Smart Management

6 Big Government Management Issues in 2015

After about a quarter of a century covering government management as journalists, we’re going to don a prognosticator’s cap -- at least temporarily. Based on our reporting, what follows are our predictions for six management challenges that we think will be of high-level importance for states and localities over the course of this year. None of the trends represent spanking new issues. In our opinion, though, all of them will escalate in significance as the months (and possibly years) pass.

Building the workforce

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The Barriers to Shared Data and How to Overcome Them

State governments increasingly understand the importance of developing policy based on reliable evidence. They also recognize that much of the data needed to improve policy development, programmatic effectiveness, operational efficiency and public transparency is already on state computer servers. And while harnessing this information will be a challenge for state leaders over the coming decade, the potential to achieve cost savings and improve outcomes for citizens is enormous.

Unfortunately, unnecessary obstacles -- including rules that often restrict agencies from sharing data with each other -- can prevent states from using data to resolve some of their major policy challenges. And states have found it difficult sharing economic development data effectively with local governments. But there are steps that states can take to overcome barriers to sharing and linking datasets and to use data they already own rather than asking residents and businesses to provide the same information multiple times. READ MORE

A Shortage of Data Analysts, Empty Promises, and Missed Opportunities

As the public sector tries to understand how to use data better, a variety of challenges appear. There are the obvious ones, like resistance on the part of decision makers and issues with privacy laws. But as we’ve been interviewing performance auditors in all 50 states, one major issue keeps cropping up. It has nothing to do with giant computer brains, and everything to do with regular-sized human brains. There’s a great shortage of data scientists and analysts in the United States. The lack of sufficiently trained men and women for these jobs affects both the public and private sectors. McKinsey and Company has reported that "the United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data." As a result, a city, state or county can spend lots of time and money producing crushing quantities of new information, without it having the kind of real-world impact that’s dependent on a sophisticated workforce to appropriately utilize it.   

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, pleased with $1.3 billion in health-care savings, has given credit to a coalition of municipal unions in New York City. And it’s true that the work between the city and its unions, which is still in developmental stages, may ultimately pay off big time. READ MORE

What Government Can Learn from the Culture of Apple

Apple has been in existence for less than 40 years, yet it is the world's most valuable company and brand, with a market capitalization north of $700 billion and over $160 billon in the bank. Beyond its financial strength and market dominance, Apple's internal culture and its approach to its business have become the gold standard for a number of industries. So how can a public-sector organization become "the Apple of government?"

Apple describes itself not as a computer or technology company but as one that combines the roles of innovator, integrator and -- of particular applicability to government -- experience provider. Besides its function as a democratic institution, the role of government is to be the protagonist for a better quality of life for residents/citizens/taxpayers. In that pursuit, beyond the delivery of public services and programs, government also creates a sensory experience. Ask residents of a city if they feel safe and the reply won't be about the number of officers on the police force but about their perceptions -- a blend of their own experiences, first-hand and otherwise. READ MORE

Sexual Assault at UVA: 4 Lessons in Crisis Leadership

The turmoil that has enveloped the University of Virginia since Rolling Stone magazine's publication of a scathing article describing a gang-rape at a fraternity party and a university culture "less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal" has done more than tarnish the reputation of a prestigious public institution. It has produced a primer on how not to lead during a crisis.

The Nov. 19 article included graphic references to a UVA coed, called "Jackie" by the author, who told the magazine she had been raped by seven men at a fraternity party. The article described a university culture in which sexual assaults "are kept quiet" not only by the university administration but also by students "as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture." Later that day, UVA President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement saying, in part, that the university "takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct" and that Charlottesville police were being asked to investigate the alleged rape. Then she left the country for a previously scheduled conference. READ MORE