The Manager's Musings

By Master, Warren | The Public Manager, September 2001 | Go to article overview

The Manager's Musings


Master, Warren, The Public Manager


The lost art of oversight

THIS ISSUE'S MUSINGS BEGAN PERCOLATING at the National Academy of Public Administration's (NAPA) third annual "performance" conference. All day I had been listening to speakers describe the difficulty at every level of government in determining whether an agency was achieving mission results. I reflected on my own firm's public management consulting clients: a state agency that lacked sufficient oversight of the 20 local mental health authorities and hundreds of nonprofit providers that comprise the statewide mental health system; a county that needed an assessment instrument and process to oversee its diverse, 52-nonprofit-organization network of community development and community service block grant programs; and a federal health agency whose recent five-year growth has stretched its oversight capabilities too thin for comfort.

The common theme in these examples and throughout the conference is that government organizations have difficulty in clarifying performance expectations and ascertaining how everyone measures up. The result, potentially, is a loss of confidence in government's ability to be accountable. We'll have more on this matter of program and management oversight beginning with the Fall issue.

Looking to the future inwardly

The Summer issue features two mini-forums that owe their genesis to recent conferences that focused largely on the public service workforce. Myra Shiplett has organized an exploration of government human capital issues--addressed at NAPA's spring conference on recruitment and retention. The emphasis is on the legislative, leadership, and structural issues that must be addressed if the federal sector is to attract and retain needed talent. Kicking off the mini-forum is an uplifting yet sobering article by Senator George V. Voinovich--a long-time public servant who has served as mayor, governor, and US senator--in which he shares his vision of a revitalized government culture.

Complementing this discussion is a mini-forum coordinated by Carol Hayashida that shares ideas and themes from this year's conference of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. …

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