AUTHOR ARCHIVES

Robert D. Behn

Robert D. Behn, a lecturer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, chairs the executive education program “Driving Government Performance: Leadership Strategies that Produce Results.” His book The PerformanceStat Potential will be published by Brookings in 2014.
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Snow Days: When Government Resorts to Naming and Shaming

March 6, 2015 The winter of 2015 has set records in Massachusetts. Snow records. Over eight and a half feet have already fallen in Boston. In February alone, over five feet. With snow come all sorts of inconveniences. From a two-foot storm in January and another two-foot storm in February came big inconveniences. ...

Why Every Agency Needs a Chief Management Officer

January 8, 2015 Forty years ago, Henry Mintzberg, of McGill University, asked the simple question: “What do managers do?” To Mintzberg managers were not just corporate CEOs but also “vice presidents, bishops, foremen, hockey coaches and prime ministers”—people with “formal authority” for some kind of “organizational unit.” Mintzberg was looking for what these ...

Avoid Getting Caught in the Quagmire of Key Performance Indicators

December 12, 2014 Does your organization need some key performance indicators? Do not worry. To your rescue come organizations and books. And do they have KPIs for you. For example, the KPI gurus at Actuate Corp. have created—just for you—a free KPI library containing over 650 KPIs. What more could you ask for? ...

What Performance Management Is and Is Not

November 19, 2014 At a recent academic conference a scholar was explaining his research in which he sought to determine whether performance management worked—whether it improved performance. He took a traditional approach (called “meta-analysis” by the cognoscenti) examining all of the different reports that analyzed this question seeking to draw conclusions from this ...

How Low Would You Go to Get Ahead?

October 29, 2014 It was a couple of years ago (OK, maybe a couple of decades ago), when my wife and I took our son, then a high school student, on the pre-college tour. We visited a variety of campuses from coast to coast (and in Canada, too). At the beginning of the ...

​Designing a Test Worth Teaching To

October 3, 2014 Today, across the globe, school children are tested—often annually, sometimes more frequently. And one problem with this approach to learning what the children are learning is that the teachers teach to the test: How can we know how well the teachers are really teaching, how can we know how much ...

Why Every Executive Needs to Be Both a Hedgehog and a Fox

September 12, 2014 In his essay on Leo Tolstoy’s view of history, Isaiah Berlin begins with a quote from the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The same distinction could be used to categorize public executives. Some know lots of little things. Others know—or, ...

What’s Really Happening On Your Watch?

August 11, 2014 The soap was stylish—perfectly round, the size of a golf ball, but without the little dimples that help it fly straight. This was a very stylish hotel, so you would expect that everything—bathroom included—would be stylish. The sink, for example, was shaped like a wok. Thus, when the soap landed ...

Why Public Executives Need Both Talent and the Elusive Team Chemistry

May 30, 2014 On Aug. 25, 2011, the Boston Red Sox had won 80 games and lost only 50. If the team could maintain that winning percentage of .615, it would finish the season with 100 wins and make the playoffs. Instead the Red Sox collapsed, losing 22 of its last 32 games. ...

Got Big Data? First Define Your Big Question

April 1, 2014 Big Data is big. Really BIG. Indeed, the definition from the McKinsey Global Institute, which coined the phrase “big data,” is “data sets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, manage and analyze.” Big Data is so big that your organization (almost by definition) ...