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Can Moneyball Analytics work for Government? Plus Your Weekend Reads

Welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek… where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

This Week on the DorobekINSIDER:

  • Get Past the Partisan Talk— How Career Feds Should Be Prepping for Transition: Did you tune-in to this week’s debate? Record numbers of you took to twitter. But career feds were still left in the dark for specifics on what a second-term Obama administration or a Romney-Ryan ticket would actually look like. So how do the career folks prep? We talked to the man behind the Memos to National Leaders project.
  • Trending Now: The Public Sector Focuses on Customer Service: Daryl Covey, an experienced service manager with over thirty-eight years of public sector service, brought together federal customer service managers from all lines of business. The group collaboratively generated a collection of customer service “best practices” for government employees. Covey told us what really sets government customer service apart.
  • Can tech really help you engage? Insights from the Knight Foundation: Two years ago the Knight Foundation launched their Tech for Engagement Initiative. The idea was simple, they wanted to answer the question, can technology accelerate the capacity of citizens within a community to engage in their civic life in an easier and more effective way? We got the surprising answers.
  • Make Your Application Stand Out: Old Dominion University’s Procurement Certification Program: If “government procurement” at first glance doesn’t strike you as the most alluring field, maybe you should take a second look. In procurement, you essentially are paid to spend large amounts of other people’s money, not a bad deal, huh? This field requires both technical expertise and the savvy to make important financial decisions. We talked to an professor who has developed a certification program of his own.

But our issue of the week: looks at how analytics are actually impacting agencies.

Have you seen the movie Moneyball? If you haven’t seen the baseball flick, it stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane the Oakland Athletic’s General Manager. The story follows Beane and his associate as they crunch statistics in hopes of finding underutilized players and expose potential.

It’s a fascinating story. But now the government is grappling with a moneyball situation of their own. Can the troves of data the government collects actually be analyzed to help make better, smarter, faster decisions?

Maybe so. The Partnership for Public Service and IBM have teamed up for their report: Data to Decisions II.

Greg Greben is a Vice President and Practice Leader for Business Analytics and Optimization at IBM’s Public Sector.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program DorobekINSIDER program about the government’s emerging analytics culture.

TRT: 14 mins

“The government is starting to employ analytic techniques. They are using mapping and system thinking to make decisions. It helps to breakdown large issues into smaller more manageable chunks. The government is on it’s way to a moneyball mentality,” said Greben.

Prepare the Troops

“Government is building internal consulting organizations that are focused on analytics. These teams are going through their organization to take digital problems in specific program areas using analytic techniques. These teams leave behind seeds of analytics. They are helping to build the culture throughout the agency,” said Greben.

The report also says: take the initiative and show passion for working on problems that stymie organizational performance. Fight complacency and seek opportunities for changing business as usual.

Get to Know the Data You Have

“In a fundamental sense those steps are building trust in the organization. We need to make sure that once we start to utilize the data in new and different ways. We need to get to a point where we know and trust the data and more importantly trust what management is doing with data. Challenge assumptions to encourage dialogue. Focus on the importance of learning from the data and whether they adequately answer key questions. Clearly communicate how data has informed decisions.” said Greben.


“In order for analytics to really make a difference. We need to know when leaders leave and new leaders come in, data analytics are ingrained in the agency,” said Greben.

3 Stages of Data Analytics

  1. Start with a disciplined approach to data analytics
  2. Make analytics a way of doing business — SOP
  3. Get people with new and different skill sets in the organization

Weekend Reads

How Leaders At Companies From Box To Gore Innovate In Chaos Generation Flux is a term … that explained how the dizzying velocity of change in our economy has made chaos the defining feature of modern business. New companies–even industries–rise and fall faster than ever: Witness Apple, Facebook, and Amazon; witness Research in Motion, Blockbuster, and MySpace; witness the iPad and, yes, cloud computing. Accepted models for success are proving vulnerable, and pressure is building on giants like GE and Nokia, as their historic advantages of scale and efficiency run up against the benefits of agility and quick course corrections. Meanwhile, the bonds between employer and employee, and between brands and their customers, are more tenuous than ever.

“Generation Flux describes the people who will thrive best in this environment. It is a psychographic, not a demographic–you can be any age and be GenFlux. Their characteristics are clear: an embrace of adaptability and flexibility; an openness to learning from anywhere; decisiveness tempered by the knowledge that business life today can shift radically every three months or so,

The Economist: For telework, it is still out of sight, out of mind – There has been an ongoing debate yet Daniel Cable of the London Business School finds that companies still reward presenteeism. In research published in MIT Sloan Management Review he shows that telecommuters are less likely to be promoted. In one experiment subjects were asked to judge scenarios in which the only difference was whether the employee was at his office desk or at home. Managers rated those at the office to be more dependable and industrious, regardless of the quality of their work.

Visibility creates the illusion of value. Being the last to leave the office impresses bosses, even if you are actually larking around on Facebook. Oddly, this holds true at firms that explicitly encourage staff to work from home. Mr Cable studied attitudes at Californian tech firms. Many asked employees not to come to the office too often; yet bosses unconsciously penalised those who obeyed.

Remote workers understand this. Many barrage their bosses with progress reports to prove they are on the job. A fifth of the workers in the study admitted to leaving a canny e-mail or voicemail early or late in the day. Still, many are not as smart as they think. Some choose a Monday or Friday to work at home. That, says Mr Cable, makes others think they are keen to extend the weekend.

Siemens CEO: Using scandal to drive change. In the Harvard Business Review, Siemens CEO Peter Loscher recounts the situation facing the German industrial giant upon his hiring in 2007. “I arrived at Siemens at a very difficult moment. The company faced allegations of bribery in several countries.” As the first outsider to become CEO, Loscher didn’t want to “miss the opportunities that come from a good crisis,” taking steps to streamline its Byzantine array of managing boards and simplify decision making—no small feat for a company operating in 190 countries. Within months of taking over, Loscher writes, the company had replaced 80% of top level executives and 70% of the positions the next level down. “But if you want to change a big, complex organization like Siemens, you have to make your agenda known, and you have to communicate in simple terms. In the beginning it was ‘Oh, he is just talking.’ I’m not just talking. Now, when I make a statement, people know I will follow through.”

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