Management Insights

The Difference Between Promising and Governing

Over the last few election cycles, "fact checking" has become ubiquitous. News organizations, advocacy groups and partisans devote significant resources to comparing what is said in election campaigns to what happens after the winners take office. Not surprisingly, the reality of governing doesn't always match the promises that candidates make.

What most of the fact-checking sites and organizations have in common is that they are about correcting the record with respect to things that have already happened. There is another kind of reality check, however, that may be even more important but is much harder to do. That is when a candidate for office promises to do things, if elected, that would not pass any kind of reality check. Unlike untruths that are told about past events, we do not know that these are false, but there should be substantial reasons to very skeptical that these promises can ever come true. READ MORE

The Political Lure of Spending Less in the Present

The advertising slogan "You can pay me now, or pay me later" was made ubiquitous by the FRAM aftermarket auto-parts business. The message was that customers had a choice between paying small amounts in the present for replacement of oil and filters or large amounts in the future for major engine repairs. Whatever the merits of FRAM's particular case, the larger point is widely understood and accepted.

Consider a few examples. It is cheaper to maintain and, when necessary, replace one's roof than to let it deteriorate until major damage is done to one's home. It is cheaper to pay one's credit card bill in full every month than to borrow from credit card companies. It is cheaper to take preventive measures to avoid heart attacks than to incur them. Hundreds of examples can be readily offered, and no one would deny the economic truth of such propositions. READ MORE

Getting More Value Out of the Government HR Department

In recent years the human-resources function in both business and government has been under intense scrutiny. You've probably seen articles with titles like "Why We Love to Hate HR." As the pace and sweep of change intensify, personnel-administration professionals are coming under unprecedented pressure to be innovative, to be strategic and to implement their programs and initiatives more efficiently.

Besides being a former city manager, I'm also a former government HR director, and believe that many of HR's problems are self-inflicted. But that's no reason to simply discard it as if it were a disposable organizational function. READ MORE

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