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Management Classes from a Republican Governor in a Blue State

CURT NICKISCH: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Enterprise Evaluation. I’m Curt Nickisch.

When a politician is operating for public workplace, it’s widespread to listen to them tout their expertise within the non-public sector, particularly in the event that they’ve been a company govt. Being a mayor of a metropolis or a governor of a province, they are saying, is principally being the CEO of a workforce with X variety of workers and in control of a funds of Y variety of {dollars}.

The message is that authorities ought to run extra like a enterprise, or no less than on the pace of enterprise, that public sector lifers ought to have the identical effectiveness of a personal sector worker. However as we speak’s friends say that argument is grossly simplified and exaggerated, that, in some ways, public sector management is severely harder than being the CEO of an organization, and, on the identical time, turning round an organization can function a fantastic apply run for fixing issues in authorities. They are saying that as a result of they’ve accomplished each.

Becoming a member of me now’s Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, alongside together with his First Chief of Workers Steve Kadish, who’s now a senior analysis fellow at Harvard Kennedy College. Collectively, they wrote a playbook for governmental leaders and public sector executives. It’s referred to as Outcomes: Getting Past Politics to Get Essential Work Performed.

CURT NICKISCH: Governor Baker, thanks a lot for approaching the present.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Thanks, Curt. We’re glad to be right here.

CURT NICKISCH: And Steve, thanks.

STEVE KADISH: An actual pleasure. Thanks, Curt.

CURT NICKISCH: You two have labored collectively for a few years. Earlier than you had been governor, Governor Baker, you had been the CEO of a medical insurer Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare. And Steve was in your crew, a Senior Vice President for Administration and Mission Administration.

So going forwards and backwards between public service and personal sector work, what’s the largest false impression that individuals within the non-public sector have about public sector management, being a authorities govt?

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: I believe a part of it has to do with the extremely public nature of it. Having accomplished each, so initially, it’s simply each determination you make within the public sector for probably the most half will get scrutinized. And there are tons and tons of events. There are advocates, there are analysis organizations, there are media retailers, there are legislators. There are only a lot of eyes on every part you do in authorities, excess of there are if you’re working within the non-public sector. So that will be level primary.

I believe the second could be that, in authorities, we actually by no means cease debating technique or path and even techniques or organizational construction, whereas within the non-public sector, organizations determine the place they need to go, they determine what the construction they need to truly proceed and carry out on their targets and goals is, after which they go. And in the event you don’t need to be a part of that group at that time limit, you’ll be able to depart. In authorities, for probably the most half, it’s a relentless debate and dialogue amongst plenty of factors of view about what we needs to be specializing in and the way we needs to be doing issues. And that’s actually completely different than the best way issues work within the non-public sector.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah, that’s so attention-grabbing, as a result of we take into consideration how arduous being a CEO is and the way they’re within the highlight. And it looks like that’s nothing compared to being a governmental chief. Steve, what do you must add to that?

STEVE KADISH: I’m going to observe on the governor’s level about selecting. In authorities, you can not select the problems or the subjects you need to work on. You may to some extent, and that’s truly a really highly effective alternative when you are able to do that. However you must tackle the issues which can be coming at you, and you must tackle a broad spectrum of issues, the place within the non-public sector, you’ll be able to select the product, the viewers, the timing, the extent of high quality, and so forth.

The opposite actually distinguishing characteristic is that call making is dispersed. For instance, the funds that you’ve got for an initiative, for a program on the finish of the day is outlined by the legislature. Within the case of Massachusetts, a physique of 200 people that vote to resolve what the scale of that funds could be. We, on the very starting of the governor’s administration, we had some horrible snowstorms and we had been searching for find out how to most successfully procure to buy a complete number of issues in our transportation system. We wanted to have a regulation handed to vary the procurement system.

Most just lately, with COVID, the governor launched an effort round stopping housing evictions, and on the finish of the day, the interpretation of discover and eviction, we wanted the courts to weigh in a approach that gave us extra time to proceed.

CURT NICKISCH: It’s quite a bit more durable than simply going to the board for a key, expenditure, or technique change.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: You’re additionally centered within the non-public sector in your stakeholders, your prospects, your workers, and the context of the market you’re in. And that creates urgency and focus. Don’t get me incorrect. The most important distinction between the general public sector and the non-public sector is, within the non-public sector, in the event you’re not superb at what you do, you’ll lose your prospects and finally, most definitely, lose your group. And there’s a sense of urgency there that’s simply plain. However within the public sector, the viewers and the events and the oldsters who’ve, as Steve put it, actual determination making authority with respect to what you do and the way you do it, it truly is a really massive neighborhood. And that massive neighborhood, more often than not, doesn’t at all times agree with itself both.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. That time you made within the guide and that you simply’ve simply pointed to there, no competitor steps in in the event you fail and exit of enterprise in authorities. Failure, you wrote, is just not an possibility.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Within the public area, plenty of what you’re as much as and plenty of what you’re employed on are issues that have to be accomplished. The talk about find out how to do them, what’s thought of to achieve success, what’s thought of not to achieve success, that occurs day by day. However you’ll be able to’t cease doing them. They’re statutory. They’re required. They’re basic.

CURT NICKISCH: So I’d prefer to undergo the outcomes framework that you simply each use when you concentrate on fixing massive issues and that you simply define actually, actually clearly and successfully within the guide. The 4 components of this are individuals are coverage, observe the details, deal with how, and push for outcomes. And I’d prefer to undergo every of these and possibly begin with individuals are coverage.

Governor, Steve could also be a great instance of this, as a result of he was any individual that you simply selected as your First Chief of Workers if you had been first elected in 2014, and plenty of incoming governors or new governors select their marketing campaign supervisor for that position, as a result of they’ve run a marketing campaign, they’ve run an operation, they usually’re very tuned in politically. You selected any individual that you simply labored in administratively and within the non-public sector as nicely for a few years. Are you able to speak about that possibly to assist launch this individuals are coverage focus right here?

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Effectively, it’s true that most individuals, once they get elected, select their marketing campaign supervisor or any individual who’s near the marketing campaign, as a result of they give thought to that job as an points administration job. However from my viewpoint, state authorities’s an enormous operation. It’s govt branches, 44,000 workers, 250 businesses, $40 billion working funds. There’s only a lot to do there. And I actually needed the one who was within the workplace subsequent to me to be regarded as the chief working officer of the Commonwealth, not because the chief points administration particular person of the Commonwealth.

STEVE KADISH: It goes again to an earlier a part of the dialog. I believe one of many classes from the non-public sector that we preserve bringing again to the general public sector is this concept of a chief working officer. Within the non-public sector, it’s an indeniable position. It’s a key position within the C-suite.

Within the public sector, you’ve your normal counsel, your coverage leads, your funds leads, your program leads, however you don’t at all times have an individual who has the obligations of a chief working officer. And that is among the issues that we needed to convey from the non-public sector, that self-discipline of how. And I do know you’ll get there in a second within the framework.

We at all times begin with folks, folks our coverage, it’s a phrase the governor truly first began utilizing approach again at Harvard Pilgrim. For us within the framework, it’s the structural umbrella for every part else. Merely mentioned, you can not do issues with out folks. Now we have a hyper deal with folks initially of any initiative, each the leaders and the complete crew.

COVID was a primary instance of that. One of many first actions that the governor took was to call a lead of a devoted crew, the COVID Command Heart, after which insist that that particular person, Secretary Sudders, Marylou Sudders fill out that crew actually robustly. That concept of a lead and filling out a crew is a primary to the outcomes framework.

CURT NICKISCH: You wrote within the guide that one of the best concepts are abstractions till folks act. Governor, you mentioned that you simply had been searching for no jerks, however you weren’t afraid of sturdy personalities and also you’re searching for 50% gamers. Are you able to speak about what you’re searching for in folks?

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Effectively, crucial factor in regards to the folks piece is tied up in collaborative spirit. I’m an enormous believer that if finance does very well, however advertising and gross sales and the remainder of the group doesn’t, you gained’t be very profitable for very lengthy. And the identical is true in authorities. All people wants to know that we’re all in the identical ship and the ship will sink if all of us don’t succeed.

There’s this tendency, particularly within the public sector for folks to consider their very own world and to overlook about the remaining. And focus is sweet. However one in all my dad’s favourite sayings after I was a child was, “You should perceive, son, that individuals often get fired by their friends and their subordinates lengthy earlier than they get fired by their bosses.” I at all times thought that was a fairly attention-grabbing phrase to like dwell by, when it got here to serious about organizational construction.

The one different factor I might say, so as to add to Steve’s feedback about discovering the appropriate folks, it’s additionally about constructing the appropriate crew. If any individual’s actually good at one facet of labor, let’s say any individual’s a very terrific communicator, however they’re not all that organizationally nice. Then you definately discover any individual to work with them who’s organizationally nice. If any individual’s not a fantastic communicator, however they’re actually terrific at serious about all of the observe by way of and execution points, then that particular person wants any individual to assist them promote what it’s they’re doing.

I believe one of many issues we are likely to do typically in administration is we predict everyone’s a 5 device participant. And a few individuals are, however in lots of instances, what you really want to do is create the 5 instruments amongst those that are a part of the crew, and to then assist them intensify the a part of the bundle that they’re most ably able to performing.

CURT NICKISCH: So let’s transfer on to the following level within the framework, which is observe the details. Discuss us by way of going right into a scenario the place there’s an enormous downside, whether or not it’s a snowstorm that’s knocked out transportation, or abruptly there’s a pandemic on the horizon, or perhaps a small factor in a neighborhood, if you first encounter an issue, clarify the observe the details mentality.

STEVE KADISH: The thought of observe the details hopefully is pure to people who find themselves managers and leaders. It’s to essentially perceive what’s occurring. There are two components for us. One is the information proof is what we name it. And that’s in all probability the extra apparent of the sorts of details that we have a look at. It’s the scale of the issue, the cash concerned, the folks, the traits, the context, if there’s a triggering occasion and so forth.

The piece that we’ve added and we added deliberately and intentionally initially of the Baker-Polito administration was actually an intention about factors of ache. This got here from our expertise at Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare. And the thought was to essentially focus not on the numbers and the coverage, however the impression on the people, the communities, the households, the companies.

And it’s a gathering of tales by way of interviews, by way of anecdote, nevertheless it’s to outline the issue in actual phrases. And collectively, the information proof and the factors of ache present these factors of navigation for the issue fixing. Charlie, the governor does this when he wakes up. It was one of many first issues that struck me about him after I met him 30 years in the past, is his depth about asking for the main points of issues. That’s the information proof piece.

STEVE KADISH: And through the years, we actually grew to know that. That’s a vital piece of it, however what’s the on the bottom impression with folks? So it doesn’t matter what the problem is, it’s actually these two items.

CURT NICKISCH: I beloved how on this part of the guide, you talked about distrusting averages, we’re actually making an attempt to take a look at extremes and particular person experiences to get a way of it. Whenever you encounter an issue, otherwise you go right into a room the place essential individuals are gathered, how do you get to the details? What are you making an attempt to get to?

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Effectively, let me simply begin with this averages factor, as a result of it’s a fantastic masks that hides plenty of issues, and other people use it on a regular basis, averages and medians. Let’s take caseloads for social staff. If the typical caseload for social staff is meant to be, name it, 18 instances per social employee, you’re assuming if you construct that common, that the entire thing is a totally regular distribution. Effectively, what occurs if in case you have a complete ton of social staff who’re new, who’ve 5 or 6 instances, and are working their approach into the system, and on the opposite finish, you’ve a complete bunch of social staff who’re carrying 21, 24, 25, 26 instances? Each of these details are utterly masked by a mean. And that is precisely what we discovered after we acquired there.

And so one of many issues we did was we began engaged on the entire particular person social staff who had instances that had been above 20, and mentioned, “We’re going to focus right here first, as a result of that is the place the one largest alternative for hassle goes to return from.” After which, inside that, as we labored our approach down that, we additionally found out and found that you simply wanted some type of a severity index to measure as nicely. What number of of these instances contain youngsters who had severe circumstances, and points, and challenges, and what number of of them had been much less so? What number of of them had been comparatively new? What number of of them had been with the system for just a few years? I imply, there’s … Averages serve a function, however you actually acquired to get underneath them, in some instances, to determine what’s actually occurring, and what the reply or the method to coping with the issue you’re making an attempt to resolve goes to appear to be.

CURT NICKISCH: You, too, additionally write about getting out of the tower, which sounds just a little bit like management by strolling round, however on a way more severe foundation.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: The broadband challenge is an effective instance of getting out of the tower. We had this horrible downside with broadband in Western Mass, 55 communities that didn’t have it. And the hassle on this had been occurring for nearly 10 years. It was simply stalled. And after we began speaking to the communities, we realized that a part of the rationale it was stalled was we had been making an attempt to … The state was making an attempt to principally promote a single answer to 55 completely different sorts of communities. And it simply … You couldn’t make it work. So what we did was put collectively a menu that had … It was like six or seven completely different selections. You needed to decide one, however we gave folks choices, and we constructed the optionality round what we discovered after we talked to the 55 communities about what their points and considerations had been with respect to getting from the place we had been to truly having broadband put in.

And as soon as we created the menu, folks simply began choosing stuff off the menu. After which, we went into execution mode. But when we hadn’t talked to the communities, and actually listened to what they had been saying, we might’ve simply continued to purchase this argument that we had been getting from folks, which was folks simply … They simply don’t need to play. No, all of them needed to play. They simply couldn’t play on the one possibility that was being made accessible to them.

CURT NICKISCH: When you’ve gotten to the nub of the problem, then, Steve, are you able to speak in regards to the deal with how?

STEVE KADISH: So the deal with how is the component of the outcomes framework that I believe is most distinctive. And there are two components to this, the, “What to do.” We give it some thought because the constitution, so to talk. It’s, “What’s the coverage? What’s the program? What’s the expertise change? What’s the service element you’re making an attempt to ship?” After which, the second piece is that, “Effectively, how do you do it?” And that’s the method to organizing the work, to truly ship the service, to ship the change, to perform the aim.

CURT NICKISCH: Is that this the place most, I don’t know, governmental initiatives typically fail? Is that this the largest stumbling block?

STEVE KADISH: It’s in all probability the place, I might say, each private and non-private sector initiatives fail. Though within the public sector, it’s entrance web page information when a funds is handed. It’s entrance web page information when a regulation is handed. There hasn’t been sufficient consideration on the how. And we needed to convey the deal with find out how to the identical stage of significance as coverage and budgeting is within the public sector.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: I imply, I might say that Steve’s final level about how, is precisely proper. As a result of in the long run how the efficiency of presidency truly interprets in actual time to folks tells folks much more about what to consider authorities than nearly anything. And there’s a quote within the guide. I believe it’s within the epilogue, that factors out that there have been research accomplished that present that liberals and conservatives, once they truly draw conclusions in regards to the functionality of presidency, have a tendency not to take a look at it by way of ideological lenses. They have a look at it by way of non ideological lenses, and sensible ones, primarily based on what they really see.

And if authorities’s in a spot the place we’ve hovering rhetoric, and excessive guarantees, and commitments, and aspirations, and we consistently fail to dwell as much as any of that, it simply erodes folks’s religion in something folks in authorities say. There isn’t quite a bit within the literature about this piece of public sector work. There’s quite a bit on the literature about coverage making, and what we name the what and why. However there simply isn’t very a lot about, “Effectively, how do you truly do the what and why,” so that individuals really feel such as you truly gave them what you mentioned you had been going to provide them, thereby serving to restore their religion in authorities’s means to truly dwell as much as its commitments? And that’s actually, from my viewpoint, the primary cause we did this.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah, I noticed we’ve gotten this far within the interview with out even saying your political events. Gov. Baker you’re a Republican, Steve, you’re a Democrat. And the fourth level in your framework is, “Push for outcomes,” proper? Can you’re taking us by way of that final level within the framework, “Push for outcomes?”

STEVE KADISH: It’s the push for outcomes, the place we use metrics to measure efficiency, and the chance to make use of metrics. They’re sincere. They’re goal. They’re not political. And it permits discussions to occur, the place you’ll be able to convey perspective, however they’re what they’re. And so they get higher. They worsen. They keep the identical. You may see the impression of what you’re making an attempt to do by way of the measure of efficiency, the push for outcomes. And so, we measure push for outcomes. We then consider, and talk about what these metrics are. After which, I believe a really, very massive factor, which is admittedly arduous to do within the public sector is that we make changes. In different phrases, we’d say, “What we tried to do didn’t work, and now we’re going to make an adjustment,” or, “What we tried to do labored very well, and we need to speed up that.” So this mantra, and the push for outcomes of measure, consider, regulate, and repeat is how we frequently construct enchancment to providers.

And with COVID and the vaccines, The Boston Globe did a report card on Massachusetts and some different states. At the start of this report card, I believe Massachusetts had a D or one thing like that on vaccine supply. After this method, this frequently measuring, discussing, regulate, regulate, regulate, that Massachusetts grew to become, in a comparatively quick time, a pacesetter in getting vaccines into folks’s arms.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Steve mentioned we had been a pacesetter. We grew to become the chief, and we’ve been the chief nationally in vaccinating our inhabitants for nearly a yr now. Not that I take note of that type of factor.

I’m going to return to Harvard Pilgrim. When Steve and I went to Harvard Pilgrim, they’d a challenge administration operation the place principally once they didn’t meet deadlines, they only moved them. And so, no challenge was ever yellow or pink. They had been all inexperienced, however nothing was getting completed. We wanted that rigor and that self-discipline and that honesty about initiatives to truly repair what was incorrect on the firm.

I nonetheless keep in mind the primary time Steve offered on the weekly management assembly, his first replace on the place we had been on initiatives and your entire factor was pink, and other people had been horrified. Steve mentioned, “No, that is good. We’re being sincere about the place we’re on this stuff in order that we will determine what’s incorrect and repair it.”

Actually, gentle bulbs went off throughout folks’s heads as they acquired the idea that in the event you don’t settle for and acknowledge, that you simply set a deadline and also you blew it, that doesn’t imply you progress the deadline. Meaning you’ve acquired an issue and it is advisable to repair it.

This can be a nice instance, by the best way, of the place the distinction between the private and non-private sector is simply laid naked, as a result of within the non-public sector, you’ll be able to have a dashboard that’s utterly pink, and it’s a sign to everyone that they should change and they should get higher and they should determine it out and make it occur and occur shortly. There aren’t 10 tales on the information, on social media, within the newspapers about the truth that the dashboard is pink and everyone is underperforming.

Whereas within the public sector, when you’ve a complete bunch of issues that aren’t going the best way they’re presupposed to go, it’s commonplace to must justify and clarify the place you’re and why you’re there time and again within the public area.

Then you definately make the changes and you work it out and also you repair it. Nobody ever writes the story about that. So all the general public ever is aware of about or remembers is the truth that you blew it if you took your first go on no matter it was that ended up on the information.

Within the non-public sector that, more often than not, doesn’t occur. I do assume it’s arduous typically, until you performed in each locations, to understand simply how a lot transparency there’s into the workings of presidency versus the workings of a corporation.

It’s wholesome, it’s essential, and it’s the general public purse. So I get it, nevertheless it does make it more durable, I believe, typically for the general public sector and the individuals who work in it to have fun their successes, of which there are lots of. That’s, once more, a part of the rationale we wrote the guide was to say that there are successes. There are issues that do work. There are undoubtedly challenges, and I’m consistently humbled day by day by this job.

However I believe what we actually need popping out of this can be a complete bunch of people that care in regards to the public sphere to imagine that this toolbox can assist them ship for the folks they serve.

CURT NICKISCH: Governor Baker, Steve, thanks a lot for sharing your expertise for different folks to be taught from.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Thanks, Curt. Actually recognize it.

STEVE KADISH: Thanks, Curt.

CURT NICKISCH: That’s Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, and Steve Kadish, a senior analysis fellow at Harvard Kennedy College. Collectively, they wrote the guide Outcomes: Getting Past Politics to Get Essential Work Performed.

If you happen to acquired one thing from as we speak’s episode, we’ve extra podcasts that will help you handle your self, handle others, and handle organizations. Discover them at or search HBR in Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you hear.

This episode was produced by Mary Dooe. We get technical assist from Rob Eckhardt. Our audio product supervisor is Ian Fox and Hannah Bates is our audio manufacturing assistant. Thanks for listening to the HBR IdeaCast. We’ll be again with a brand new episode on Tuesday. I’m Curt Nickisch.



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