Being at a state and local government convention in the midst of a huge federal election season is kind of funny. For one thing, as I keep hearing what great things leaders are doing at the state and local level -- and the nonpartisan, data-driven ways their achieving real results -- I keep thinking, "Why aren't the federal guys talking about this?"
Also, I keep thinking, "If I were a new president taking office in January, I'd want this person on my team."
That's certainly what I was thinking while listening to Bill Bratton. He's the current chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, and he served as the chief of police of New York City during the 1990s, where he engineered an historic turnaround to New York's decades-long rise in crime. (He also was named a Governing Public Official of the Year last November.)
He did it -- and he's doing it again now in L.A. -- by measuring information. His revolutionary CompStat program used real, hard data to reduce crime in New York. He focused on identifying where crime was occurring and then targeting resources to find out why and to find out how to eliminate the crime.
But the key, Bratton told officials in the audience, is to measure the right stuff.
"In government, we had a tendency to measure everything and drive everyone crazy with data, rather than measuring what matters," he said.
Bratton painted a pretty dire picture of the current state of the country. It's the first time in our nation's history, he said, that we've faced a generational economic crisis while also fighting a war. Crime, too, is beginning to come back in many of our nation's cities. "There's never been a more distressed time in our nation's history. The importance of measuring what matters is going to be even more critical. We have the capability now to really make improvements, and the reason we have that capability is because we have a way of measuring our success."