Mousetraps for Flawed Data

For the most part, we’ve pointed to issues that require careful examination of the information to determine if its trustworthy or not.

But, as time has passed, we’ve come across a great many signals, easily spotted and identified, that point to quicker recognition that information should be scrutinized. Here are a half dozen examples:

Fatigue: A Hidden Challenge to the Public Sector Workforce

The dedicated government officials we were observing had started their days at the crack of dawn preparing for the work ahead, and then were in back-to-back meetings for hours on end. By late afternoon, we noticed that many could barely keep their eyes open (and at least a few failed in that effort, at least for a few seconds at a time).

Off to a Running State Capital Start: A Guide for New Governors and Their Teams

If a spacecraft starts off in the wrong direction— even marginally—it’s unlikely to reach its planned destination. Similarly, if the early months of a new administration aren’t thoughtfully administered, and according to well-established principles, the new administration is unlikely to reach the results it desires.

It’s Transition Time Again

That leaves the nation with nine new governors, all of whom will have assumed their new jobs by January 18. They include Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, Katie Hobbs of Arizona; Josh Green of Hawaii, Wes Moore of Maryland, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Jim Pillen of Nebraska, Joe Lombardo of Nevada, Tina Kotek of Oregon, and Joshua Shapiro of Pennsylvania.

Performance Measurements Can Help Programs. It Can Also Hurt Them.

But as football great Rocky Bleier once said, “Preconceived ideas can sometimes become barriers.”  That’s been the unfortunate case with portions of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that was passed in 1996 with the intent of overhauling welfare through very flexible block grants to the states. A preconceived idea that there was one be-all end-all performance measurement has thwarted some of the elements in the program’s original vision.

Government Ethos Can be Just as Important as Statutes

In fact, over the decades of observing the ebb and flow of management efforts in state and local governments, we’ve seen that often the ethos of an organization is just as important as the statutes it puts on the books.

Managing The Next Crisis: Twelve Principles For Dealing With Viral Uncertainty

The experiences of the last 18 months have pointed to the importance of well-managed actions at the local, national, and cross-border levels. Many of these steps address issues that are now well-documented, including medical support for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine management; supply chain challenges around vaccine production and distribution; impacts on local job markets; and the importance of addressing equity in delivering needed social services.

Getting the 'Bosses of Procurement' to Understand its Strategic Value

As a rule, focus on government procurement grows particularly acute during crisis situations. There has likely been no more vivid example of this phenomenon than that experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. With daily headlines blaring words about shortages of medical devices and personal protective equipment, many procurement officials found themselves in a prominent hot seat at the table of government decision-makers.

Algorithms: Black boxes or fishbowls?

A few months ago, we wrote a piece for Route Fifty about the use of algorithms in state and local governments. As we read through a number of articles about the issues surrounding the use of these devices, we discovered repeated instances in which the word “algorithm,” was preceded by the words, “black box.”


Barrett and Greene, Inc.

Over the course of about 30 years, Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, principals of Barrett and Greene, Inc. have done much-praised analysis, research and writing about state and local governments.  Described by Peter Harkness, founder of Governing Magazine as "by far the most experienced journalists in the country covering public performance," they pioneered "grading the cities, counties and states" in management.

They are currently engaged as Visiting Fellows at the IBM Center for the Business of Government, Senior Advisors, Columnists and co-chairs of the Advisory Board for Route Fifty, Special Project Consultants at the Volcker Alliance, Advisors and Columnists for the Government Finance Officers Association, Senior Advisors at the Government Finance Research Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago,  and Fellows at the National Academy of Public Administration. 

Over the course of years, Barrett and Greene have served in an advisory or contractual capacity to many organizations central to the study of states and localities. For more than 20 years they were columnists for Governing magazine and they have also served as senior advisors at the Pew Charitable Trusts; senior fellows for the Council of State Governments and more.

One of Barrett and Greene’s most significant contributions was as founders of the Government Performance Project, which was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and published in Governing Magazine.

Though they work on virtually all projects as a team, the one exception is that Greene has served as a long-time chair of the Center for Accountability and Performance at the American Society for Public Administration.