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The Potential Payoff for Applying Metrics and Analytics to Government Is Significant

Our recent column on metrics and analytics triggered several stimulating exchanges. One thread running through the reaction to these proven practices, which have been widely used in business for decades, is that they have not gained broad support in government. Corporate managers are inundated daily by performance data. And of course predictive analytics are central to virtually every research field.

Government differs in several key ways. First, competitive markets make it important for companies to perform at their best. For reasons buried in history, government has focused on poor performance – the few employees whose poor performance is unacceptable, while companies celebrate high performers and their accomplishments. Second, government’s HR policies continue to reflect the people management philosophy inherent in civil service laws. Meeting minimal performance standards is all the law requires. There are no programmatic incentives in government for high performance.

But more importantly, the plans to invest in developing metrics or use analytics to study the data are made at senior levels. In a business, leaders are always open to ideas or practices that contribute to improved results. They are quick to adopt practices to grow their company’s success. Again, government is different.

One of the barriers...

Five Annoying Questions to Ask Your Grandparents at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. We love the turkey and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and stuffing. But many of us dread of the inevitable political battles that will pop up over dessert.

The drumstick stakes are YUGE. A November 2017 poll by the Cato Institute shows that 6 of every 10 Americans say that “the political climate prevents them from sharing their political beliefs.” Republicans are especially nervous—73 percent say “they keep some of their political beliefs to themselves,” compared with 53 percent for Democrats.

And, to make things even more uncomfortable, 71 percent of those surveyed “believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our country needs to have.” Of course that’s before Uncle Fred has a few glasses of wine and decides that everyone needs to hear his opinions about everything.

So: How do you negotiate the dangers? One option is to stare into your plate and hope that no one says anything anyone might find objectionable. But that strategy doesn’t seem likely to work.

Another option is to get younger diners start the conversation, with questions sure to annoy their grandparents. Here are five puzzles to get you going.

First, Grandma and Grandpa...

Sheryl Sandberg Is Calling BS On Your Long-Held Career Phobia

It’s miserable to be stuck in one job while daydreaming of another. But we’re often discouraged from making the leap, because the path won’t be clear, the pay might be lower, the move might look—or worse, feel—like a step down.

Sheryl Sandberg is calling your bluff on all of it.

On a podcast aptly titled When To Jump, the Facebook COO said she’s seen too many people stagnate professionally, and avoid making potentially beneficial moves into new industries or job functions, because they think of their careers as linear paths, where the only direction is up.

“There are so many times I’ve seen people not make that jump because they’re afraid they’ll—and I’m doing this in air quotes, you can’t see me—’move backward.’ So let’s say you’re a lawyer and you’ve decided you don’t want to be a lawyer, you’d really rather be in marketing, and you’re 35… but you’re at a certain level and you’ve never done marketing so no one’s gonna hire you at that level, so you’re gonna need to take a step back...

What Can We Say to Each Other at Work Now?

“So, what can we say now?”

I have heard some version of this question so many times in the last month, as the shockwaves from the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others rattle our daily interactions.

It’s a question asked by people making an earnest effort to wade into a difficult conversation about the better way we can structure workplaces, now that the hideous flaws in the old model have been brought into the open. There’s something vaguely absurd about the premise, as if removing the possibility of abuse leaves us all with nothing to talk about: If I can’t ask work associates to watch me masturbate anymore, what am I supposed to say to them? But it’s also, for many men, the awkward start of a long process of of examining how individual behavior can inadvertently support the same culture one condemns.

There’s something else gnawing at the edges of this question, though. It’s a fear of change, certainly, but also a note of suspicion that the anger women are finally expressing is going too far, that men of benign intentions could soon be cast in a sinister light by oversensitive, overreacting women...

How Data-Driven Insight Is Transforming Government

The IBM Center recently released Seven Drivers Transforming Government, a series of essays exploring key drivers of change in government. It is based on our research and insights shared by current and former government officials. What follows is an excerpt from that report.

The language around performance-related data in government decision making has evolved over the last quarter century. Today there are frequent references to evidence-based decisions, strategic analytics, and data-driven progress reviews. Policy makers have promoted the use of open data—both within and outside government. At the same time, evolving technologies have reduced the cost of collecting and reporting such data. Yet the original challenge remains: how can government make sense of vast and growing amounts of data to develop new understandings that inform decisions?

Transforming Data into Insight

The use of data and analytics goes beyond just collecting and reporting evidence of program outcomes. New technologies, such as cognitive computing, are helping decision makers identify meaningful and actionable information that can transform data into insight leading to effective action.

Insight offers the power to gain understanding from data, people, or a situation not immediately evident. It enables leaders to uncover solutions and act based on keen and...