Challenges to Improving Managerial Performance in an Evidence-Based World
(Public and Non-Profit Management and Finance)
Friday, November 13, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Pearson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Robert Behn, Harvard University
Panel Chairs: Steven Rathgeb Smith, American Political Science Association
Discussants: Shelley Metzenbaum, The Volcker Alliance
In theory, using evidence to establish the effectiveness of a public policy might seem rational, straightforward, and conclusive. In practice, it is quite challenging. For a management strategy, however, both the theory and the practice of using evidence present major challenges. How do you specify the management strategy? What should be [might be?] the control? What does it mean to be not using a management strategy? Is it no management? None? Or is not using specific features of a management strategy, such as measuring absolutely nothing, or providing everyone with precisely zero feedback on the value of their work? And how do you (could you) prevent some managers in the control group from learning about and then utilizing [indeed, perhaps even improving on] on the treatment strategy?
The scholars on this panel seek to understand the nature of evidence about managerial effectiveness, to appreciate how public managers are using evidence, to specify what might or should count as evidence, and suggest how evidence can be better — or, at least, more appropriately — used.
Bovaird and S. Smith seek evidence about the comparative effectiveness of how management systems are established. Is a performance management system more effective if it is imposed from the top, or if it is the result of a negotiation within the organization? Is such a system more effective if it is planned or emergent? Bovaird and Smith explore these two dichotomies — in reality spectrums — with a number of cases.
Musso and Weare examine the effort by the Mayor of Los Angeles to establish one such performance-management system. They note that some scholars argue that such efforts are prone to be either ineffective because the results of public agencies work are often difficult (or impossible) to measure, or that the nature of U.S. democracy is incompatible with performance-based strategies.
D. Smith and Anechiarico push further this question about the compatibility of performance management with constitutional democracy by focusing on the use of stop-and-frisk practices of policy departments (New York’s in particular) to reduce crime. There is evidence that this practice is effective. But is it Constitutional? Indeed, is it compatible with democracy — at least as American’s have come to use the word “democracy”?
Finally, Behn looks at the effort of the president of the World Bank to create a “science of delivery” for international economic development. Do we know enough about the management of economic-development services to call it a “science”? Can this knowledge be adequately specified in explicit knowledge to be defined as a science? Or is this knowledge — from city management to international economic development — primarily tacit, making it hard to qualify as a science.