Smart Management

How Academia Is Failing Government

Anyone reading this doesn't have to be told that it is a challenging time to work in government. The kinds of policy and management problems that public leaders face — from emergency management to cybersecurity to health care to improving education — require marshaling our collective intellectual resources in a search for solutions. But government practitioners frequently get little help from a large group of people who should be well positioned to come up with ideas to improve both policy and management: academics.

This is at least in part a self-inflicted wound, because the way that academic research is measured and incentivized results in squandering of intellectual resources by encouraging academics to write only for each other, use techniques that are not accessible, and publish in outlets and in forms where there is little chance of impact on the actual practice of public administration or policymaking. READ MORE

Faster Government: Rethinking the Risk Equation

The minds at Pixar Animation Studios, responsible for an almost unprecedented string of original hit movies, believe in failure. The philosophy of the studio's heads is to get all the failures out of the way early, and keep polishing. As President Ed Catmull has written, "Management's job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover when failures occur."

That's not the way things have worked in government. Failure has not been an option. When America's greatest government bureaucracy was built up in the 1940s, it was wartime and the consequences of mistakes were dire. Often processes were conceived and executed by military veterans who associated imperfection with laziness, recklessness and death. After all, you can't make a mistake with an atom bomb, or planning an invasion, or sneaking a rocket scientist over the Berlin Wall. READ MORE

The Manageable Challenge of Tax Incentives

Every state uses financial incentives, often in the form of tax credits or cash grants, to encourage business growth and job creation. However, this economic development strategy has led to serious budget challenges in many states.

In May, for example, Michigan officials projected that because businesses were redeeming more in incentives than the state was collecting in corporate taxes, it would suffer a net loss in revenue from its major business taxes in the current fiscal year. Hawaii ended an incentive program for high-tech businesses in 2010 amid concerns about its effectiveness, but a 2015 audit showed that the state could still be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars because of prior incentive commitments. Oklahoma is unsure when businesses will use more than $400 million in tax credits the state offered, a situation that one official described in an interview with Oklahoma Watch as "a huge wild card" for the budget. READ MORE

5 Common Headaches on Government Websites

Just 20 years ago, we wrote an article that called the fact that “at least ten states have begun to post legislative or consumer information on the Internet” a “dramatic development.” Today, even the tiniest communities -- like Union, Ct., which boasts a population of less than 1,000 -- are expected to have their own websites.

But even with all these open electronic doors, users who walk through can be easily disappointed and misinformed.  READ MORE

Building Government’s ‘Employer Value’

It wasn't that long ago that the idea that a governmental jurisdiction or agency should be seen as a "brand," like Coca-Cola or Southwest Airlines, was an unnerving concept to many people in the public sector. In the past few years, however, most have come to embrace the idea, or at least to give it grudging acceptance. But while there are still some holdouts, you won't find many of them among government human-resources managers who face the formidable task of rebuilding public workforces in a post-recession era when vast numbers of baby boomers are heading for the retirement exits.

What's particularly daunting about today's public-workforce challenge is that it's not just a matter of filling empty seats. It's about enticing and retaining the talented, dedicated workers governments need now more than ever. That's where branding serves a crucial role. Every organization, public or private or nonprofit, has what's known as an "employer value proposition." The EVP is a unique set of values and attributes that communicates the organization's image -- for better or worse -- to its target audiences. READ MORE