Smart Management

Public Projects and the Optimism Trap

On Dec. 31, 2007, the "Big Dig" in Boston was officially completed. The largest single highway project in the country's history, it was nine years late and had cost more than $14.6 billion, a stunning $12 billion over budget. And if that wasn't bad enough, the project was plagued by corruption, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws and the death of one motorist.

It's not that the project itself was unnecessary. On the contrary, for decades traffic to and from Boston's Logan Airport was terrible, and it was difficult for the most experienced Boston drivers to negotiate the tangled streets and constant congestion downtown. The project greatly reduced congestion, air pollution and confusion. But because of its well publicized problems, the Big Dig has become a symbol of big government at its worst -- unethical politicians, contractors who cheat, costly projects, shoddy quality. Whether it's highway projects, weapons systems for the Pentagon, or NASA's two shuttle disasters, the stories of botched government projects seem unending. Why is that? READ MORE

5 of the Most Misunderstood Terms in Government

According to the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, ancient people built a tower that would reach high into the heavens to demonstrate the power of man. Unhappy with this kind of hubris, the Lord came down and created a number of different languages so the builders couldn’t communicate with one another, stating, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” READ MORE

An Intriguing New Approach to Funding Social Programs

I've always been fascinated by the challenge of finding funding for front-end investment for programs that promise downstream, long-term savings. Early childhood education, geriatric fall prevention, prisoner recidivism, permanent supportive housing -- are examples of programs that appear to pay for themselves.

One set of challenges is programmatic: selection of an evidence-based intervention; identification of a sufficiently narrow group of high-risk individuals to avoid prohibitively high costs; execution of the intervention with sufficient fidelity to achieve expected outcomes; and rigorous evaluation to determine whether cost avoidance has been achieved. READ MORE

HR Directors Get a Personnel Downgrade

It’s always been tough to run a state’s department of human resources. And since the beginning of the Great Recession, it’s gotten even more difficult as pay freezes, reductions in workforce size, and increasing co-pays for health and pensions have demoralized workers.

With workforces under great stress, you might think that governors and other high-level state officials would be listening ever more carefully to the reports of their HR leaders. READ MORE

Twitter Tips, Aging IT Workers, Book Recommendations and More

Do you, or your government, use Twitter to get information out to the public? Researchers at Cornell University have developed an algorithm that may help you be more successful. They offer a number of easy-to-follow recommendations including use the word “please,” convey an opinion, use third person pronouns and keep the tweet as easy to read as possible.

MORE: This appears in the free Management e-newsletter. Subscribe here. READ MORE