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.
Results 1-10 of 17

Rule #1: Policy Design Starts With Operational Capacity

June 11, 2015 Sir Jonathan Ive, the head of design for Apple, obviously thinks seriously and analytically about design. In February, in a long profile of Ive in The New Yorker, Ian Parker observed that Ive thought “bad industrial design often starts in ignorance of what a material can and cannot do.” Clearly...

Data Wonks vs. Performance Leaders

April 30, 2015 I’m a data wonk. I like to look at data, analyze data, use long division to compare data. I can probably get more information out of the morning’s box score than most of the 37,400 people who were at Fenway Park. I do not, however, claim to know more than...

Why Every Manager Should Use the Great Sewerage Equation

April 6, 2015 In 1858, the House of Commons of Great Britain charged Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, with the odious and odorous task of eliminating London’s “Great Stink.” The smell came from the city’s open sewers, which also spread cholera. To fix these problems, Bazalgette created...

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,...