In this new era of responsibility and accountability, the passage
of economic stimulus fundingalong with demands for successful
government performancepresents contemporary challenges for public
managers. The challenges demand that public managers rely on
collective efforts, share collective responsibility and
accountability, increase cooperation and collaboration, ensure
compliance, broaden communication, and encourage continuity. To
meet these challenges, managers should use tools such as increased
collaboration and coordination, processing of data and payments
electronically, multivariate analysis to assist in planning and
making choices, and balanced scorecards to account for outcomes.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is an
economic stimulus package enacted by Congress in February. ARRA is
intended to provide a stimulus to the U.S. economy in the wake of
the economic downturn and is worth $787 billion. Basically, the
stimulus includes federal tax cuts; expansion of unemployment
benefits and other social welfare provisions; and domestic spending
in education, healthcare, and infrastructure, including the energy
Cooperation between agencies is key. However, this is not a natural
process, because federal agencies must implement policy and manage
budgets through discrete agency chains of command, not across the
government. Federal agencies must learn how to cooperate more
closelya process that officials say is more difficult than it
Recently, Vince Gooden participated in the grant review paneling
process to examine and rate proposals for one of the social welfare
programs funded by the stimulus package. Ratings were based on how
the applicantslocal-level public, nonprofit, and private
organizationsresponded to published performance requirements, such
as who is to be served, how they are to be served, who serves them,
and how success and outcomes are measured.
Many successful proposals adequately described the need for
services, cost effectiveness, and the extent to which they
addressed performance requirements and emphasized coordination and
collaboration with related services. Conversely, a number of
proposals were poorly written, failed to address the proposal
requirements, were not cost-
effective, and showed no evidence of cooperative efforts with other
Collaboration and Coordination
The need for increased collaboration and coordination at the local
level is nothing new. When surges in federal funding are made
available to communities, such as in the Great Society, the need
for collaborative efforts is more apparent. The Great Society was a
set of domestic programs enacted in the late 1960s at the
initiative of President Lyndon B. Johnson, including social reforms
for eliminating poverty and racial injustice. Major ground-breaking
spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban
problems, and transportation were launched during this period.
Local Human Resource Councils
In 1971, Gooden sent a letter to Elliot Richardson, the secretary
of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW),
about the need for local human resource councils that would include
the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Model Cities, county welfare
agencies, and the United Way. This model group would serve as the
pilot for other agencies to follow as needed or as desired. The
purpose of the council was to
- plan services to the community
- coordinate services provided
- eliminate duplication of services
- provide each other assistance when applying for funds
- provide joint information about future planning.
At that time, it was suggested that the ultimate objective of the
council would be greater local agency autonomy over services and
more services provided as unmet needs declined. For instance, OEO
would provide manpower and economic development; NIMH would provide
social and psychological services; and Model Cities would provide
housing and rehabilitation.
Summit County, Ohio, Mental Health Board
In 1976, when states were deinstitutionalizing large mental
hospitals, the Summit County Mental Health Board coordinated a
group composed of representatives from mental health centers,
institutions, community agencies, and board staff. The group was
called the Transitional Services Committee (TSC), with the
expressed philosophy that transitional services are important to
the health and quality of life in Summit County. TSC felt that the
harmful effect of institutionalization was evident for citizens
with frequent psychiatric hospitalizationsnot just the long-term
patient. Also, the high psychiatric readmission rate in this county
pointed to a need for an improved community support system. The
goals of TSC were clear:
- Achieve a coordinated effort between institutions and community
agencies that would result in continuity of care.
- Develop a community support system that would minimize the need
for psychiatric hospitalization and promote individual growth.
- Improve discharge planning between the hospital and community.
- Develop a consultation and education service.
TSC members met monthly to determine needs, develop a standards
manual for group home operators, complete a transportation study,
and participate in the implementation of several aftercare
projects, including the Leasing Assistance Program, which provided
financial assistance to persons who had been mentally ill but had
been prepared for independent living following their treatment.
Kansas Citys Urban Collaboration
More recently, a Washington Post article discussed how President
Obama is setting his sights on new ways to address urban renewal.
According the article, the presidents plan emphasizes revitalizing
U.S. cities with a coordinated effort that involves stimulus
funding and getting multiple agencies to work together to improve
schools, housing, and neighborhoods.
Until recently, federal policy had typically encouraged sprawl,
congestion, and pollution, rather than quality public
transportation and smart, sustainable development in urban areas.
Hence, this is a new way of looking at the city-metro reality, as
well as having agencies as diverse as housing, transportation, and
environmental protection working together in the process.
The model for this sort of urban cooperative effort is a $200
million project in Kansas City to transform a large depressed area
with high poverty, numerous vacant houses, crime, and unemployment.
The key is the coordination and cooperation demanded by several
entitiesthe U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), and local energy providers. This approach
involves viewing urban challenges in a much more comprehensive,
holistic way than has existed for decades, according to a nonprofit
that promotes regional cooperation in the Kansas City area.
Electronic Payment and Data Processing
As a result of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, all states are required to
implement electronic benefits transfer (EBT) programs to automate
the distribution of benefits for the Food Stamp program. This
requirement was designed to streamline the distribution of
benefits, giving program recipients wide access to benefits and
decreasing inefficiencies and cost-intensive printing and
EBT reduces issues of fraud and administrative costs on the
government side while eliminating the individual stigma associated
with the receipt of benefit checks and food stamps. Although
electronic processing is mandated for EBT, it is not required for
many other federal programs, such as child support, child care, or
unemployment insurance. However, the current administration has
been advocating it for healthcare reform.
Electronic data interchange (EDI) is the electronic transfer of
information, such as electronic media claims, in a standard format
between trading partners. As it relates to healthcare, this new
technology will enable entities within the healthcare
systemconnected by an integrated system of electronic communication
networksto exchange medical, billing, and other information and
process transactions in a manner that is fast and cost effective
(Go to www.edissweb.com for more information). Most of these
improvements are likely to result from the significant reduction or
elimination of paper transactions.
The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio offers a best practice example of how
to operate a cost-effective and efficient hospital, and much of its
success has been attributed to the conversion to a paperless
organization using automated medical record management and
real-time access to data. In sum, seamless electronic medical
records for patients and doctors are critical to lowering overall
healthcare costs, and the federal administration included money
toward electronic medical records in the stimulus package.
There are several challenges in electronic processing, including
the fact that all federal programs do not require payment
processing. As a result, states and local governments frequently
treat it as an optional tool. Many state and local business rules
are so numerous that it makes electronic processing complicated and
costly. In addition, some contractors do not have the subject
matter expertise or performance capacityas evidenced by recent
school openings failing to have automated schedules on time.
Oklahomas Use of EBT
The Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA), P.L. 107-300,
was enacted to eliminate (or at least reduce) fraud, waste, and
abuse in federal agencies, and includes reporting requirements such
as corrective action. The Administration for Children and Families
report on IPIA recommends EBT as a possible system solution in its
Child Care Administrators Improper Payments Information Technology
Guide. Figure 1 outlines how Oklahoma uses electronic payment
processing for its childcare program, including challenges,
benefits, and how to address improper payments.
In essence, agencies should use more electronic processing methods
of payment and data management as tools for cost savings and
improved services for recipients and customers.
In program planning and decision making, managers are often faced
with various amounts of data and alternative choices. The ability
to obtain a clear picture of what is going on and make intelligent
decisions is a challenge. However, there are tools available to
analyze data from more than one variable.
Multivariate analysis (MVA) is based on the statistical principle
of multivariate statistics, which involves observation and analysis
of more than one statistical variable at a time. The manager can
then analyze the alternatives or responses and make a selection to
fill the constituent or recipient needs or desires. Other tools for
analyzing multiple variables include factor analysis, cluster
analysis, matrixes, and decision trees. The object of all of these
is to make sense of data for effective decision making.
For instance, findings and implications from our education,
experience, and research reveal a number of effective practices
that successful managers use in the contracting process, as well as
implications for building relationships, equitable distribution of
goods and services, and management governance. Until now, these
implications have not been prioritized; however, for the purpose of
making sense about how public management should address the
stimulus and performance requirements, evidence indicates that
practices do vary in their levels of importance in the contracting
and management processes.
For example, The Public Manager article Getting Strategic Results
Through Performance-Based Acquisition included a matrix that listed
vertically effective practices and displayed various contracting
and management processes horizontally. The level of importance was
- planning and needs assessment
- inclusion and alternatives, as well as technical assistance
- monitoring and utilization, standard rating tools, technology
- debriefing and costing.
The balanced scorecard (BSC) integrates a set of measurements that
link financial, customer, internal business process, and learning
and growth perspectives to long-term financial success. This is
important because by doing these things an organization enhances
performance, inspires action and enthusiasm, and fosters an
environment of clear accountability.
An integral aspect of the BCS is performance measurement, which
begins with defining performance objectives. Performance objectives
should be concise and discuss specific things required to implement
the strategy successfully. Each objective has measures, and
measures have targets. These measures can be defined as either
lagging or leading. Lagging indicators measure results or outcomes;
leading indicators drive the strategy and results. Objectives fall
into four general categories:
- Financial objectives and measures result from development of
new business opportunities and growth of the organization.
Profitable growth leads to increased sales volumes, revenue, profit
margins, and shareholder value.
- Customer value proposition measures focus on a leaders ability
to build, expand, and deepen trusted relationships through
innovation of products and services and by consistently delivering
- Internal business process measures are concerned with processes
that create and deliver customer value. Generally, these measures
focus on productivity and efficiency. They include operational
management measures, customer management measures, innovation
measures, and regulatory and social measures.
- Learning and growth objective measures focus on developing an
employee-friendly culture that begins with a human
dimensiondeveloping leaders. The strategic objective is to leverage
full-spectrum leadership to fully develop program and business
Performance measurement (see Figure 3) begins with understanding
the specific objective and how each objective will be measured, as
well as target metrics associated with successful achievement of
each performance objective. The selected metric should be
measurable and contribute to the organizations success. There
should also be a clear methodology for obtaining and calculating
actual performance values for each of the metrics.
BSC is a management tool that provides a means to link the business
strategy with performance objectives and measurable targets to
drive strategy execution and financial results. With the downturn
in the economy and evolving government budgets, the probability for
successful strategy execution is greatly increased by using the BSC
approach. From a public-private partnership perspective, a major
government contractor uses a BSC that helps meet the demands for
accountability, oversight, transparency, compliance, and ethical
Also, as the governments emphasis on modernizing acquisition moves
forwardinclusive of performance-based contractingemphasis on
performance measurement and metrics should be an integral step in
getting to desired results. The private sector should be cognizant
of the governments change to a program focus in contracting, along
with technical and contractual focus, and they should incorporate
this focus into their thinking about program objectives and
measuring outcomes. Hence, BSC enables an organization to be in
sync with government funding sources, thus affording both parties
to be in a win-win situation.
We are entering a new era of accountability. The challenges we face
as a nation and as public sector managers are greater and more
complex in content and character than at any time in history. The
government is attempting to stimulate an economic recovery by
making substantial funding available to state and local entities
for infrastructure, social welfare projects, housing, education,
and transportation. In many instances, proposals are submitted to
secure funding. There are performance requirements, and innovative
projects are favored.
Public management in contemporary society is challenging, and
managers face complex issues that demand collaboration with other
agencies, shared funding options, novel and innovative approaches,
and measurable performance outcomes. Managers should use tools
available to them to ensure clearly stated needs based on current
geographic and demographic data, define measurable objectives,
think and act strategically in approaching a situation, organize
and staff appropriately, and make cost-effective and efficient