity breaches on the rise, one thing is clear: The current defenses of U.S. organizations -- both public and private -- do not rival the skill, persistence and prowess of those who seek to wreak havoc on our information-technology infrastructure and operations. What many organizations are doing in response to this growing and pervasive threat often stops with efforts to secure their systems through technology without a continued focus on building and sustaining a culture of deterrence and vigilance.

The problem with this approach is that attackers and their tools are always changing. While no one doubts the need to establish a systematic, technology-based way to protect against breaches, attention is rarely paid toward building a culture of security from the bottom up. For organizations that do, the results are easily quantifiable: According to a recent survey commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers, CS magazine, the Secret Service and Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, organizations that conduct ongoing employee training and awareness programs see their financial impact from security breaches drop to an average of $168,000, a quarter of what those without such programs lose ($683,000). READ MORE

Managing a Crisis Before It Happens

I like crises. Mind you, I don't like being in them; I just like reading about them and thinking about how I might manage them. (I don't read Stephen King novels, but I suppose the effect is the same.)

You, too, should think about crises because, knock on wood, you are likely to find yourself in one at some point in your public-leadership career if you haven't already. And these things go better with a little forethought. READ MORE

The Culture of Ethics That the Public Sector Needs

The current issue of Public Administration Review includes a fascinating article by James Svara of Arizona State University on ethics for public servants. The genesis of Svara's inquiry is the adoption last year by the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) of a revision of its code of ethics.

ASPA first adopted a code of ethics in 1984, but other professional organizations had such codes much earlier, going back (at least in this country) to the International City/County Management Association's code that was adopted in 1924. Svara recounts the history of codes of ethics and reviews the debates about their usefulness. This could not be more timely. Given the seemingly incessant drumbeat of scandals at all levels of government these days, the need has never been greater for a strong culture of ethical behavior in the public sector. READ MORE

What States Should Do to Keep Their Cities Out of Bankruptcy

Detroit's bankruptcy has added urgency to the discussion of how state and local governments should respond when a municipality faces financial distress. The Motor City's revenue shortfall is unusually large, mirroring its sharp population decline, but Detroit isn't alone in its struggle to balance its books after years of poor fiscal management and excessive reliance on debt. Tenuous finances have pushed other municipalities to the brink of receivership or bankruptcy, often requiring state policymakers to decide whether to intervene and, if so, when and how.

A small number -- about 10 -- of the nation's 55,000 local governments and special tax districts file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection each year. In addition to Detroit, recent high-profile examples include Jefferson County, Ala.; Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif.; and Central Falls, R.I. While fiscal distress usually builds up over several years, a variety of events or factors can push local governments into financial crisis. In Jefferson County, it was a failed sewer project. In the California and Rhode Island cities, it was escalating public-pension costs. Detroit's situation was more complex, the result of decades of decline in its tax base and the restructuring of the automobile industry. READ MORE

How Governments Can Hold on to Their Top Performers

As they work to build the workforces essential to executing their missions, government leaders need to recognize that they are competing with the private sector for talent as never before and that they face significant challenges in attracting and -- perhaps even more important -- retaining their best people.

Conventional wisdom says that employees will leave if they are dissatisfied but that money will make them stay. That greatly oversimplifies the issue. People stay in a job or leave it for a range of reasons. Top performers want to be well compensated, of course, but they are seeking other kinds of satisfaction, primarily related to their learning, growth and opportunities to make a positive difference. READ MORE