Fact-Based Governing

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Maryland’s State-Stat.  Last week I took a field trip to Annapolis to visit Governor Martin O’Malley’s much ballyhooed State-Stat management system.  It is a variation of Baltimore’s Citi-Stat, which O’Malley created in 2001 when he became mayor.  It could serve as an inspiration for what the federal government might do to track the implementation of the various agency-level goals to be submitted to OMB by the end of the week, as well as to coordinate the work of the various “czars” working on cross-agency initiatives.Maryland Flag

Baltimore’s Citi-Stat.  There have been several studies of, as well as awards for, the city system.  And the state-level version, which has been in operation for the past two years since O’Malley has become governor, has been adapted to include a handful of broad, cross-agency goals developed by the governor.  These goals are being driven by a new Governor’s Delivery Unit.

The characteristic, though, that I saw as most power was how agency heads were creating their own versions of State-Stat within their own agencies.  This happened in Baltimore City as well.  This means that the use of strategic analytics – characterized by fact-based decision-making — is being driven down into how agencies do their work, and it is not just a compliance exercise.

Fact-Based Governing Is Expanding. While most prominent in Maryland, these methods are being applied more frequently in other states (such as Washington State) and localities.  The development of “data warehouses” — putting data in one place to analyze and look across organizational boundaries to inform decisions or actions – is happening in police departments as well as homeland security state fusion centers.

Great Britain has a parallel.  Beginning in 2001, the prime minister’s office created a “Delivery Unit” to track key outcome-related priorities, using about 30 Public Service Delivery Agreements to define the contributions of various agencies.  Maryland’s Delivery Unit is newer and just beginning to develop connections between goals, actions, and resources.

The Next Steps.  The trend is moving from performance measurement to performance management.  The fact-based governing approach is the next stage in an evolutionary model of performance management, starting with the standard required reporting from the 1980’s and 1990’s that were descriptive (recording and reporting on what happened and what’s the problem) and then moved to a model that was more analytic (resource planning, measuring performance and processes to determine what will happen if . . . ?) then to a predictive model (How can we achieve the best outcome? What will happen next?).

The challenge, though, according to New York University’s Dennis Smith is that “Every decision involves values and facts.” But he notes: “. . . my aspiration is for a society where public policy and management decisions use systematic thinking to clarify value issues and use empirical evidence to resolve factual disputes.” (Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2009).

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