Driven by Data
Everyone knows Martin O'Malley is a numbers guy. The data-driven approach to policy and administration that he created as mayor of Baltimore, known as "CitiStat," has been copied by cities across the country. Now, as governor of Maryland, O'Malley is showing that states, too, can improve performance by measuring what they do and relentlessly monitoring their progress.
Underneath O'Malley's "stat" talk is a deeper view about how to effect change in the public sector. Whether the issue is education, public safety or economic development, O'Malley says, the problems are complex and the bureaucracies are fragmented. In his view, government won't improve unless leaders dissect the interrelations between different agencies and hold them accountable for meeting measurable goals.
That's where the numbers come in. For example, O'Malley has energized moribund efforts to reduce pollution in Chesapeake Bay by creating "BayStat." The governor's team found that virtually every state agency has at least a small role to play in cleaning up the Bay. "We're not going to find the magic factory that allows us to take everything bad that's flowing into the Chesapeake Bay and turn it into clean water," O'Malley says. It's a matter of coordination. For each agency involved, key data have been collected, and managers are grilled about their progress. "There are 27 core actions that we are taking on bay cleanup. So you map those steps out, and they're all connected to one another to create a healthier whole."
O'Malley's managers are making the connections, too. Public Safety Director Gary Maynard explains that one day he's huddling with agricultural officials to discuss reforestation, the next he's meeting with natural resources staff on building baskets for growing oysters in the bay. "Here, the focus is on coming together and on working together," Maynard says, "and there's no question that it's making a difference."
— Jonathan Walters
Photo by David Kidd