Smart Management

Why We Need to Take the ‘Fire’ Out of ‘Fire Department’

It's arguably the best known, least acknowledged and most inconvenient truth in local government: "Fire departments" -- in the precise meaning of that label -- no longer exist anywhere in America.

Thousands of official entities bear this or a similar moniker. But given what they and their employees actually do, "Emergency Medical, Incident Response and Every-Once-in-a-While-an-Actual-Fire Department" would be far more accurate. READ MORE

The Next Big Thing in Data Analytics

Drive through most Connecticut communities on trash pickup day, and you’ll discover two containers in front of many homes. One is for run-of-the-mill garbage. The other is for recycling.

Obviously, most communities would prefer that their citizens recycle as vigorously as possible. In Stamford, Conn., for example, leaders know that citywide about 28 percent of the trash is recycled. That may be useful information, but far more helpful is to know how much trash is recycled neighborhood by neighborhood. “Certain communities will recycle over 60 percent,” says Jay Fountain, chair of the Fiscal Committee of the Stamford Board of Representatives. “Others will recycle from 5 to 10 percent.” READ MORE

Can Comprehensive Collaboration Improve Outcomes for Students?

Three years ago I wrote about the shared law-enforcement arrangements in King County, Wash., where the county sheriff's department provides services to 12 municipalities while allowing sufficient distinction within its ranks to give all of the customer jurisdictions a sense of having "their own" police force.

As that initiative has grown, so has a highly regarded collaboration across multiple local school districts in south Seattle and southern King County. The Road Map Project is a stunning array of foundations, educators, community organizations, parents and researchers aimed at doubling the number of students who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020. READ MORE

What Improv Comedians Can Teach Government Employees

Government managers often find themselves in so-called “brainstorming sessions,” where they’re supposed to work together to come up with a new approach, fix an old problem or develop a new program. Participants too often emerge from these meetings with a sense that little of value has been accomplished -- except for giving a handful of folks the opportunity to talk.

One of the problems is that government managers are so thoroughly trained in planning that beginning with a blank slate can be uncomfortable. It struck us that the epitome of a team creating something of value in a more spontaneous fashion is improv comedians who often take an unexpected word, phrase or idea from the audience and use it to build a humorous scene. From the popular TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" to groups like Second City, the Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade, teams of improvisers start with a simple idea and connect thoughts into a seamless whole. Sometimes the results can be remarkably fresh and unexpected. READ MORE

Public Services and the Wonders of the Third Week in August

Residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area have a number of viable public transportation options, including a subway system, buses and train service to other parts of the region. Yet, the region has some of the worst highway traffic congestion in the United States.

But every year, with the arrival of the third week in August, the pressure on the region's transportation infrastructure eases. Tourist season winds down, so the number of out-of-town visitors dwindles to a trickle. Congress is usually out of session at that time, which frees lawmakers' staffs to take time off and even take leave of the area. And many of the region's commuters are away on vacation. READ MORE