Management Insights

Civic Collaboration’s Essential Elements

When it comes to improving cities, not much is certain, but of two things I am sure: The secret s lies in collaboration -- getting numerous independent interests working in coordinated ways on big problems. And one of the secrets of effective collaboration is knowing what each partner is good at so that each can contribute from its strengths.

If I'm right about this, then we need to think deeply about what each participant can bring to a collaboration. And we should begin with government, since it will be inevitably be central to almost every ambitious civic undertaking. READ MORE

Why Public-Sector Pay Is a Mess

The years since the recession have not been good ones for public employees. Talent was lost and pay levels for the most critical, skilled occupations have fallen steadily behind those of the private sector. Morale took a hit and in many jurisdictions has not recovered. Public service continues to attract young workers, but there have been reports of early turnover attributable to dissatisfaction with the work experience.

One measure of that dissatisfaction is the state of employees' engagement with their jobs, and here the news is not good. Gallup reports that 71 percent of state and local government employees are not engaged and that, troublingly, fully 17 percent are "actively disengaged." Those are averages. Currently I am working with a public organization where the number of employees who are actively disengaged exceeds 40 percent. The way this employer has administered pay is central to the dissatisfaction. READ MORE

When Professionalism and Political Ideology Collide

How should government's professionals respond when they are told to slash spending with no regard for consequences? I retired in 2010 from a 38-year career in government. Over all those years, I never needed to contemplate, much less answer, that question. But when I talk with current public-sector practitioners, I am asked it almost as a matter of routine.

Anti-government sentiment is now so prevalent that it is commonplace for career government administrators to find themselves working for elected officials who disdain the longstanding and traditional idea, much less any process, of weighing the costs and benefits of government spending. These elected officials want to reduce the size and scope of government institutions as an end in itself. How should conscientious career professionals, who have dedicated their careers to obtaining benefits for the public from government spending, respond when they are directed to disregard what they have always striven to accomplish? READ MORE

The Enduring Myth That Government Should Be Run Like a Business

There were many and varied reasons behind the election of Donald Trump as president, but certainly one argument, heard time and again, contributed to his appeal: that the federal government was such a mess that the solution was to run it "like a business" and that the way to accomplish that was to elect a successful corporate executive. Now that the presidential transition is upon us, many of the people being selected or mentioned as cabinet appointees have stronger ties to the private sector than the public sector.

Trump is not the first politician, by any means, to benefit from this this claim. Numerous successful state and local candidates have made similar cases during their runs for office. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's argument in his successful gubernatorial campaign centered around his business success. Three decades before that, fast-food magnate John Y. Brown successfully argued that he should be elected governor of Kentucky so that he could run the state like he had run Kentucky Fried Chicken. READ MORE

A Robust Vision for Using Data in Government

State and local governments collect data in amounts that almost defy description -- everything from health outcomes and marriage records to crime statistics and Head Start enrollments. Much of this data collection is required by federal or state law, and some is compiled at the initiative of individual agencies.

But collecting data is not the same as harnessing data, a fact that is gaining acceptance among state and local decision-makers as they move toward a more robust vision for what data can accomplish -- specifically, toward the idea that data is a strategic asset that can help policy-makers and officials manage programs more effectively and inexpensively. READ MORE