Government’s Gotta Work

The old ways of monitoring performance are no longer adequate in today’s fast-paced business environment.

My father was mayor of the town I grew up in, Milwaukie, Oregon. My brother, many years later, became mayor of our same small town. The job was a volunteer position and there was only one good reason for them to do it – to be of service to their community.

I learned early on that when government doesn’t work it disrupts people’s lives, and when people’s lives are disrupted it turns their world upside down. In fact, as mayors, my father and brother were faced with these disruptions daily as people came to them with problems that needed to be solved. Their job was to help their citizens find their way through the “system” so they could end the disruption.
It wasn’t always easy; people were not always understanding.

Government is critical. Government takes care of our common needs for safety, education, and health. It helps us protect the environment, guard against fraud and corruption – and provides many other services essential to a working society. In other words, it must work in order for our modern society to work.

We all complain about government, but complaining won’t change it. As citizens the absolute best thing we can do is to support changes that help it work and I know from experience this is possible.

The specific changes needed include implementing outcome measures, which focus on results and communicate effectiveness. These measures give government employees and leaders a roadmap so they can execute targeted and prioritized improvements.

I am describing proven best practices for managing any organization—including government. Any organization performs best when it is clear what they are trying to accomplish. In the public arena those measures should be visible, and transparent.

As citizens we’ll gain confidence in our government when we see it is improving. And, if you are a government employee, you will appreciate how these measures serve as a catalyst to dedicating resources that make critical improvements.

When my father and brother were mayors, their best barometer of performance was how many citizens needed their help to solve problems. Today, and increasingly in the years to come, better government will be driven by more sophisticated ways of monitoring performance and focusing resources.

We need and want great government. And I know that the people who work in government want it just as much. As citizens, we will get better government if we actively support implementing management best practices.