Smart Management

Why Blame Is the Death of Reform

If you want to see what can go wrong with government reform, look at this editorial cartoon.

Notice first the cartoonist's point of view: that it is condescending and counterproductive for "drive-by" experts to criticize hard-working government employees (in this case, teachers) for their performance. READ MORE

When Performance Measurement Goes Wrong in Government

Recent revelations that employees at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals falsified performance data on patient-appointment wait times in order to receive larger bonuses have turned the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), once considered at the forefront of federal efforts at performance management, into a national joke. While it is not known how widespread this practice was, it is a reminder that it does not take many bad actors to ruin the reputation of an entire agency.

The VA scandal comes on the heels of a number of high-profile cases of education administrators and teachers cheating (or encouraging cheating) on standardized tests, making it all the more worrying to those of us who advocate reforms centered on performance management. In Atlanta, the school superintendent, as well as 35 teachers and principals, resigned in the wake of a scandal allegedly driven by pressure placed on teachers to falsify test-score results. Educators in cities including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., also have been caught up in cheating allegations involving standardized tests. READ MORE

B&G Report: the Dangers of Comparing Police, Book Recommendations and Unhelpful Media

States, counties and cities are focusing their managerial skills on ways to cut cascading health care costs. That’s fair. And they mostly say that they want to cut the health care costs without diminishing the quality of the care. Again, managers can try to grapple with such a difficult task but there’s a risk that too much attention to saving dollars could diminish the drive to improve health, extend life and extend quality of life. Do you think that’s a possibility? If so, do you see it as a dangerous one? Or are we just worrywarts?

Does the transparency movement feel like a tidal wave to you, flowing over every government entity from coast to coast? If so, you haven’t been paying attention to some 50,000 districts in the United States, many of which provide limited information on their finances to the taxpayers that fund them. READ MORE

The Challenge of Building the Workforce Government Needs

State and local governments are hiring again, but they're having difficulty finding -- and retaining -- the right people. Do governments have a people problem?

In the Center for State and Local Government Excellence's latest annual workforce survey, government human-resources managers cite staff development, succession planning, employee morale and retaining staff for core services as their top issues. Those issues were rated as greater concerns than compensation and health-care and retirement-plan costs. What's going on? READ MORE

The Benefits of Sizing Your State Up to Others

It may be hard to believe in these days of governmental cost-cutting, but back in the early 1970s, a federal commission came to the conclusion that state workers’ comp programs weren’t providing nearly enough support to employees who were injured on the job. Over the next two decades, these efforts were expanded. But beginning in 1990, says John Burton, who had chaired President Richard Nixon’s workers’ compensation commission, “the momentum definitely switched to concerns about reducing costs in workers’ compensation.”

That’s because some officials are concerned that comp programs can hurt economic development efforts. The more expensive the program, the logic goes, the more difficult it will be to attract new businesses to a state. That’s a persuasive argument. READ MORE