Category Archives: Public Administration

Forget Technology; Denver Turns to Its Employees to Fix Problems

Source: J.B. Wogan, Governing, February 2014

Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver looks to its own employees for simple, straightforward reforms. …

…In Denver city government, this is what an innovator looks like: White-haired, dressed in light blue scrubs and wearing a pair of sneakers, Tara Morse works as an animal care supervisor. Each day, she conducts about a dozen examinations of new dogs and cats that arrive at the Denver Animal Shelter. Not long ago, Morse came up with a simple idea to save her agency about $75,000 a year.

When pets get reclaimed by their owners, they’re usually collected in fewer than 15 days. After that, the owners rarely turn up. Yet city and county policy dictated that the agency hold animals for 30 days before trying to place them in another home. The longer they stayed, the more their health deteriorated. And as their health worsened, their chances of being adopted dropped as well. Morse recommended a new policy of 15 days. The result was just what Morse had predicted: cheaper, more effective care.

Morse was putting to use skills she learned at the Denver Peak Academy, a city-run training program, housed within the mayor’s budget office, that teaches municipal employees analytical methods to improve their daily work. Graduates apply those lessons toward improvements within their home agencies….

Cities throughout the country are creating offices tasked with spurring innovation. But the Peak Academy represents a different strain. Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver is turning to its ground-level employees for simple, straightforward reforms. More than a suggestion box, the academy provides a structured ongoing process for soliciting new ideas and making sure they happen….

Negotiation. Lost art or core competency?

Source: NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement, 2013

Negotiation is a valuable skill for procurement professionals. Negotiation is a standard method of contracting in federal, state and local government procurement. Although the internet facilitates research and fact finding that supports the formulation of sound negotiating positions, the negotiation process itself is a proven method for arriving at best value sourcing outcomes.

Procurement professionals need to know how to prepare and plan for negotiation in order to achieve win-win solutions. Skilled negotiation can improve outcomes for the government. Improved pricing is just one potential benefit. Negotiation can improve the overall combination of quality, service and other elements required for successfully meeting the organization’s requirements.

2012 NIGP Compensation Report

Source: NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement and Public Procurement Research Center (PPRC), 2013

Understanding the developments in compensation structures within any profession is critical when constructing a strategic framework for the field’s future. The significant changes in the nature of governance of the last decade have imposed additional and increasingly more complex demands on public procurement specialists. Whether these increased demands are reflected in the levels of compensation could in large part dictate the pool of talent that local and federal governments will have available in terms of selecting their workforce. The research presented here is part of the popular Public Procurement Compensation Series and investigates, from an organizational perspective, the most recent compensation levels within the profession. The two-fold purpose of this research is to offer a snap shot of the compensation levels across several dimensions and to provide practice-driven and useful compensation benchmarks. …

… A total of 319 American and Canadian agencies have participated in this edition of the survey. Based on their responses three primary trends were identified. First, bonuses have not been a prevalent part of compensation in 2011 or 2012; however, in 2012 agencies were more likely to offer bonuses to their employees. Second, after an accentuated dip from 2008 – 2010, salaries for most positions have been experiencing a recovering trend. Outside a small number of exceptions, reported compensation levels have not reached their previous peaks. Finally, a large proportion of agencies are asking their procurement specialists to work overtime without additional pay…

From “Reinventing Government” to “Moneyball Government”

Source: John M. Kamensky, PA Times, Vol. 36 no. 3, July/August/September 2013
(subscription required)

…This reform trend is the heart of what academics call “evidence-based government.” There are initiatives both inside and outside the federal government to use performance data, evidence and program evaluation to reframe budget and program decisions in ways that reflect the value being created, not just the dollars being spent…

Does a Partnership Need Partners? Assessing Partnerships for Critical Infrastructure Protection

Source: Chris Koski, American Review of Public Administration, Published online before print July 22, 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has used a partnership planning model of implementation to address the protection of critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR). The partnership relies upon existing regulators and operators to secure CIKR with little ability of DHS to compel action. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security acts to define and draw attention to tasks related critical infrastructure protection. This article analyzes Government Accountability Office reports to characterize variations in success of the partnership by assessing the extent to which DHS has addressed key components of partnership planning: creating a structure that encourages collaboration, establishing trust across partners, monitoring partners’ performance, attending to differences in partners’ organizational culture, identifying and leveraging existing relationships among partners, and instilling a sense of a common mission in the partnership. The findings underscore the limitations of partnership approaches in addressing complex problems that lack strong leadership and clear policy goals.

When do I use cooperative purchasing? Experts weigh in on when to co-op

Source: NIGP contributors, American City and County, July 8, 2013

Cooperative procurement is a proven, effective model for saving taxpayer dollars and a viable alternative to conventional, independent procurement processes. However, cooperative solutions are used to meet specific needs, have limitations and may not be appropriate in every circumstance.

Also, the buyer must ensure cooperative solutions are employed consistent with local legislation, competitive requirements and using the broadest possible participation of all vendor types….

Assessing the Effects of Organizational Resources on Public Agency Performance: Evidence from the US Federal Government

Source: Soo-Young Lee and Andrew B. Whitford, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 23, Issue 3, July 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We assess the usefulness of a theory of organizations, the Resource-Based View, for the study of public agencies. We examine the differential impacts of an array of organizational resources (administrative, human, financial, physical, political, and reputation resources) on a core measure of federal agency effectiveness. Our analysis shows that certain types of resources have positive impacts on agency effectiveness, such as administrative (number of members in top governing structure), personnel (the level of professionalization of its employees), financial (spending authority from offsetting collections), and political (presidential attention and the agency’s public reputation), although certain other resources have negative impacts. Our study shows that strategic knowledge about resources can enhance understanding of agency performance.

GovCloud: The future of government work

Source: Charlie Tierney, Steve Cottle, Katie Jorgensen, Deloitte, 2012

From the summary:
The way we work is changing. While government work is becoming increasingly complex, the public sector workforce structure, designed for the clerks of the 1950s, remains relatively unchanged. Moreover, when changes are made, they tend to be reactive, creating new, permanent structures that look a lot like the old ones. Given the well-documented budgetary pressures and burgeoning debt in countries around the globe, the status quo of simply adding layers of government agencies is unsustainable.

How, then, can governments change to meet future work trends? Creating an adaptable government workforce would require providing an unprecedented degree of flexibility. To accomplish this, we could draw from a game-changing concept in the technology world: cloud computing. Major organizations and small startups alike increase their flexibility by sharing storage space, information, and resources in a “cloud”. Why not move beyond computing and apply the cloud model to the workforce? A cloud-based government workforce, or GovCloud, could comprise employees who undertake creative, problem-focused work. Rather than existing in any single agency, these workers could reside in the cloud, making them truly government-wide employees. Cloud teams could be directed by thinner agencies than those that exist today. Agencies and cloud teams could be supported by government-wide shared services that prevent the establishment of new, permanent structures by assisting with ongoing, routine work.

This report details trends in work and technology that offer significant opportunities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the government workforce. It outlines the GovCloud model and includes a tool to determine cloud eligibility as well as some future scenarios illustrating the cloud in action. Learn how GovCloud can change the face of public sector work, allowing governments to move beyond the workforce structure of yesterday in order to confront the challenges of tomorrow.

Reconsidering the Black-White Disparity in Federal Performance Ratings

Source: Gregory W. Baxter, Public Personnel Management, Volume 41 No. 2, Summer 2012
(subscription required) (scroll down)

The Office of Personnel Management and Merit Systems Protection Board attribute race disparities in federal employee performance ratings to rate bias. Those claims ignore research findings, particularly meta-analysis, consistently showing Black workers exhibiting worse absenteeism and other Organizational Delinquency Behaviors (ODB). Research also consistently shows blacks scoring lower than others on objective measures of job knowledge, work quantity and quality, and on work sample tests.

Research on rater race effects does not support claims that White supervisors rate Whites higher and Black supervisors rate Blacks higher. Generally, all raters rate Whites higher and Blacks lower, as predicted by the data on objective performance and ODB. Consistently, the Black-White ratings gap is narrower when raters’ subjective ratings substitute for or are combined with, objective performance measures.

Finally, the paper proposes a practical stepwise approach for applying recent research findings to allegations of rater racial bias in federal and other public agencies.