Management Insights

When the Heroes Are Also the Victims

Emergency-services professionals know that one of their key tasks is to take care of the people who deal firsthand with crises and trauma: firefighters who run into burning buildings, first responders at the scene of a mass murder, personnel who try to rescue people from floods and tornadoes. These brave people do truly heroic work under the most trying conditions. Sadly, they often suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Consider:

• On April 16, 2007, a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. It was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in our country's history. Police got inside the classroom building in eight minutes and found the shooter dead. But the suffering had only just begun. As medical personnel carried the dead students out of the building, cellphones on the students' bodies began to ring. Horrified parents were calling to see if their children were safe. Some of the first responders had great difficulty getting over the scene. At least one of them retired early from a career he loved. READ MORE

A Real Opportunity for Cross-Boundary Digital Government

What we've called "cross-boundary digital government" for the last decade or so has focused on standardization for shared technology services among programs within state-, local- or federal-government enterprises. After all, we don't want 50 email systems or data centers or networks within a single jurisdiction or agency. We want the efficiency and effectiveness of just a few.

But a focus on technology within jurisdictions or enterprises stops short of the larger and truly government-wide opportunities. We need to take advantage of the new opportunities that will be available with the changes in administration that will follow this year's elections. READ MORE

The Complex Challenges of Measuring the Impact of Social Programs

When is a comparison group not a comparison group? In social-science research, figuring that out may mean the difference between conclusions worth building programs on. A recent economic analysis in the New York Times examining anew a decades-long initiative helping low-income families move from high-poverty areas demonstrates how challenging program-impact evaluations can be. But greater understanding of how to compare may lead to more informed policy.

Dorothy Gatreaux was an African-American mother living in Chicago's highly segregated public housing who successfully sued the Chicago Housing Authority for racial discrimination. The resulting 1976 consent decree created a voucher program that gave 7,500 low-income families the opportunity to move to less racially segregated, more affluent neighborhoods in the city and its suburbs. (I worked in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's headquarters and provided program support in the settlement negotiations.) READ MORE

The Myth That More Rules and Oversight Can Fix Government

When things go awry in for-profit and non-profit organizations, the operative working assumption is that responsibility lies with management. That is, management is responsible for institutional performance by definition.

In government, however, the operative working assumption is altogether different. Successes and failures there cannot be blamed on management, because only tidbits of authority are vested there. Fault must lie elsewhere. Two possibilities present themselves: inadequate rule-making and insufficient political oversight. What is rarely examined is what is most often the real culprit: the authority that public-sector management should have but doesn't. READ MORE

Why Do We Make It So Hard for Americans to Vote?

More than 63 percent. That's the portion of active registered voters -- those who were eligible to participate in one of the 34 state primary elections or party caucuses conducted through March 26 -- who didn't vote or caucus for a presidential candidate.

This 37 percent turnout rate would look even worse using official, published figures; many states' voter registration rolls are rife with so-called "inactive" voters. Use an even broader denominator -- all eligible citizens, registered or not -- and the no-show rate is over 70 percent. READ MORE