ConstantinosZ/Shutterstock.com

Why Every Agency Needs a Chief Management Officer

The top leader can't do it all in a mere 168-hour week.

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 people did that was “common to the work of all managers.” From his research, he identified 10 managerial “roles” or “behaviors.”

Three interpersonal roles:

  • Figurehead
  • Leader
  • Liaison

Three informational roles:

  • Monitor
  • Disseminator
  • Spokesperson

Four decisional roles:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Disturbance handler
  • Resource allocator
  • Negotiator

Mintzberg’s list is rather short, but his 10 roles do cover a diverse range of responsibilities. Indeed, the list is intimidating. How could any human do a halfway credible job on all 10 roles in a mere 168-hour week?

Consider, for example, your average elected public executive: mayor, county executive, governor, or president. Yes: It takes a lot of determination to get yourself elected to one of these executive jobs. Every day, the most winning candidates figure out how to handle multiple responsibilities. If they don’t, they lose.

Still, once they are sworn in, their obligations jump in complexity. A candidate has one very specific, very narrow task: get elected. As chief executive, however, the former candidate’s responsibilities are more complicated. And although a Cabinet sec-retary or department head has a narrower portfolio, his or her responsibilities are still quite complex.

Consider the roles of figurehead, liaison, spokesperson, disturbance handler and negotiator. These five roles include internal responsibilities. But for a public executive (elected or appointed), they also have an external component that is more demanding than for most private sector CEOs.

As the obvious figurehead, the public executive personifies the government or agency to the world. He or she is its definitive spokesperson.

If a disturbance is small and internal, a subordinate manager can handle it. But if the disturbance is significant enough, or if it involves people outside the government, the public executive may need to get personally involved. The same applies to negotiations with people or groups outside of the executive branch.

A public executive who delegates to subordinates any of these five roles—figurehead, liaison, spokesperson, disturbance handler, or negotiator—may quickly antagonize key stakeholders. Unfortunately, handling these five roles for situations primarily involving people outside of the executive branch can consume all of any public executive’s time.

If so, what happens when these five roles also involve insiders? And what happens when the role is leader, monitor, disseminator, entrepreneur, or resource allocator? How much time is left for these responsibilities? Often, not much. All too often, none.

Yet, the public executive is supposed to be the (internal) leader of the jurisdiction or agency, establishing purposes, motivating employees, authorizing projects, and encouraging initiatives to better achieve key public purposes. But how much time does the executive have for this? After all, handling internal disturbances and allocating resources can quickly jump to the top of the must-do-today pile.

Thus every public executive—appointed or elected—needs a chief management officer, chief operating officer, chief performance officer. I don’t care what the title is. I do care, however, that this person is responsible for ensuring that the jurisdiction or agency is operating competently—for keeping everyone focused on achieving the chief executive’s purposes. This person is responsible for the operational roles to which the top executive cannot devote sufficient attention. All governors need a chief operating officer. All mayors need a chief administrative officer. All Cabinet secretaries need a chief performance officer.

The president, governor, mayor, or agency head also has responsibility for setting policy—for establishing macro purposes. Yet, too often, these executives focus exclusively on policy. And for some mysterious reason (and despite all the evidence to the contrary), they believe their brilliant policies are self-implementing.

The chief operating officer’s job is to make the policies work. Thus this person needs more than a title. He or she needs an official, public delegation of authority. The elected or appointed executive needs to say, as Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts, often says about his chief performance officer: “My director of SomerStat speaks for me.” 

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, was recently published by Brookings.

Copyright 2015 Robert D. Behn

(Image via ConstantinosZ/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.