Smart Management

A Robust Vision for Using Data in Government

State and local governments collect data in amounts that almost defy description -- everything from health outcomes and marriage records to crime statistics and Head Start enrollments. Much of this data collection is required by federal or state law, and some is compiled at the initiative of individual agencies.

But collecting data is not the same as harnessing data, a fact that is gaining acceptance among state and local decision-makers as they move toward a more robust vision for what data can accomplish -- specifically, toward the idea that data is a strategic asset that can help policy-makers and officials manage programs more effectively and inexpensively. READ MORE

6 Ways to Engineer Public-Employee Engagement

Here's a troubling statistic: According to the latest Gallup report on state and local government workers' engagement, a median of only 29 percent of them are engaged at work. What's worse, 17 percent of public workers are "actively disengaged." Those employees are "busy acting out their unhappiness," in Gallup's words, undermining the accomplishments of their engaged co-workers.

Some disengaged employees leave. The real problem is the ones who stay. Many of them are mentally leaving their workplaces long before they exit the building for good. These quit-and-stay employees are particularly toxic. Their negative attitudes and poor work habits are highly contagious, resulting too often in customer frustration and anger, poor quality of services and decreased team performance. Cells of disengaged workers can create a cancerous effect on the overall health of an organization. READ MORE

Let's Make a Pact: States Increasingly Problem Solve Together

They call them interstate compacts. The idea is for states -- from a handful to all 50 -- to join together contractually to ease a collective load. There are hundreds of these deals and counting, says Colmon Elridge, director of the Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts, which is the primary driving force behind a number of these agreements. 

While they may cover diverse state activities such as recognizing each other’s driver’s licenses or medical licenses, they’re not generally well known -- either by the public or within government circles. “Most legislators have no idea their states are in a number of compacts,” says Elridge. READ MORE

What Academia Could Be Doing for Government

There is a growing discussion of how colleges' and universities' schools of public administration are failing to provide the kind of research that public-sector practitioners need to help them deliver services efficiently. Turning policy into effective practice presents many difficult challenges for public leaders, so it's a dialogue that has long been needed. But for those looking for solutions, there is a worthy model elsewhere in academia: schools of business.

Over the past decade or more, for example, a prominent thread in business research has been on identifying practices that encourage employees to perform at their best. That brings together what we know about effective supervision, individual motivation, knowledge and skill development, creating a supportive culture, and the role of technology in decision-making. READ MORE

Where Are All the Social Workers Going?

Turnover in public-sector jobs is a ubiquitous problem. But when it comes to social services, the problem is particularly painful. 

One well-known study found that with one caseworker, the chance for a child to achieve a permanent and stable living situation was 74 percent. If a child had two caseworkers in one year, the odds dropped to 17 percent. With three caseworkers, it was a mere 5 percent.  READ MORE