Management Insights

How States Can Make the Most of Their Rainy Day Funds

Texas policymakers are grappling with an unusual question: how -- and even if -- to spend some of the state's ample savings. As of the end of the last fiscal year, the state's rainy day fund had amassed $9.7 billion, the largest fund in the country as measured in dollars.

That may seem like a welcome quandary. After all, some states lack a robust savings account like the Lone Star State's Economic Stabilization Fund. But Texas lawmakers disagree on how to use their fund, and similar arguments are playing out in many other states where rainy day reserves have grown, leaving policymakers to debate whether they should tap them and for what reasons. READ MORE

Curating a Healthy Workplace Culture in Government

It's practically impossible to name even a single highly successful organization, one that is a recognized leader in its field of endeavor, that does not have a distinctive, readily identifiable organizational culture. Most scholars and practitioners now recognize that the culture of an organization has a powerful effect on its performance and long-term effectiveness.

Indeed, many efforts to improve organizational performance fail because the fundamental culture -- values, ways of thinking, managerial styles, approaches to problem-solving -- remains the same. Even when procedures and strategies are altered, organizations quickly return to the "we've always done it that way" status quo. READ MORE

Public Administration and the Limits of Loyalty

It has been widely reported since the inception of Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency that loyalty is the quality he values most in those who work for him. This was the case in his business career and is also the case in his new administration. Trump, for example, reportedly was irked when FBI Director James Comey, whom the president later fired, would not pledge his loyalty to him.

This obsession with loyalty surprised and puzzled me because it was altogether absent from my own experience in public administration. I was a local-government manager for 38 years, including 29 as a city manager. Employee performance, including hiring, firing, promoting and demoting, was a subject I attended to every day of those 38 years. Never once did I encounter an employee-performance issue that involved loyalty or a lack thereof. It never occurred to me to ask for loyalty, to evaluate in terms of loyalty or to even raise the subject. READ MORE

The Agility That Governments Need for a Disruptive Age

It's no secret that the environment affecting public and private organizations is becoming extraordinarily turbulent. Change is not only occurring more quickly, it's also increasingly unpredictable and disruptive. And most organizations aren't designed to adapt quickly and intelligently.

When large corporations don't see disruptive change coming, it can be devastating for their bottom line (consider the Big 3 automakers and the challenges posed by foreign competition). In other cases, it can threaten the very existence of companies with long, proud histories. Kodak's downfall was precipitated by its difficulty in transitioning to digital technology. (Ironically, It was a Kodak engineer who created the first digital camera in 1975. Management's reaction was, "That's cute -- but don't tell anyone about it!" In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy.) READ MORE

HR’s Crucial Role in Boosting Government’s Performance

Public employers are confronted by four interrelated workforce problems. Budgets are under severe stress. There is pressure to raise performance levels. The workforces are aging and losing talent though heavy retirements. And labor markets are tight: Qualified employees in a growing number of job families are scarce, and that is driving up pay levels.

Less immediately pressing but endemic to government's reality is the prevalence of civil-service laws enacted long ago; a history of stable organizations that have experienced comparatively little change; disconnected pay and performance systems; human-resources policies and systems that are not responsive to labor-market trends or organizational problems; and resistance to change from unions, employee associations and some elected officials. In many jurisdictions elected leaders as well as appointees have little, if any, meaningful experience addressing workforce problems. READ MORE