Smart Management

The Value of Nudging Public Workers to Save for Retirement

Polly was 67 years old, had failing health and was ready to retire. She had rejoined the workforce in her 50s after her husband passed away, but never took advantage of her employer's deferred-compensation program. Although her employer reminded her that if she joined the plan the organization would match her contributions, she thought she could not afford it. Polly lost out on 15 years of retirement savings.

Inertia is a big part of the savings problem. Behavioral economists talk about the importance of nudging people so they make better decisions. Automatically enrolling employees into a retirement savings plan is an example of a nudge that is effective and has become popular in the private sector. Employees have to take action to opt out of the retirement plan. READ MORE

How Cell Phones Strain 911, The Importance of Follow-Through in Policymaking, Why Fraud Goes Undetected, and More

The ubiquity of cell phones has made it easier for people to call for help when they're experiencing or witnessing an emergency. It’s hard to argue that expanded access to help is a bad thing. But it also means that the cities need to be prepared to deal with many more calls.  

The latest performance report from the San Francisco Comptroller's office notes that in 2010, dispatchers answered 91 percent of emergency calls within 10 seconds. In 2014, that had dropped to 77 percent. One major reason is the sheer volume of calls. By 2014, the number of calls was 130 percent of the 2007-2010 volume. In the first three months of 2015, it was 141 percent of the earlier period. READ MORE

What ‘Cognitive Government’ Could Do

From the Internet of Things to predictive analytics to artificial intelligence, a host of cutting-edge technology innovations appear destined to redefine the role of government. Robots, for example, could help governments design better services, while cognitive software applications are already fueling exponential changes in medical research.

But the rate of technological change also raises important questions about the ability of government agencies to adapt. The trend toward "made-for-me" service delivery and citizen-led co-creation is likely to stress the capabilities of many governments, for example. As Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, famously said, "If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near." READ MORE

Leadership as ‘a Kind of Genius’

Twenty-five years ago, as I was growing interested in how cities produce leaders and leaders shape cities, I heard a state business association president define leadership. A leader, he said, "is someone who helps people get where they want to go."

He was speaking to a community leadership class, and I could sense the audience deflate. That's it? Help people go somewhere? Like a bus driver? What about organizing constituencies, offering a vision and persuading the public? What about standing up for people -- or standing up to the powerful? What about holding office? READ MORE

The Smell Test for Bad Data

A former editor of ours at Forbes magazine, the late Sheldon Zalaznick, used to talk about putting copy he read through a smell test. By that he meant that he was looking for facts and data that seemed to give off a scent that made him believe it was inaccurate or misleading. This was an ability he developed through years of reading articles about corporate finance. When he detected a fact he thought was dubious, he’d circle it with a red pen and send the copy back to the writer. He was almost always right.   

Shelley was a model for us. After over a quarter of a century of reading and thinking about city and state governments, we frequently come across numbers that jump out to us as questionable. The alarming part is that these figures aren't frequently questioned by government officials who are using them for policy, management or members of the press who repeat them to the general public. READ MORE