Management Insights

Pope Francis, Change Agent

As a student of leadership and change, I'm intrigued by Pope Francis. He is both "old school" and revolutionary. While maintaining fundamental church teaching (he opposes gay marriage, for example), he also reaches out to gay priests, saying of them, "Who am I to judge?" His recently published encyclical on climate change has been called "radical." Francis says that we shouldn't be so "obsessed" with culture-war issues like abortion: "We have to find a new balance." And he has saved some of his strongest words for a critique of unfettered capitalism: "Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service."

The pope certainly has his critics among the Catholic clergy. But his popularity around the world is enormous. Many Catholics who take exception with his positions nevertheless say that they love him and find his words and deeds inspiring. How does he do it? READ MORE

How Philadelphia Is Watering Community Creativity

As every homeowner knows, water flows in mysterious ways. A small crack in a gutter in one place may lead to an interior leak and water damage two rooms over and a floor below. In much the same way -- though in a positive sense -- an ambitious, broad-scale initiative by the city of Philadelphia to address major stormwater-system deficiencies is seeping into many avenues of reform and creativity, with payoffs far beyond its fulfillment of a federal consent decree.

In this space back in 2010, I described the $8 billion plan being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency to meet Philadelphia's obligations an environmental problem faced by many older cities that have combined sewer and stormwater systems: During heavy rainfall, the stormwater that normally flows through a water-treatment system overwhelms it, releasing raw sewage and filthy urban stormwater into rivers and streams. READ MORE

The Next Big Thing in Local Government

Where is local government going? In an era of tumultuous change and declining trust in government, cities and counties face major attitudinal and demographic forces, including competition for resources devoted to the "graying" and the "browning" of America and population and generational changes in government workforces. And there's another, perhaps overarching, challenge: the difficulty taxpayers have in thinking about government as experimental when experimental thinking will be exactly what will be needed in the coming decades.

Certainly challenges like those -- not to mention those as yet unforeseen -- are going to do much to shape the future direction of local government. They were among the forces identified by a panel of experts in a recent live-streamed discussion I moderated. Co-sponsored by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Alliance for Innovation (AFI), the webcast was part of a larger "Next Big Thing" project sponsored by AFI. READ MORE

Primary Absurdity: Our Expensive Presidential Beauty Contests

Feb. 9, 2016, looms larger by the day. That's the date of the iconic New Hampshire presidential primary, famous for dashing the dreams of so many White House wannabes and vaulting previously obscure candidates onto center stage.

So is this also the day reserved for loyal Granite State Democrats and Republicans to reflect carefully on their respective parties' bedrock principles as they weigh who their party's standard-bearers deserve to be? Think again. READ MORE

Why We Need to Grade Our Governments (Again)

It is difficult to turn to Twitter, or read the newspaper if you are still so inclined, without being bombarded with stories of management failures and performance shortfalls at all levels of government. At the federal level, serious failures have triggered scandals in agencies as diverse as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Office of Personnel Management and even the Secret Service.

The feds are by no means alone. Writing for Governing earlier this year, Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene highlighted six major management challenges facing states and localities this year that can apply to federal agencies as well: cybersecurity, replacing retiring baby boomers, managing big data, catching up on deferred maintenance, overseeing private contractors and making transparency work. READ MORE