Smart Management

The Public-Administration Quandary: ‘Who’ vs. ‘What’

Every senior public administrator has on occasion wondered whether a leadership position should be filled by someone with deep content knowledge or by a person whose executive skills and proclivities embody the process sensibilities thought essential to getting something done. Can't we all wince at memories of a promising individual with deep knowledge who foundered in execution because he or she lacked the skills of community consultation, adaptation and finding workable consensus? Conversely, can't we all recall the talented person who never seemed to "get" the cultural nuances of a field he or she did not know from long experience and was defeated in the trenches of change leadership?

There is no pat solution to this quandary. It is part of the mystery and challenge of public administration. But lest we forget that it happens at all levels, consider the sharp relief coming into view with recent federal-level crises. In replacing the secretary of veterans affairs, the Obama administration went not for the military veteran steeped in the organization or in medicine but for an individual who understood corporate culture and customer orientation. Conversely, what about the long-time Secret Service official, elevated in the face of earlier scandals, who crashed and burned in the face of spectacular security breaches at the White House? READ MORE

The Troubling Partisanization of Elections for Secretary of State

In early November 1956, a young state senator named Monroe Sweetland was locked in a tight election campaign for Oregon secretary of state, one that Sweetland would narrowly lose. But as election day neared, Sweetland was encouraged that voters finally seemed aware of the important duties of Oregon's second-ranking state office.

The reaction of two elderly women he met outside a post office on this particular day was especially heartening. Clasping Sweetland's hands in delight, one told him, "Of course you can count on both of our votes -- and all our friends, too!" But Sweetland's newfound faith in voter awareness was short-lived as the woman then exclaimed, "Yes -- all of us think that John Foster Dulles has just got to go!" READ MORE

Privacy vs. Data Sharing

Let’s say that you were working in a state, county or city with a homeless person who had bipolar disorder, type 2 diabetes and multiple incidents of hospitalization. Obviously, there’s a lot to be done for that person from a variety of agencies in order to provide housing, address mental health needs, deal with the chronic health condition and so on. Wouldn’t it be good if the various agencies and departments involved could easily share information about the client?

Consider the advantages for the person. For one thing, he or she would no longer have to repeat intimate information to a series of different case workers. When the agencies are all able to see the same information about the same patient, they can coordinate to build upon the care others are providing, instead of starting from scratch every time. READ MORE

The Critical Ingredients of Community Resiliency

Resiliency, according to the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities project, is "the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience."

As that definition suggests, there are many components to building resilient communities. A recent conference hosted by the Alliance for Innovation, for example, explored a modified version of the "3 Es" of resiliency -- environment, economy, and the emotional well-being of public leaders -- as the keys to building resilient communities. Presentations by current and former local-government practitioners, academics and other experts provided plenty of food for thought for public officials on the interconnected aspects of resiliency: READ MORE

So You Won the Governor’s Race, Now What?

By the start of the new year, there will be a number of new governors taking the reins of power. We’ll leave it to the political prognosticators to predict the impact these new governors will ultimately have on policy in their states. What’s clear to us is that the success of the new administrations will be largely contingent on the skill and care with which they manage the transition from the old regime to their first terms.

MORE: Read the rest of the December issue. READ MORE