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 30

You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Message

February 3, 2017 This phrase is, of course, a play on the old line attributed to Peter Drucker, to W. Edwards Deming, to Robert Kaplan and David Norton, and to your favorite management guru. You know the original phrase: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Unfortunately, the similar seven-word phrase that ends...

Use Your Head: Don’t Be Seduced By Technology

December 5, 2016 On October 5, 1960, the United States almost went to war with the Soviet Union. In the previous spring, the U.S. had begun installing its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System in Thule, Greenland. The purpose of BMEWS was to warn the U.S. of a Soviet missile attack. And by early...

That Focusing Trick Good Leaders Use To Stay On Task

October 28, 2016 Every time I go hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I have a problem—an annoying problem. Yet, when I am hiking on the trails of the National Forests in the Rocky Mountains, this problem disappears. Why? Because the U.S. Forest Service has designed its trails to accommodate the...

When Performance Measures are Counter-Productive

August 24, 2016 One reason to measure performance is to evaluate the effectiveness of organizations and of people. But this is not the only purpose. In fact, I think that there are multiple answers to the question: “Why measure performance?” And one of these purposes is to motivate organizations and people. It might...

Why Most Managers Should Delegate More Responsibilities

June 17, 2016 How does a public manager get public employees to produce results? The traditional answer is: Tell them precisely what to do. Don’t give them any room for discretion. If you do, they’ll just exploit the opportunity for their own, personal advantage. For over a century, democracies have sought to limit—or...

The Question That Should Guide All Government Leaders

May 12, 2016 What keeps you up at night? If you are a public executive, there must be something—undoubtedly many things. Some of these sleep-depriving problems are minor annoyances, the daily irritations that can make life unpleasant. Executive insomnia, however, is a more debilitating disease. Its cause can be traced to something that...

Why Public Executives Need To Focus On Obliterating Worst Practices

April 7, 2016 Is your organization focused on implementing best practices? I’m sure it is. (If it was not, you certainly would not confess to this failure.) If, however, you need some help doing so, just Google the three magic words: “implementing best practices.” You’ll get nearly a quarter of a million hits....

The Best Leaders Know How to Pass the Torch

March 4, 2016 Scientific knowledge is explicit knowledge. It is precise, and thus can be explicated in mathematical formulas, textbooks, blueprints, procedures, and manuals. It can be converted into a system, stored, retrieved, and used again, exactly as it was used previously, whether that was yesterday, last year, or centuries ago. Explicit knowledge...

Real Lean Is Not Just About Cutting Costs

January 8, 2016 Lean is huge—and growing. In the U.S., it is impossible to get an accurate count of how many cities, counties, states, and U.S. government agencies are using Lean. Nevertheless, many report they are doing so. What, however, is “Lean”? Each jurisdiction and agency has its own variant on the concept....

Public Officials Need to Accept That There Is No Silver Bullet

December 21, 2015 No matter what purpose a human seeks to achieve, he or she would prefer a “silver bullet.” It would make everything much easier. Without it, unfortunately, we humans have to do the hard work of (1) developing a strategy for achieving this purpose, and (2) actually motivating other humans to...

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