Smart Management

The Urgent Need for Intergovernmental Dialogue

One of the saving graces of our country is our system of checks and balances, and that includes the balance of power between state governments and the federal government. That said, those checks and balances can make it very difficult to move forward on the priorities Americans care about -- infrastructure, public safety, health care, jobs, retirement security, and clean water and clean air, to name a few.

Even with the Republican Party in control of Congress, the White House and most state governments, our elected leadership struggles to find consensus on goals. Some argue that hyperpartisanship is the reason we have been unable to address our nation's challenges in a thoughtful way. While that is certainly a problem, the bigger issue is the failure to develop smart policies that integrate local, state and federal government programs. That requires much more communication among thoughtful leaders to identify a way forward. READ MORE

Are Nonprofits the New Go-To Choice for Altruistic Jobseekers?

State and local governments have historically struggled to compete with the private sector. They almost never offer better pay, and pensions -- one of the biggest selling points for the public sector -- have become less generous.

To make matters worse, there’s another player on the scene: nonprofits. And despite the fact that they rarely offer better pay or benefits, they may be pulling job candidates away from states and localities more than ever before.  READ MORE

The Worst Idea in Government Management: Pay for Performance

I started paying attention to business management in the late 1970s, and my timing could not have been better. I saw all the business fads of the late 20th century paraded before me, from "management by objectives," "Theory Z" and "in search of excellence" through "reengineering the corporation," "good to great" and "Six Sigma." At one point I wondered, are all these management theories actually the same ideas with new titles?

The fads seemed harmless enough -- and may have been useful if they encouraged executives to think about their businesses in new ways. But one struck me, then and now, as dangerous. And that was "pay for performance." Even more frightening, it has made its way into government, with terrible consequences. READ MORE

A State Employees' Guide to Governors' Workforce Goals

What are governors' plans for their employees this year? A strong sense of that can be garnered from their State of the State speeches.

All but one of the governors have given these addresses this year. (Louisiana's John Bel Edwards will address the legislature next week). Not every one is formally dubbed a "State of the State," but they all lay out their achievements and challenges of the past as well as their priorities for the future. READ MORE

When Politicians Face an Angry Public

The recent discomfiture experienced by some members of Congress facing angry crowds at town hall meetings in their districts has drawn considerable attention. The prospect of thoroughgoing changes to our health-care system was the salient issue driving angry constituent responses, but not the only one. Some members of Congress declined to attend such meetings at all, while others suffered through them, clearly regarding them as ordeals from which they would rather be spared.

Local-government officials everywhere have to have found this manifest angst about town hall meetings richly amusing. Local officials, after all, conduct such meetings as a matter of routine. Mayors, council members, county supervisors and other elected officials at the local level meet with upset constituents on a continuous basis -- it is what they do. As a local-government administrator, I attended such meetings for 35 years. Local officials see nothing unusual or threatening or even particularly difficult about them. READ MORE