Washington State, a leader in the use of cost-benefit analysis: An interview with Steve Aos, Director, Washington State Institute for Public Policy – Episode #17

Steve AosSteve Aos is the Director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP). The Institute’s mission is to carry out practical, non-partisan research—at legislative direction—on issues of importance to Washington State. Areas of focus have included education, criminal justice, welfare, children and adult services, health and more. The outcome of WSIPP’s work includes cost-benefit analyses of various policy options so that legislatures can make more informed decisions about cost-effective policies.

Although not discussed in the interview, a related initiative to note that builds on WSIPP’s work in Washington State: The Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation are currently working with 14 states to develop and strengthen their cost-benefit analysis capabilities, as part of the Results First Initiative.

Web extra: Steve Aos explains how trust between WSIPP and the legislature, build over time, is an important aspect of the Institute’s ability to produce analysis that is valued and used. [click here]

The Governor’s Delivery Unit in Maryland: An interview with Mike Powell, State of Maryland – Episode #16

powell profileMike Powell is the Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Maryland under Governor Martin O’Malley. In that role, he helps oversee the Governor’s Delivery Unit.

For public leaders in the United States, the Governor’s Delivery Unit is a useful example of setting specific, ambitious strategic goals, of being transparent with citizens about progress, and of creating a process internally — with close leadership involvement — to “own” those goals and drive progress towards them.

In particular, the Delivery Unit is designed to help achieve 15 strategic goals that are important to citizens and that cut across traditional agency silos. Its website tracks progress, including graphs, background information, and flags that show whether each goal has been delivered, is on track or progressing, or has had insufficient progress so far.

Mike previously worked for IBM as a consultant and was a CityStat analyst in Baltimore earlier in his career.

As background, it’s useful to note another O’Malley Administration initiative mentioned in the interview: StateStat. Every few weeks or months, depending on the agency, each agency leadership team comes to a StateStat meeting in the Governor’s Office to review the agency’s performance data and to discuss, with the Governor’s staff, ways to improve outcomes. The Governor’s Delivery Unit, in contrast, is closely related (and managed by StateStat staff) but is focused on cross-cutting goals that span agencies and that have been identified by the Governor as key benchmarks for state progress.

Web extra: Mike Powell discusses his role as Chief Innovator Officer for Maryland, answering a question that, as he has noted, he gets frequently: “What does a Chief Innovation Officer do?” [click here]

Learning from the Obama campaign about creating a culture of experimentation in government: An interview with Amelia Showalter, former Director of Digital Analytics at the Obama campaign – Episode #15

Amelia ShowalterAmelia Showalter served as Director of Digital Analytics on Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, leading a team that designed and implemented hundreds of experiments to improve the performance of all types of digital outreach.  Today, she is a consultant who helps organizations achieve better results through testing.

In the interview, we draw on her innovative experience in politics to consider how government — in nonpartisan ways — can learn from the same techniques of testing and experimentation in order to improve program and agency performance. In other words, how can public managers build a culture of rapid organizational testing and improvement?

Web extra: Amelia Showalter talks about the “email derby” in which she and her staff tried to pick the most and least effective versions of fundraising emails and how the derby results underscored the usefulness of randomized testing. [click here]


Using online tools to engage citizens: An interview with Matt Leighninger, Deliberative Democracy Consortium – Episode #14

Matt LeighningerMatt Leighninger is the Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the author of the recent report for public managers, “Using Online Tools to Engage – and be Engaged by –The Public” published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government. The motivation behind the report: While many federal and state agencies are striving to engage with citizens using online tools and e-government, many public managers find themselves unfamiliar with what tactics and tools work best under different scenarios.


Making telework work: An interview with Scott Overmyer – Episode #13

Scott Overmyer

What does it take to make telework a successful tool for public agencies and workers? To explore that question, we’re joined by Scott Overmyer. He’s the author of the IBM Center for The Business of Government report Implementing Telework: Lessons Learned from Four Federal Agencies. The report offers practical implementation advice to agency leaders and front-line managers.

As background, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 expands telework opportunities to over one million federal workers. Today federal agencies are working to implement that law, while state and local officials are also findings ways to promote telework. Telework — working outside of the office — has the potential to save billions of taxpayer dollars along with other benefits.

Policy strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy: An interview with Adam Thomas, Georgetown University – Episode #12

Adam ThomasAlmost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended and the women and children involved in these pregnancies are disproportionately likely to experience a range of negative outcomes. For insights into cost-effective policy strategies to reduce unintended pregnancy, my guest is Adam Thomas, a professor at Georgetown University and the former Research Director for the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families. His recent article in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management — as well as a Brookings policy brief— focus on three evidenced-based strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy and the results from fiscal impact simulations of those strategies. His findings have implications for both federal and state policymakers.

Making public-sector performance reporting useful: An interview with Jeff Tryens, New York City Mayor’s Office – Episode #11

Jeff Tryens is the Deputy Director for Performance Management in the Mayor’s Office in New York, under Michael Bloomberg. He is responsible for reporting overall city government performance and initiating cross-agency performance improvement initiatives. Prior to that role, Jeff  was the Executive Director of the Oregon Progress Board from 1995 to 2005. In that role, he helped oversee Oregon’s strategic vision, known as Oregon Shines as well as its 90 indicators of social, economic and environmental health known as Oregon Benchmarks. Those efforts helped Oregon became a leader in performance reporting.

Web extra: Jeff Tryens talks about his current work in New York City, including what is unique about New York City’s performance reporting, including the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) [click here].

Breaking down silos and boosting results through HUDStat: An interview with Lisa Danzig, Department of Housing and Urban Development – Episode #10

Lisa DanzigThe U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has 9,000 employees and a $46 billion budget. How does the agency focus its numerous staff and diverse programs on critical goals? It uses HUDStat, launched in 2010.

Each quarter, key staff related to each goal from various departments within HUD come to a HUDStat meeting, led by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, to review performance data and discuss ways to boost results. By having detailed data at hand, the participants can understand what’s working and what’s not. By having key staff all in one room, questions can get answered quickly. Each HUDStat meeting produces specific action items that are then reviewed in the next meeting.

HUD currently has seven priority goals, including ones related to homelessness, foreclosure, and energy efficiency. That means there are seven HUDStat meetings per quarter, each focusing on a different goal.

In some ways, HUDStat is similar to other “PerformanceStat” initiatives such as CitiStat in Baltimore. In other ways, it is relatively unique, including the fact that meetings focus on cross-agency goals (not specific departments) and that the agency Secretary leads the meetings rather than one of his deputies.

To learn more about HUDStat, we’re joined by Lisa Danzig, the Director of Strategic Planning and Management for HUD.

A note to listeners: The audio is choppy in a few places due to the connection.   


Web extras: Lisa Danzig discusses…

  • her advice to federal, state, or local agency leaders who are interested in adopting a HUDStat-like initiative [click here].
  • a benefit of tabulating and sharing data through the HUDStat process: positive “peer pressure” to increase results [click here].
  • the motivation behind the launch of HUDStat [click here].
  • HUD’s current priority goals (recall that each HUDStat meeting focuses on a different goal, with every goal covered once per quarter) [click here].
  • staff work involved in preparing for HUDStat meetings and some upcoming advances in the model [click here].

Outcome budgeting in Baltimore: An interview with Andrew Kleine, budget director – Episode #9

Andrew KleineA growing trend among cities and states in the U.S. is outcome budgeting. Baltimore began using outcome budgeting in Fiscal Year 2011 under the leadership of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her budget director — and our guest on the Gov Innovator blog — Andrew Kleine. The results include more dollars to high-value programs, the reduction or elimination of low-value programs, and new thinking and innovation in the delivery of services to citizens.

Web extra: Andrew Kleine gives advice to jurisdictions that may be considering implementing outcome budgeting, including the use of consultants and also staffing issues [click here].

Results-focused city government through SomerStat: An interview with Joseph Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts – Episode #8

Mayor CurtatoneAt about 4 square miles large, with a population of about 80,000, Somerville shows other smaller jurisdictions that don’t need to be a big city to have a sophisticated performance improvement focus. For larger jurisdictions, including our biggest U.S. cities, Somerville’s experience presents a challenge: If it can develop such a robust data-driven management focus, then cities with much larger resources should be able to as well.

Among Somerville’s innovations, probably the best known is SomerStat. It has a staff of four who study financial, personnel, and operational data to understand what’s happening within city departments. Then, about every two months for bigger agencies (I mistakenly said weeks in the video intro), and less frequently for smaller agencies, each department leadership team comes to a SomerStat meeting to meet with the mayor’s staff—often including the mayor himself—to review detailed performance data and discuss ways to improve.

In the meetings, the department director stands behind a podium and presents a PowerPoint presentation on detailed aspects of department performance to the mayor and his staff. It’s not a one-sided presentation, but rather a lively and detailed discussion involving questions and direction for that department leader and his or her senior staff in the room.

To learn more about SomerStat, we’re joined by Joseph Curtatone (@JoeCurtatone), the mayor of Somerville, who launched SomerStat after being first elected in 2004. Today he is in his fifth term.

Web extra: To better understand SomerStat, here are some example presentations from actual SomerStat meetings from previous years. They are from departments relating to capital projectsconstituent services, fire, IT, police, and recreation.