Smart Management

How Sugar Beets Symbolize Innovation in Government

Karen Thoreson thinks about innovation and government a lot. As president of the Alliance for Innovation, she's an expert on how municipalities can use fresh ideas to improve services without breaking the budget. 

It’s not a new dilemma for her. She spent three decades of her career in local government -- as Glendale, Ariz.’s economic development director, as the assistant city manager for Tucson, Ariz., and as executive director of the Boulder, Colo., Housing Authority -- before being asked to lead the alliance in 2009. READ MORE

The Best Way to Reform Our Criminal Justice System? Shrink It.

There is widespread agreement that our criminal justice system is in need of reform, if not comprehensive overhaul. But beyond easy generalizations, there are few clear ideas about what should be done.

What is clear is that the most egregious failings of the criminal justice system result from demands that it treat ills it is manifestly incapable of treating. Three of the most salient of these are substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness, but there are many others, including a universe of petty, nonviolent crimes. READ MORE

Are You a Micromanager? Get Over It.

In February 1945, John Gunther sat at Fiorello La Guardia's elbow for eight hours and 20 minutes and watched him work. Gunther was a famous journalist. La Guardia was New York's mayor and was even more famous -- a short, profane whirling dervish of energy and ideas.

La Guardia did not disappoint. As Gunther watched, the mayor made decisions in machine-gun fashion, riffling through letters and reports on his desk, barking at this three secretaries, interrogating subordinates. He even found time to hold a press conference while seated at his desk. READ MORE

WANTED: Police for Hire, Minorities Encouraged

Twenty years ago, the Indianapolis police department didn’t worry much about filling jobs.  

“We didn’t recruit. We hired,” said Police Lt. Brian Mahone, who joined the force two decades ago and took over the job of recruiting last year. "If we want the best and the brightest, we can't just say [here's] the test, come pick up an application. That doesn't get you what you need anymore."  READ MORE

The Tricky Question of Job Security for Public Employees

From teacher tenure and law enforcement at the local-government level to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Secret Service at the federal level, the subject of job security for public employees looms large. How should government approach this subject? Are there principles that could be derived from experience and widely applied?

We can only address the subject in terms of the purposes of government agencies. Government agencies do not exist for the purpose of providing employment, much less the purpose of providing secure employment. Government employs people to accomplish a wide range of objectives. Employment is clearly a means to an end, not an end in itself. The question insofar as employment security is concerned, then, is how it bears on the attainment of government's larger purposes. READ MORE