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Memo to the President: Getting Public-Private Partnership Right

The label “public-private partnership” has been slapped on everything from contracts to collect solid waste to compacts to end global poverty. To say anything coherent about partnership requires imposing a little discipline on the definition: A public-private partnership features the enlistment of private entities (whether for-profit or non-profit) in the pursuit of public missions on terms of shared discretion. Neither party is fully in control, and neither just does the other’s bidding. Partnership differs from both classic contracting (in which government has—or should have—full control) and from philanthropy (where private parties go their own way.)

There’s nothing new about partnership. Throughout history, many collective activities have been carried out by private players controlled incompletely, or not at all, by government. Partnership’s share of the public agenda ebbs and flows, but it’s on the rise these days. That can be good news.

This is so even though not all missions call for partnership. Some public functions (imposing taxes, negotiating treaties) are best done by government on its own. Other functions (such as paving a road, transporting students, or arming the military) can benefit from private involvement but by means of discretion-free contracting; there is little...

How the Trump Administration Could Advance Customer Service

Last November, the Government Accountability Office issued its proposed management agenda for the next presidential administration. For those who have been working for the past four years to make government services more citizen-centric, there’s a tremendous opportunity to advance the customer agenda within government and take it to a higher level.

To understand the potential, one must think beyond one-off projects and consider the principles, concepts and six core competencies of customer experience as a management discipline, as taught by the nonprofit Customer Experience Professionals Association:

  1. Customer-centric culture (including employee training)
  2. Voice of the customer (quantitative and qualitative research)
  3. Organizational adoption/accountability (including cross-organizational collaboration)
  4. Customer experience strategy (including employee engagement)
  5. Experience design and innovation (using customer insights to define and prioritize requirements and opportunities for improvement)
  6. Metrics and measurement (such as program evaluations)

Now, look specifically at GAO's recommendations for human capital, collaboration, and performance, and apply the core competencies.

  • Strengthen Human Capital Capabilities to Enhance Performance. GAO's recommendations acknowledge that people, training, and technical skills help agencies achieve effective operational performance. It just makes sense that customer expectations play into the selection of those people, programs and needed skill sets. When hiring and training plans...

Memo to the President: Performance Accountability, Evidence and Improvement

  • By Shelley H. Metzenbaum and Robert Shea
  • January 11, 2017
  • Leave a comment

How will Donald Trump lead the federal government and drive progress on the priorities he set during his campaign, such as good jobs, clean drinking water and well-served veterans?

Here’s an idea. As he would with the businesses he oversees, Trump should direct every major department, agency and bureau head to set clear goals indicating what they want to accomplish by when, including a few stretch targets in priority areas. Beyond that, he should expect leaders to choose strategies that will speed progress, generate higher returns on taxpayer dollars, and assure government interacts with the public in clear, predictable, timely and courteous ways.

In addition, he should insist that progress on goals is measured and reported in a timely manner, that these measurements and other information are reviewed every quarter to determine whether agency actions are working, and that government move quickly when its actions need adjusting. The president should instruct each government unit to report every quarter on progress, problems and their likely causes, and planned next steps for every priority goal—in ways that make the information easy to find, understand and use.

Sound like a novel notion? In fact, the federal government has been moving in...

A Scorecard Taught at Harvard Business School Can Help You Improve Your Life and Relationships

I’ve always known that I’m addicted to achievement. But it’s only in the past few years that I’ve realized that can be a bad thing.

Every year, when New Year’s Eve rolled around, I used to set resolutions like “run 13 half-marathons in 2013” (because #medals). That particular year, I hit the goal. I even upped the ante and made the 13th race a full marathon, because my last race got canceled and I didn’t want to miss out.

But was I was healthier in 2013 than I was in 2012? Probably not. I didn’t necessarily train properly or eat better; I didn’t even particularly enjoy all the long-distance running. In truth, I had set the “13 in 2013” goal because my startup had just failed. I needed an over-the-top achievement to help me feel like a superhero again.

This mindset also got me to the top of Kilimanjaro in 2010 (to get over a soul-crushing breakup) and to Everest Base Camp in 2014 (to prove I was awesome, even if dating in New York City made me feel not so awesome most of the time).

But as I spent New Year...

Project Management for the Rest of Us

For many individuals thrust or drafted into the role of initiative or project leader without a formal background in project management, expect a steep learning curve and bumpy ride.

In spite of the popularity of project management training and the growth in the number of certified professionals, most projects in organizations are led by functional or technical experts tapped to pull a team together and make the magic happen. The magic, in this case, is successfully completing the initiative on time, under budget and at the right level of quality.

Experienced project managers everywhere are smiling externally while secretly writing your project obituary in their minds. Yes, the road ahead is rocky. In this article, I frame the challenges and offer some getting started ideas and resources.

Understanding 5 Big Challenges

While some might suggest that I am cynical starting out by describing barriers and headaches, I prefer to think of myself as pragmatic. Forewarned is forearmed. And we’ll offer solutions to each of these obstacles in subsequent posts.

1. The words, “I want you to lead this project” are the beginning of a quest for success that may at times feel like Jason’s quest for the Golden...

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