Management Insights

Will American Voters Upend the Election Process?

This November's presidential election will go down as the most fiercely fought -- and downright cringe-worthy -- in recent history. Only one-third of Americans think either major-party candidate is "honest and trustworthy," according to a recent Fox News poll, while almost 60 percent say they're dissatisfied with the country's direction.

So it's worth noting, as the national contest's last days perhaps get even weirder and more disheartening, that some notable citizen-initiated efforts across the country are trying to change some of the most basic rules by which candidates run and are elected. READ MORE

The Customer-Experience Prescription for Government

Every election cycle brings an intensified round of speechifying, editorializing and, nowadays, tweeting about what's wrong with government. Is it too big? Or is it not doing enough? Are the policies wrong? Or the politicians? Is government out of touch?

The answer -- at least one answer -- is actually very simple. People are unhappy with government because it so often doesn't work well for them. They feel that too many of their interactions with government are hurting them more than helping them. READ MORE

What Empowered Public Employees Could Accomplish

Through all but the last years of the 20th century, management theorists relied on the metaphor of organizations as machines. The model, developed in the scientific-management era, emphasizes tightly defined jobs, centralized decision-making and onerous regulations. In hindsight, it's not surprising that that model was adopted by those working to improve government. It describes the classic bureaucracy. Out of that model came such "tools" as quality management, lean production and process-improvement methods such as Six Sigma.

These techniques have considerable value in a manufacturing environment, where speed, efficiency and waste minimization are important goals. But they implicitly assume that the current process or way of doing things is the best way. There is pressure to "keep doing what we're doing but do it better." READ MORE

The Fantasy of the Quick Fix

Americans are impatient. When we see a problem, we want it fixed yesterday. That helps explain why public leaders are reluctant to tackle the gnarly problems our society faces: It is difficult to show results in time for the next election.

That's why we have such a backlog of critical infrastructure projects, why we struggle to improve police-community relations, and why we put off addressing our public pension and health care challenges. To make significant progress, all of these issues require a sustained effort over many years. READ MORE

The Best Way to Reform Our Criminal Justice System? Shrink It.

There is widespread agreement that our criminal justice system is in need of reform, if not comprehensive overhaul. But beyond easy generalizations, there are few clear ideas about what should be done.

What is clear is that the most egregious failings of the criminal justice system result from demands that it treat ills it is manifestly incapable of treating. Three of the most salient of these are substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness, but there are many others, including a universe of petty, nonviolent crimes. READ MORE