December 12, 2011

Moneyball Government

FEATHER O'CONNOR Houstoun, a Governing contributor, has posted an interesting piece called "Moneyball Government."

Here's what she has to say.

"My copy of 'Moneyball' is annotated in the early chapters, when Beane first challenges the staff of scouts charged with picking draft choices for the A's. For any public manager who's taken on the task of turning around a major institution, the similarities are startlingly familiar. Consider these excerpts:

-"In professional baseball it matters less how much money you have than how well you spend it." In the public sector, while the most attention is often on the increment of increase or reduction of funding, the quality of programming of the base budget is usually what determines success or failure.

-"You don't change guys, they are who they are and [the infield coach] had a gift for making players want to be better than they were." These two phrases, seemingly in contradiction to each other, in fact capture the essence of good leadership. A strong leader first matches the task at hand with the right talent and then motivates improvement to achieve success.

-"Are we asking the right question?" In what perhaps is the most important lesson from 'Moneyball,' Lewis recounts repeatedly how time-honored measurements of player value missed the mark. When the A's lost a key player, Beane scoured the data to identify the unique quality, among many, that the departing player contributed to the team's success, and then drafted an improbable successor at low cost - because he understood "what are we looking for."

These are the central questions in public management. What are we really trying to accomplish, and how will we know how we're doing?

Go see the movie and read Houstoun's column.

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