In this episode of Policy on Purpose, guest hosted by LBJ Professor and the Washington Center’s Academic Director Don Kettl, former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley, former mayor of Indianapolis Stephen Goldsmith and Robert Shea of Grant Thornton talk about how data-driven decision making can change the way governments serve people. Recorded at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
- Donald KettlProfessor at the LBJ School and Academic Director of the LBJ Washington Center at the University of Texas at Austin
[0:00:00 Speaker 0] This’ll is Policy on Purpose, a podcast produced by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Way take you behind the scenes of policy with the people who help shape it. For more. Visit LBJ dot utexas. Study Teoh. Thanks
[0:00:21 Speaker 1] very much and welcome to this podcast here at the LBJ School Public Affairs. We have a great chance for an opportunity for discussion here today. The topic is transforming government, the power of data driven decision making. And we have three of the smartest people I could imagine to try to get together to talk about this. I think that’s true. One is the first is a former Baltimore mayor and former Maryland governor, Martin O. Malley, who, among other things, brought City Stat to the City of Baltimore and ST Stat to the state, as well as based at two, to improve the condition of the Chesapeake Bay. Along the way, he’s author now of Smarter Government, How to Govern for Results in the Information Age, a book that’s gonna be out in May 2019 with us as well. Steve Goldsmith, who is a professor of the practice of government and directed Innovations program at the Kennedy School. Former deputy mayor of New York City and also mayor of Indianapolis, where he championed public private partnerships. Competition. Privatisation strategies. He’s the author of A New City OS. The Power of Open, Collaborative and Distributive Governments, which my students are reading in two weeks. And so, if they have a chance to be a list, will get an inside scoop in all this. And Robert Shea, who had a distinguished career inside the Office of Management and Budget, now works for Grant Thornton and was a commissioner on a truly unusual and unique enterprise. The commission evidence based policy, which fairly recently came out with a report and which is distinguished by a truly bipartisan effort in Congress to try to advance the role of evidence and government. So I can’t imagine a better combination of people that we could possibly use to try to talk about this. And the question first of all, is that there’s all this talk about trying to transform government all this stuff about data but on the other hand, is a whole lot easier to talk about it, that it is to do it and especially to make data available in a form that actually moves policy And governor, if I could start with you, just ask, uh, what kind of experience and we kind of lessons you have given your work both in Baltimore, in the Bay State’s that is presidential candidate, even thinking about how we can try to not only put data in a form, we can use it, but in a way that people actually will use it and have some impact on policy.
[0:02:45 Speaker 2] Yeah, awesome question. And and the truth is, it’s already happening, made for all of the lack of trust we might have in our national efficacy on the ability to make our federal government work. Right now, the truth is, all across the country, trust is actually a ah higher level than it was 15 or 20 years ago in most cities and local governments. And I’d submit to a big part of the reason for that. Done is that that mayors, county executives who have never really had that advantage of knowing things months before the people figure things out, they deliver very visible services, and so they’ve embraced this this revolution and openness, transparency, performance management, the use of the data, the use of the map and and really giving the citizens of view of service, delivery and the life of their city in real time. That’s never happened before. And that’s happening now, Uh, the key s in all of this, of course, his leadership, I mean, that we’ve never had a better ability to know where things were happening. And now that we know we have now the opportunity really to collaborate in ways to get inside the turning radius of problems and deliver better results for people in very visible ways. So the truth is, it’s happening. But sometimes, like a new song, it’s it. It’s not as loud as as some of the noise we hear on television, but it is. It is happening
[0:04:17 Speaker 1] as hard to sing that song in a way to when people look at the question of trust at the federal level and conclude well, things a band, they’re getting worse. But your argument governor is that we’ve been able to try to use data and that local and state officials been we used it to try to dry performance, and people actually see that and notice it and respond to it.
[0:04:36 Speaker 2] Yeah, we were many years ago. We were the first city to use 311 for all calls for city service. And then we had the the platform, if you will. Steve Goldsman Mayor Goldsmith talks about you know, the common platforms for collaboration and the collaborative nature of governance. Well, once you cities all across America, almost every major city now has 311 And the subtle transformation that took place in the move to 311 is that local leaders no longer talk about constituents as much as they talk about customers. And it’s really the customer expectation and the institutionalizing of the openness and the transparency making it, making it the only acceptable way for governments to do business at the local level. To be able to give a customer a service number of time, expectation within which to expect the pot hole to be fixed or the graffiti to be addressed, or any number of other services. And that’s a that’s a big, big shift man. Ultimately, everybody wants to know that their government is responsive and recognizes their needs that they matter. And I think you see a lot of leaders across America doing that in cities and counties and hopefully more and more in states in the nation.
[0:05:48 Speaker 1] Mayor had both in Indianapolis, but also in some of the work that you’ve done since. You have spent a lot of time thinking about this idea of creating a new operating system for government. That’s really based on this notion of collaboration, and government is open driven by data, and that really picks up on what Governor O’Malley was talking about. But you’ve got some interesting insights on that. And what is it that you think really makes this the new operating system that’s likely to drive the way the government operates?
[0:06:16 Speaker 3] Well, it’s if you go back to when Mayor O Malley was doing City Stat, right? So he’s beginning to use data to measure the performance of city departments. But the people who worked in those departments didn’t have very good tools at the time right now, because it was Baltimore just because the age of digital tools had hadn’t really progressed. So now the question is what What evidence? What information do you drive to the field worker? How does he or she get that information. How is it put together? How did they make decisions? How do they exercise their discretion? So but what I was suggesting is that it’s the total revolution of mobile tools, right? So you’re using evidence to manage performance. But at the same time, from the bottom up, you’re giving those tools to the field workers to make decisions in real time as well. So it is the complete character of the change of the system. It requires somebody at the top to say, Look, performance matters. But then you have to deliver the tools to the people who are doing the actual work, and then they can exercise their discretion better. It’s very different than command and control, working in very narrow boxes and, you know, hierarchical systems. Now we have a system where we’re going to reward discretion and measure the application of discretion
[0:07:27 Speaker 1] and what you’re really talking about. Mayor Goldsmith is not just on the use of data and new kinds of ways, but trying to wire it is a brand new operating system. The way we think about government actually operates
[0:07:39 Speaker 3] well, so, you know, your first question of the governor was something about the use of data actually think that’s probably so so for your audience. I read everything you write, and I think it’s all great. And I think that was the wrong question. The right question. The right question is, How do you What problems can you now solve with data? Not How do you make data more interesting in and of itself? Because it’s not right to the court we’re looking at is how a mayor or governor of federal official can use the data to solve a problem, and I’m partially just jesting. But so if we focus on here’s a set of problems that let’s use that data to figure out how to solve those problems, then we can excite the folks in the public enterprises about how to use them. And I think that’s what the secret is right. So looking across the verticals, exercising discretion, informing the exercise that discretion measuring it and then at the top, holding people accountable for results.
[0:08:36 Speaker 1] And Robert Shea, you’ve had experience at the federal level tryingto trying to do this, arguably it at a far tougher level, where the distance between what happens at the top and the way in which the services come out, the bottom is much greater. And what do you make of a mere Goldsmiths argument that this data stuff at least the date and particulars often not very interesting to people? How do you make it interesting and useful?
[0:08:58 Speaker 4] Well, the data itself is not interesting, Um, and it’s great to be with three. Giants have been thinking about this for a long time. The genesis for the bill you mentioned the foundations for evidence based, policy making act came out of some best practices at the federal level, and those were agencies that thought really heard about what problems they wanted to solve and then went about collecting the data that helped them solve those problems. Answer those big questions. So we think there’s an opportunity toe. Unlock a lot of the data that’s littered across the federal government and give reached researchers better access to it. Easier access to it so that you can do the kinds of studies that answer these really important questions about what programs work. Invariably, when you look at programs at the federal level deeply, they generally aren’t working, so Mawr insights into what is working and how to fix those that aren’t, um we think it’s time well spent.
[0:09:59 Speaker 1] So the notion is that we know some stuff is not working very well. Some stuff is how do you tell The difference in your argument is that we can do a better job figure out which is which, based on the data.
[0:10:10 Speaker 4] Yeah, we got plenty of data, were already collecting plenty of data on anything that moves, but it’s underutilized, so better access. That data should unlock these mysteries.
[0:10:21 Speaker 1] And can you talk just for a second? Robert Shaye, about this idea about the commission that was created as a bipartisan congressional commission was created to try to figure how to do just that.
[0:10:30 Speaker 4] That’s exactly right. The Senator Patty Murray and, uh, Speaker Paul Ryan. We’re working on a poverty bill together, Um, but since that became so tough, of course they created a commission, the purpose of which was to come up with recommendations on how to strengthen the governance over evidence at the federal level so that we could at least have a fighting chance of making mawr decisions based on evidence.
[0:10:59 Speaker 2] Maki off something that done that. You just that Mary Goldsmith and Robert Shape, I just said, reminds me shortly after the attacks of 9 11 I remember meeting with gentlemen from S A and he said something in the course of our conversations. He said, You know, if we only knew what we already knew and I said and then did something about it, and that’s really what it comes down to. I’m in. Lincoln said the same thing in different language about 100 years ago when he said, You know, if we only knew whether we were headed and and how we were getting there, we’d have a better chance than arriving or something to that 10. But but look what Mary Goldsmith talked about this. This shift has really happened fast and in local and city governments, and it is the future. It is moving from the construct that we have in our heads of our leaders, sitting high atop a pyramid of command and control and sending orders down. And it’s instead much more of a collaborative circle on its side, in which the use of data the center emanates and pulsates out to the other circles. If you will, the individual departments solid waste, sanitation, housing or, you know, state they’re different names. But the key s, as Mayor Goldsmith indicated, is you have to get that. Ah, that that ubiquitous every day use of data. And ah, and the evidence to drive your deployment decisions, your tactics, your strategies and and collaboration across different departments, especially once you get to the state level, where it’s harder. All of the big challenges, the the more difficult challenges. Ey’re not a simple one. Off dispatch accrue. Fill a pot hole. It’s done reducing lead poisoning among Children in a big American city where for generations Children have been poisoned and substandard housing that requires collaboration with educators, with pediatricians, with sometimes schools. Sometimes we found that people are far more likely to open their doors when we sent firefighters accompanying the health workers because everybody opens their door for a firefighter. So that sort of collaboration is really what these new technologies enable. And it also allows us toe hold one another accountable in the endeavor at the same time that it gives citizens visibility and to have their governments actually working and whether or not it’s working any better this week than it was last week, we’d never had the ability to do that before.
[0:13:27 Speaker 1] And what you’re talking about governors, in a sense, creating a new kind of language for talking about what works and what doesn’t and how it does and how to do it better.
[0:13:35 Speaker 2] Yeah. And and And the visualizations, I mean, Robert was talking about the the data. I mean, we were awash in data. What we’re what we are still learning how to do is to visualize and make it understandable to everyone. Our theory, working theory, when I was when I served as governor was Look, I want the people of our state seeing the same dashboard that I see on. I want them to see it at the same time that I see it. I don’t wanna wait six months, scrub it on Lee, show them the pretty measures. If we’re not showing them where we’re missing goals than the goals that we’re hitting, have no credibility.
[0:14:08 Speaker 1] And Robert, see if I could ask you to pick up on that cause one of things that what the governor just said struck me as fascinating is the idea of seeing data we don’t usually think of data is something to see. We think of something to count, but often not something to see.
[0:14:21 Speaker 4] Yeah, you were. We were talking earlier about the need to do a better job telling stories and using the data to tell stories that can drive. Decision making is really important. You really want to be ableto capture? You talked about the shortcomings, governor. Anomalies in the data that where you need to focus your management energy
[0:14:43 Speaker 2] and the map cannot do that. I mean, a map is a great integrator, and we’ve all grown up with maps. But only lately do we have maps that can, because of the Internet, of things reflect real time. The shifting dynamic across the place was we call home
[0:14:58 Speaker 1] and marigolds with. You’ve been spending a lot of time looking at innovation, especially in cities, but across government by government officials have succeeded in doing that. You did that in your own work in Indianapolis, but you’ve been also looking at the way in which people across the country have tried to do that,
[0:15:14 Speaker 3] right? So, you know, challenging the assumptions with the data will lead you to disruptive innovations as well. So maybe just to weave a few of the answers that we’ve just heard. So let’s go back to the lead example for a second, right? So that one of the issues with government is that often operates by routines, right? So just the same thing and which is in one way, that’s comforting, because the government will operate predictably. But that’s predictably often slowly, because you can’t redirect a resource is so think about lead for a second say, a city like Baltimore. Indianapolis, particularly New York, has led issues that needs to address and not enough people to address them. So so the data could inform you about where the riskiest neighborhoods are, where the riskiest dwellings are, where the riskiest kids, where the kids who most risk lived and eso then you use the idea to identify the outliers, right? So now that we think about innovation, we’re not thinking about just measuring the re speeder response. We’re thinking about measuring preemptive responses, right predictive responses, solving problems before they occur, taking the data and aiming it in the right place and any aiming the worker in the right place is it. It’s a totally different way to use data It’s a totally different way to operate a city or state, and it will be the future
[0:16:32 Speaker 2] I once saw done of Stolen a. A slide from a guy named Sean Malinowski, who is a deputy commissioner of operations for the LAPD. And, yes, his mother was Irish. And I had. Sean has a slide, that he talks about the change that transforming of their own city police department. And he almost has, like, these little picture, if you will, the kind of volume levers that you’d have on a mixing board for a band where it south by Southwest. So and, he says, we’ve moved from being a, uh, an organization where decisions were made based on hunch or routine to making them based on evidence slide the little volume knob across we’ve moved from the ability are from simply responding to calls for service to deploying to a system of alerts again based on the evidence we have moved from the ability to make nice looking maps to the ability to do predictive analytics. But that describes not only what’s happening in the police department. That’s really the change that’s happening across the board and government.
[0:17:40 Speaker 1] Let me ask question to each of you, because the one thing that all of you have in common is a lot of experience, and we would have total up the amount of real world practical on the job experience. It would go into the decades and decades, and all of you have had the experience of watching other people try to pick up the ball and carry it. One thing that strikes me about what you say is first how important leadership is in this. But secondly, how important the role of leaders to be able lead using data is. But then the risk is third that when a leader leaves, how is it possible to be able to make sure that the driving forces of technology can continue to try to advance it? That how much? How, how can a leader make sure that if this is such a good idea, it doesn’t go away when the leader does? And Mayor Goldsmith
[0:18:30 Speaker 3] Well, you will you answer the last question if you can’t. So let’s let’s think about that. That’s
[0:18:36 Speaker 1] that’s sort of a scary thought
[0:18:37 Speaker 3] of you think? Well, I mean, I think that if if you have a effective governor like Governor O’Malley. Then you begin to change the culture of the enterprise, right? It’s use of data becomes more routine. Ah, and the way government operates will become better. However, there there is no such thing. Is replacing a visionary leader with a baht. Right? Somebody has to lead. Somebody has to set the vision. Somebody has to hold people accountable. Now, I think, though over time you change the culture of the bureaucracy so that it operates better. The standard starts higher. So is a combination of the two, I think.
[0:19:19 Speaker 2] Governor. Yeah, the the I think the driving force is not the technology done. I think the driving force is our ability to care for one another and to care about one another. And the technology gives us the ability to, you know, toe have our our actions actually rise to the level of off of our caring. In other words, you know what? What I’ve but I have found in my own experience, is that there is a bit of a muscle memory that starts to take over in even when leaders change. I mean leaderships important. It is three great variable, but but I don’t think we should confine the impact of leadership simply to the elected person that’s at the center of the organization. Whether it’s mayor, governor, there are leaders in every single department and their caring people in every single agency. And if they are empowered with the data and the systems that outlasted administration, then they’ll continue to do good things. Even if you might have a leader that you know takes down the open data portal or turns around the dashboards, there is still that muscle memory, and there is still that leadership ethic that’s been activated. And it is, Mary Goldsmith said them in government by routine. Once people get routine about not allowing kids to slip through the cracks, for example, in the social services system, it’s hard Teoh. Somebody has to consciously switch those that to an off position once you get it going and wants. Everybody knows.
[0:20:57 Speaker 1] And Robert said, Let me let me ask you about that. If I could, because you’ve you’ve seen people come in and if not, maybe hit the off switch, you’ve at least seen people try to switch it to my switch that when somebody leaves, given your experience at the federal level. Presidents management agendas have been put into place. Performance metrics have been put into place. A new administration comes in and says, Well, that may work for the last administration. But we’ve got an even better idea, which is different from the old idea.
[0:21:24 Speaker 4] Democracy is kind of a bummer and that you have to replace leadership on a periodic basis. Um, I mean, the reason why Mary Goldsmith and Governor O malley er icons in the management community is because they are rare in that they invest the time energy, political capital in making lasting improvements to the government’s operation. Um, and so it isn’t. It is a mystery. Um, what makes these guys tick and, more importantly, how to make it stick in when they leave? Um, you’re right there, leaders in every ah component of government. Um, but leaders like you all are rare, and we do everything we can to create a, uh, governing structure that allows thes principles to continue. But both you said that there’s no replacing good leadership. I don’t mean to embarrass you.
[0:22:24 Speaker 1] Just a follow up on that, too, if I might, because there’s Robert. You’ve seen presidential transitions to. On top of that on this is a horribly unfair question. But what would come advice would you have in trying to ease those transitions between Democrats, Republicans, Republicans and Democrats to make sure that what seems to be the right and the obvious good thing to do doesn’t get just pushed aside? Because it was the last administration’s bright idea. This is
[0:22:50 Speaker 4] an area where the federal government has invested a lot. The institutions of campaigns and government are, um, meeting well in advance of elections to plan for better transitions, and that includes highlighting management improvement initiatives that work. I say this in the shadow of the last presidential transition, which I don’t think it sets a precedent for future transitions. I do think it’s an area that’s really improved,
[0:23:22 Speaker 1] discreet, discreet point Mayor Goldsmith says.
[0:23:26 Speaker 2] The British ever the British ever saying it. It’s important that governments learned to rebrand and not disband.
[0:23:32 Speaker 1] But the question of politics has inevitably surfaced here, and I want to make an observation and ask a question as we get ready to wrap up here today. The observation is that it may not be obvious to the people listen to this conversation, but we have both Democrats and Republicans sitting at this table, and I don’t think you’d be able to tell easily which were which. That there really is this notion that there is a a way of making government work better that is based on data. And that, I think, is a really interesting observation about the importance of transforming government through data driven decision making. But the question is this. We have a president now in Donald Trump whose capitalized on this fake news idea who has and he’s not just doing it because it it’s a catchy phrase, which it is. But he’s tapped into a profound distrust that a lot of people have about what people say and what people do. And it’s unclear how much more mileage there is in the phrase. But there’s something riel in this idea that you know, we don’t really trust these numbers very much way have the sense that people just gonna make up the numbers that fit whatever it is that they want to say that people going to be told whatever it is, and if I’m a citizen or doesn’t trust government much to begin with that maybe there’s something underlying this year. And Robert, if I could ask you to try toe trying to respond to that, you suggested maybe this wasn’t gonna be for the ages, but there’s something really also that’s going on under the surface here.
[0:25:05 Speaker 4] There there is. Um I don’t I don’t know. I I’m more of an optimist. I’m too much of an optimist to think that this will this damage will last and that we won’t recover. Um, and one of the one of the things that we should all have faith in is the statisticians that are working hard every day to collect and report data. Um, that is that is used in every conceivable ah community in which the government is working. So that’s just one. That’s one glimmer. But there were many others, I think, and I do think smarter people than I are working too improve the way we the way we distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction.
[0:25:55 Speaker 1] Mayor Goldsmith.
[0:25:56 Speaker 3] Well, I’m gonna stay away from your national question answered at the local levels. It really quickly. So one Governor Malley’s beginning said that trust in local government is actually higher, which is true. We shouldn’t lose sight of that fact, right? So So if we think about this issue way, don’t have a lot of local news anymore. This from trusted sources, either because because of the fragmentation of news. So think about I could think about the answer, your question of falling way. People want a government that works for them, and they know whether the local government is working for them because they can see it and feel it to that. The transparency movement that the governor mentioned is terribly important if that information is out there in real time. Three that I think that people do react to the narrative of maps, right. If they see things, it creates a shared narrative, right, so you. So we need to work harder at that shared narrative and that civic infrastructure. But I think trust can come from that, and local government still has that trust reputation.
[0:26:54 Speaker 2] Governor. Yeah, look, I, um, I will only allowed this that I think there’s a role also for academia to play here in a very civic and engaged way with local government. If that’s where the trust is, is highest. I do believe that people that all of us as citizens have a great attached, some value to the brand of whether it’s the LBJ School or the Kennedy School. And so I’ve been working on with a non profit called the Metro Lab Network, which is 40 leading cities in their university partners. And I think that’s a that’s a part of what is going to take for us to really foster, germinate and make growth that that trust that’s starting to come back and local places. Helena Rose, about what you know many years ago with the U. N. Declaration of Human Rights, said It’s important for US task. What does this document mean in the small places close to home? And that’s where we need to get with the data and the technology when it comes to not only the efficacy of our local government and and, um, but also of our state and of our federal. What does it mean? Can you show me my house? Can you show me where these policies are making a difference in my community for my kids, you know, they used to say that what wasn’t Missouri was the show me State were now the entire you know, the United States of Show me people expect and the man that their government will actually be able to show them what they’re doing and whether it’s not. It’s working any better for all of us than it was last week. And the quicker we get there, the better for our kids.
[0:28:30 Speaker 1] Well, I couldn’t agree more with that, but also with your challenge to the academic unity governor. Because it’s one of the things that for those of us who have even there, worked in or worked with the academic world. One of the biggest challenges of all is trying to find a way to pick this ball up and run with it on essentially our side of the street to try to support this kind of
[0:28:49 Speaker 2] work. And your idea of a good research project is one that takes 20 years and is federally funded.
[0:28:54 Speaker 1] They’re not mine. But it has been said that that’s the
[0:28:57 Speaker 2] factors mayors want a project that’s done in two weeks that they can deploy
[0:29:00 Speaker 1] exact and one of the things that’s actually exciting piece here that we’re doing at the LBJ School is a is the project, both with the Volcker alliance and with groups of local officials here in the state of Texas, where we are sort of, it’s a wild conversation. We’ve gone to people and ask them, what kind of research do you need? And their first reaction was, Okay, what kind of data they asking for and how do they want us to do that work for them? I said, No, no, no. You don’t understand what kind of problems to unit this problem that we and our students can help you solve. And that’s one of the things that we here at the LBJ School or working on. And I know great that it’s the kind of work and a partnership that Governor O’Malley that you you bought with the work that you’ve done across the country, that Steve Goldsmith is championing with his work at the as a director, the innovations program and that Robert Shea is doing in so many other projects around the country as well. With the work, the Judo Grand Thornton, thanks to all of you today who have been listening in to this policy on purpose podcast were especially grateful to our three guests here today. Governor Martin O. Malley, the author of the new book Smarter Government. How to Govern for Results in the Information Age. Stephen Goldsmith, who is the author of A New City OS. The Power of Open, Collaborative and Distributive Governance, and Robert Shea, who’s been a champion for evidence based policy through his work as a commissioner in the commission for Evidence based policy. When I think in particular Grand Thorne, who has been a wonderful collaborator in this project, and we really appreciate their help in organizing this session here today, I’m Don Kettl on professor of public affairs at the LBJ School. And thanks very much to all of you for joining us today.
[0:30:39 Speaker 4] Thanks for having us.
[0:30:40 Speaker 0] Thanks, Thistles. Policy on Purpose, a podcast produced by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin Way take you behind the scenes of policy with the people who help shape it. To learn more, visit LBJ dot utexas dot eu and follow us on Twitter or Facebook at the LBJ School. Thank you for