Distilled into a four-step framework, “Results: Getting Beyond Politics to Get Important Work Done” is the much-needed implementation guide for anyone in public service, as well as for leaders and managers in large organizations hamstrung by bureaucracy and politics. With a broad range of examples, Baker, a Republican, and Kadish, a Democrat, show how to move from identifying problems to achieving results in a way that bridges divides instead of exacerbating them. They show how government can be an engine of positive change and an example of effective operation, not just a hopeless bureaucracy.
“Results” is not only about getting things done, but about renewing people’s faith in public service. Demonstrating that government can work, is vital to ensuring the future of our democracy. The goal of this book is to demonstrate just that! This talk will invite Steve Kadish and Dr. Kellerman to discuss the book and other relevant insights into collaborative governance and change-making.
Below you’ll find the graphic recording, audio, video, and transcript from “Getting Beyond Politics to Get Important Work Done” presented by Steve Kadish and Barbara Kellerman on April 12th, 2023.
About the presenter
Steve Kadish has just stepped down after five years as a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. Previously, Kadish served as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s first Chief of Staff, where he helped shape and implement policy and operational improvements in key state agencies, working with the Governor’s cabinet, Massachusetts state legislature, and external stakeholders. Steve and Governor Baker co-authored: Results Getting Beyond Politics to Get Important Work Done A Leader’s Guide to Executing Change and Delivering Results. Published in May 2022 by Harvard Business Review Press.
Prior to this appointment, Kadish served in a number of roles in the public and private sectors, including Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Northeastern University, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Dartmouth College, Director of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts Undersecretary for Health & Human Services, Massachusetts Assistant Secretary for Administration and Finance, Senior Vice President for Administration at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Associate Vice Chancellor of Operations at UMass Medical School, and Assistant Commissioner for Operations at Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance (Medicaid). Steve served as a Special Advisor to the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center.
Previously, he was appointed chairman of the Commission on the Future of Transportation by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to focus on the interrelationship of disruptive technologies, climate change, land use, and demographic trends. Steve has served on local boards related to mental health services and homelessness. He has also served as an advisor/consultant to World Bank and the World Health Organization on strategic initiatives and organizational development issues. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University and a Master of City Planning degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
About the series
Shareable is partnering with Tufts University on this special series hosted by professor Julian Agyeman (Co-chair of Shareable’s Board) and Cities@Tufts. Initially designed for Tufts students, faculty, and alumni, the colloquium has been opened up to the public with the support of Shareable, and The Kresge Foundation.
Cities@Tufts Lectures explores the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice.
Register to participate in future Cities@Tufts events here.
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“Getting Beyond Politics to Get Important Work Done” Transcript
[The timestamps in the transcript correspond with the audio version of this lecture.]
Steve Kadish: [00:00:41] We always start with people and people are policy. And this may sound a bit naive, simplistic, but people are what is required to actually get the work done and just adding on work to an existing team, a new initiative asking them to tackle a new problem without providing the full capacity for them to work usually is a stumble along. Sometimes it’s a success and more often not. It is. It’s a fail.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:01:11] How are informal and formal spaces enabling radical democracy? Can we counter displacement through collective memory? And does public space have the capacity to authentically support community, restoration, and emancipation? These are just a few of the questions we’re exploring this season on Cities@Tufts Lectures, a free live event and podcast series where we explore the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice. I’m Tom Llewellyn.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:01:39] Today on the show, we’re featuring Steve Kadish’s lecture: “Results: getting beyond politics to get important work done,” which will be followed by a response from Barbara Kellerman. In addition to this audio version, you can watch the video, check out the graphic recording, and read the full transcript on shareable.net. While you’re there, please take some time to get caught up on all of our past lectures and our ever-expanding library of stories, podcasts, how-to guides and other resources. And now here’s Professor Julian Agyeman, who will welcome you to the Cities@Tufts Spring Colloquium and introduce today’s lecture.
Julian Agyeman: [00:02:26] Welcome to the Cities@Tufts virtual colloquium, along with our partners Shareable, the Kresge Foundation and the Barr Foundation. I’m Professor Julian Agyeman, and together with my research assistants Caitlin McLennan and Deandra Boyle, we organize Cities@Tufts as a cross-disciplinary academic initiative, which recognizes Tufts University as a leader in urban studies, urban planning and sustainability issues. We’d like to acknowledge that Tufts University’s Medford campus is located on colonized Wampanoag and Massachusetts traditional territory. \
[00:02:59] Today, we are delighted to welcome Steve Kadish, who’s just stepped down after five years as a senior research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Taubman Center for State and Local Government. Previously, Steve served as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s first chief of staff, where he helped shape and implement policy and operational improvements in key state agencies working with the governor’s cabinet, Massachusetts state legislature and external stakeholders.
[00:03:29] Steve and Governor Baker co-authored “Results: Getting Beyond Politics to Get Important Work Done A Leader’s Guide to Executing Change and Delivering Results.” Barbara Kellerman, who will respond to Steve, was founding executive director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School, the Kennedy School’s James MacGregor Burns, lecturer in leadership, and was a member of the Harvard faculty for over 20 years. She’s currently a fellow at the MacGregor Burns Center, and she’s also held professorships at Fordham, Tufts, Farleigh Dickinson, George Washington, Uppsala, which is in Sweden, Christopher Newport universities, as well as Dartmouth and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. She served as director of graduate studies at Farleigh Dickinson and director of the Center for Advanced Study of Leadership at the University of Maryland.
[00:04:24] So Steve’s talk today is the title of the book, “Results: Getting Beyond Politics to Get Important Work Done,” to which Barbara will respond and then we’ll have open questions, as usual. Steve, Barbara, a Zoom-tastic welcome to the Cities@Tufts Colloquium. As usual, microphones off and video off and please send any questions through the chat function. Steve?
Steve Kadish: [00:04:49] Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here. And honestly, I have to tell everyone, being an alum from Tufts who’s a little bit of pressure and that I have one of my all time favorite faculty watching, Rachel Bratt, who honestly helped shape me to where I am today. So I’m very grateful. I have too much information to share with you. I have a significant PowerPoint presentation that I’m going to blast through and I hope that either through the Tuft’s City series or you can contact me directly, I’d be happy to make the full deck available to you so that you don’t have to scramble and take down notes. So here I go.
[00:05:33] So there are three things that I want to do with you all today. One is, is to introduce you to the results framework and a little bit about our book. But too, I’m using this in a way as a very fast infomercial about a workshop about how to get things done. Secondly, you’ll see some tips and tools here and there throughout the book. But hopefully some of these tips and tools might be things that you could use immediately or think about using in your work going forward. And lastly, I hope that you find it a little bit inspiring. I’m a great enthusiast for what government can and should do. So here we go.
[00:06:15] The book, which was published last May, we’re almost upon a year, we’re in our second printing, it’s divided into two parts. The first part is what I’m going to be spending most of my time on with you all today, and that is the four major elements of the results framework. The second part of the book are four case studies, and I am going to do a dive — I can’t call it a deep dive in just five minutes, but a dive into one of the case studies, the Department of Children and Families. The case studies are on health insurance, on the MBTA, on the Department of Children and Families. And the last case study is on COVID. And it’s one of the few pieces that I’ve come across, Barbara and others may have come across others, written by a sitting executive, a sitting executive governor, in this case, through COVID.
[00:07:12] So here we go. I always start here — and this is a quote that we have in the introduction of the book, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” John F Kennedy. Our approach is vehemently non-partisan. It’s not about blaming and it’s really requiring that you take things where you are and you move forward with responsibility. And if you all don’t mind, this is such the opposite of what the former occupant of the White House before President Biden was there would do. This is our own John F Kennedy.
[00:08:00] And this for us is really a great ballast for the approach for the results framework. Here’s a picture from eight years ago, nine years ago, just as governor Baker was taking office, you can see there’s virtually nothing in the room. He’s on the left. I’m on the right. And I show this picture — and his office was on the left side of mine, and lieutenant governor’s office was on the right side of mine. Charlie Baker is a lifelong Republican. Steve Kadish is a lifelong Democrat. I was not part of his political apparatus running the campaign, though we had worked together on and off in government and out of government, including the time when I was his chief of staff for over 30 — off and on for over 30 years.
[00:08:56] So here’s a new governor choosing somebody from the opposite party, not his campaign, not a member of his campaign. And for me, you know, I kept asking, why are you sure? Because I was just such a different kind of a person to take the job. My experience has been as a chief financial officer, chief operating officer, big projects person in both the public sector and in the private sector, including higher ed and health care. And for this I had a lot of the political people shaking their heads saying, you’re bringing in an ops guy into a political position. Let’s see how that works. And so did that said a lot about Baker, is that he was really focused on solving problems and making the operations of government work. We did a lot and we still a ton more to do. But this was our beginning.
[00:09:54] So now I’m going to dive into the results framework and I’m going to talk about the four pieces. But we wrote this book for largely the audience was for those people who are interested in a public sector that work, especially for public sector leaders and managers. It was written by people in the public sector with direct public sector experience. There are not a lot of things out there, and our focus was about how to improve public sector services. when we started this book and it took us almost five years to write. We thought about it as a book about how there’s good stuff out there about policy, about ideas, about innovation and so forth, both in the public and in the private sector. But what seemed to be missing for us was a book about how to do things in the public sector. We had exchanged articles and books over the years. There were always business books about how to do things that required a translation. So we wanted to provide information directly to public sector people.
[00:11:16] When the insurrection — and I can’t call it anything less than that — on January 6th occurred on our nation’s capital and the very threat of our democracy — it was so such a profound attack. Governor Baker and I literally got on a Zoom at that point and said, What are we doing writing a book about how to make government work better when the essential part of government and democracy was attacked? And we thought about and we did put our pencils down and we thought about stopping.
[00:11:50] And we talked for quite a long while and we said, you know, a government that works and can work and provides faith in our democracy — so we think about the book as a book about how to make the public sector work and hopefully provide some hope. So a lot of the media attention is on — and you guys can read this — is here is on legislative wins and budget dollars. Media is like a scoreboard. And what we are really focused on is more of a dashboard. We believe that is essential as budget and lawmaking are, they’re only a piece of what makes government work. Our approach focuses on their necessary but sometimes overlooked companion, successful execution and implementation. So here we go. I’m going to go through each one of these four key parts of the results framework. I’m going to blast and show you — there are tips, tools and tactics throughout the book. I’m going to pull a few of those for you by way of example. But what I wanted to do here is to give you a sense of the approach that we used, the Baker administration used over the past eight years.
[00:13:13] We always start with people and people are policy. And this may sound a bit naive, simplistic, but people are what is required to actually get the work done. And just adding on work to an existing team, a new initiative asking them to tackle a new problem without providing the full capacity for them to work usually is a stumble along. Sometimes it’s a success and more often not it’s a fail. So we focus on selecting both the leader and the team. We focus on having people who are knowledgeable subject matter experts and people who have actually had the experience knowing how to actually launch the new program, make the adjustments in IT facilities, processes, it’s knowledge and know-how.
[00:14:11] I’m a firm believer that in every organization there are great people, even in organizations that are having difficulties. And yet when change is required or a new program is needed, the combination of bringing in new people with the existing current staff creates the appropriate kind of constructive tension to make things work. And this is really a tip and so I’ll go to it. It’s a dedicated team. I have found over and over again. And then through COVID, actually, when the governor would call and ask me to work on things, I would say yes, but let’s make sure we have the dedicated team in place and actually throughout each one of the case studies in the book, you’ll see this and with other things.
[00:15:03] But the dedicated team could be as few as 2 or 3 people. But it’s the idea of having a core group of people who are 100% spending their time devoted to the effort. In the public sector it’s hard to do, in a lot of nonprofit organizations it’s hard to do. But when you do this and you can do it and there are sort of tricks to the trade to creating this dedicated team, it’s like a rocket launcher in terms of getting the project done.
[00:15:34] So we start with people are policy — leaders, teams, knowledge, know-how, new people and current staff, and a tip is the dedicated project team. Second element of the results framework is follow the facts. There are two pieces here — data evidence, hard data. This is the stuff you can read, the stuff you can readily evaluate. It might be budgets, it might be reports and program descriptions. In the public sector if there are metrics, we spend a ton of time on those, both at the individual transaction level and at the programmatic level. And this is critical baseline information to chase down and look at and really understand basic context.
[00:16:23] And I’d have to say for a couple of decades of my life, I was super anal-focused on the hard data that I could find. And honestly, it took me time to appreciate what I call the points of pain and the demonstrated real world impact of a problem on that, I’m going to use the word customer, the clients, the people who are providing getting the services from the public sector program, as well as those people who are providing the service, the employees and the providers that are doing it. And as tough as it can be, it’s also to pay attention to media reports.
[00:17:08] So we look at and insist upon both hard data and qualitative data. Data, evidence and points of pain to really define the problem and to learn what the key points of intervention are. Here’s a tip that I like to use. I call it Round the Table. I just finished using this on a project that I completed this past weekend for the World Bank and with a project team based out of Africa. And you guys could use it in all kinds of settings, whether you use it as part of your discovery of what the issues are. Or I also use the round table for project status. It’s simple. It’s an organization-level setter, and it’s effectively having somebody other than the leader of the group going around the room to solicit the comments, the status and so forth. Very effective. And it’s I recommend this for those of you that are either in the public or private sector when you’re tackling problems or launching new projects and want to understand what the status are.
[00:18:19] So we did people are policy, I blasted through focus on facts, follow the facts with the data evidence and the points of pain. Now I want to spend some time on the focus on how. And this is the element that I believe Governor Baker and I believe you need to spend most of your time on. And there are two parts here. There’s the what to do and the how to do it. The what to do could be an action plan. It could be a program description. Sometimes it’s a budget appropriation, the actual dollars itself. It is the implicit promise that if this set of activities are done, the problem will be solved or the new program will be launched. How to do it is the, in my mind, the requirement to have an organized method to move from the design, the policy, the program description, the dollars to successful delivery. And I’m going to talk a little bit further about each of these items here.
Steve Kadish: [00:19:31] The work Management triangle. I did just speak about the dedicated team. I’m going to do a quick blast of a tip on releases, touch on agile scrums and so forth. So what I have highlighted in blue here, talented people and being data-driven and I would add even dollars are not sufficient. Results require an understanding of how things work, a method and the know-how to make it happen.
[00:19:59] So this is my attempt at a project management cartoon, I guess, or a results cartoon. On the left hand side, you have a diamond shape and in my mind I could literally push that diamond over. It’s poised on a precarious point because too often the time and attention is focused on the what and not enough on the why or the facts and understanding what the problems are and little on the how. When things have a strong base in how, a strong base in the what, and more attention is paid on understanding what the facts are identifying as the problems, that’s a very strong foundation.
[00:20:43] And the example I use that most people can relate to is Obamacare. That was a huge important battle on creating the piece of legislation which is really now part of our not just political fabric, but really our health, our healthcare fabric. But when it was actually launched, some people actually lost the health care that they had. And it was really a dismal failure in the implementation. President Obama launched a dedicated team. One of the members of the dedicated team was Jeff Zients, who is now President Biden’s chief of staff. And today or actually over the last few years, there are over 20 million more people who are getting their health care through Obamacare. And it’s a great success. But it’s an example of the importance of the what to do and the how to do it and the importance of that Over and over again.
[00:21:53] I think about tackling work as projects, and in my mind there are three — I call it the work management triangle, scope, time and resources. Scope are the things that you are saying need to be done. Time is the amount of time that you’ve set aside and resources are everything from people, IT, facilities, dollars, etc. that are going into actually making things happen and they need to work. And for early in my career, again, I’d say for a couple of decades, I spent a huge amount of time on the scope and trying to thoroughly understand the problem and what would be needed to be done to resolve the problem. That would often take months, and therefore the projects that resulted were a year or two years in their actual implementation. And my success rate was about 50% and learned a lot from both the successes and the failures. And the success rate nationally on large projects is I think, somewhat similar to that. Prior to the Baker administration, I started focusing on time and first and saying, okay, what can we get done in six weeks? What can we get done in eight weeks? And therefore shaping the scope and the resources and it’s incredibly effective.
[00:23:17] I’m not going to talk about this next slide, but it is a tip on using what I call releases incorporating Agile Scrum. I’ll touch upon it a tiny bit when I get into the Department of Children and Families case. But this concept of release, everybody has some kind of a phone, Android, iPhone, everybody who’s watching this has some kind of a laptop device. There are tech does releases not complete new products but releases which have features and we pick that up in the public sector.
[00:24:02] Last part of the results framework is push for results. So we did people or policy follow the facts, focus on how and then push for results. And this is where we’re measuring the actual performance. I love this quote from John Wooden, a famous basketball coach from college coach from the 1960s and 70s, “Never mistake activity for achievement.” And there’s a lot of activity that is required for achievement, but it’s not the same thing. So meetings, emails, texts, reports, discussions all are helpful, hopefully, but they’re not the same thing as actually the performance results.
[00:24:44] And we focus on measuring what matters — a heavy focus on performance metrics and a heavy focus on project status. And I’m going to show you a couple of those examples. I really dislike averages. They mask things. And I’m going to show you an example, a powerful example of how when you see a metric, beware if it’s a mean or a median or an average, I’m going to show you a quick tip on business process analysis and I really believe in the power of it. And then the last statement I want to make here on push for results is: it’s never done. And it’s so important to measure, really look at your performance metrics, evaluate what’s working and not working, and then be humble and honest and objective enough to say, you know what? We need to make an adjustment and to repeat that cycle.
[00:25:40] It is hard to do in any organization, private organization, It is brutally hard to do an adjustment in the public when the media will say, well, you just said you were going to do this. What do you mean you’re doing something different? And therefore even harder and even more important to be able to make an adjustment and take the media hit as you need to in the public sector.
[00:26:08] So here’s a one-pager on business process analysis, an incredibly powerful tool for continually improving very quickly existing processes. And then here’s another tip on the importance of being able to color something red. Everybody participating in this forum today and folks that you’ve worked with electeds, they do not like to bring bad news to the people that they’re reporting to, but the ability to not just say something is green, on track, yellow, there are issues, but we’ll get there. But to say something is red is really hard. And it’s even harder for leaders to create environments where red and questions about metrics, as I’ve said here at the bottom, create an environment that’s comfortable about raising the uncomfortable to get at better results.
[00:27:07] So now I’m going to do a case study in five minutes and then, Barbara, turn it over to you. And I’m going to blast through this case study. And as I’ve said, it’s probably not fair to call it a case study, but it’s more just a bigger example. And these slides, I’d be happy to make these available. So Baby Doe and I’ll you guys read this, but there were three terrible incidents in the summer of 2015, beginning just about five months after Governor Baker took office. And Baby Doe was this horrid example of a child who was found in garbage bags on Deer Island, mutilated and the child was called Baby Doe because there was no identification. And this was in June.
[00:28:03] By September, after two other tragic incidents, we started the turnaround of the Department of Children and Families, and we were in the midst of the turnaround efforts in one of the turnaround meetings when the district attorney released the name of Baby Doe. Baby Doe, her name was Bella, for those of you that were looking at the Globe or paying attention at this time, on the left hand side, you had the police portrait of Bella, and on the right hand side you had her actual picture. But this was in a way, closure, that there was an identification of this poor child and the beginning really of the turnaround at the Department of Children and Families.
[00:28:53] So when I do have the opportunity to do bigger workshops, we go through this. But you guys get the answers to the questions. But on what happened with the Department of Children and Families on people, facts, the approach on how and the results, and you can take a peek at some of the items here. But there was a dedicated team. There was attention paid to both kinds of data and extensive use of round table. There was a release-based approach. We used work streams, which is different than projects by themselves. We used a tool that I call Getting to Green and I’m going to show you, we used Agile Scrum for those of you that might be familiar with it, intense project management on metrics as well as on project status. And every — twice a week, and this was pre-COVID, bringing people across the state. There was a three-hour meeting that was a leadership team review to review it all.
[00:29:59] Here’s, I guess, a tip, but it’s an example of what getting to green a checklist look like for each of the five work streams across the top, you’ll see a mixture of sort of common sense things. What is the objective? Clear? What is the scope? The term sprint backlog and product backlog or agile scrum terms that are more time related. It was really important for the Department of Children and Families to have a strong communication and engagement element to its work. It was important to have metrics identified right away in the overall status.
[00:30:36] So this was an agency that had a hard time making a single hire in six months, it could not produce a policy within 1 or 2 years minimum. And here we were — and there were social workers, and here we were using basically a tech approach to tackling the work. And each of the five work streams. This was an example of — three weeks later, I think of the launch of the turnaround of the people team and the objective, the scope, the sprint backlog, the product backlog across the top, their metrics defined.
[00:31:17] And then you could see here that if you look in the chart — they posted and this was miraculous for them to do — 121 of the 200 open positions in this period of time. And it was like a hurrah, among other things. And it was really an uplift for the agency. They used releases and the first release went from, I think September 16th to just about Thanksgiving, issued two major policies in that period of time, miraculous on its own, posted 200 positions, did a variety of other things in the next release, which happened by Saint Patrick’s Day, March 18th, more policies onboarded people, hired its first-ever medical director. And here’s an example of the one-page project management status report that was used by the agency. And you could see how much red, yellow and green was in here. And at this time it was a lot more Red’s than greens.
[00:32:28] And this enables the leadership team to focus their time on the Reds, to congratulate people on the Greens. But it really allows for the time to be spent where it needs to be spent and that’s on the red. Here’s more examples of the success of later releases. And I’m going to the very bottom line here. This was in February of 2017. 95% of ongoing social workers have fewer than 20 families in their caseloads. And I’m almost through.
[00:33:02] So this is an example of why Governor Baker especially hated the idea of only looking at the average or mean or median caseloads for social workers. We were hearing that the mean or median, and you can see this in the lower right hand, side was 18 or 19. The goal was 16. We thought if you were off by 2 or 3 cases, it wasn’t a big deal. But the world was screaming about how awful this was. If you look at this chart, the tallest row is at 186. It’s in yellow. That means 186 social workers had a caseload of 19. You go to the right, 164 social workers had a caseload of 20. And on what this showed us is that over 40% of the social workers had caseloads of 20 or more. That’s dangerous. And that was one of the reasons that we thought we were seeing these really awful tragedies. 18 months later, a ton of work using the release process. You have this remarkable change in the caseloads. And only 11% of the social workers had more than 20 cases. Here’s a one-page chart that does that. And now with the turnaround then was September 2015 when we started. Now at that time was the end of December 2017, but you could see almost 300 new social workers in the first row. This dramatic increase in the number of licensed social workers in the second row from 54 to 98 and on. But it was quite, quite remarkable.
[00:34:53] During COVID, there was another tragedy that took everybody aback — a teenage boy with disabilities who was under the care of DCF with died. And so it had a lot of people wringing their hands and saying, are things better? And in fact, Mary McGowan, who is a strong advocate for — to make sure that the Department of Children and Families is operating well said. This is not the same DCF as it was with Jeremiah Oliver or Bella Bond, you know, eight years ago. They’ve made great progress. There’s a ton to do. And she said to the Globe, if I could change this one thing, I think we should stop referring to it as reforming the department. That suggests there’s going to be an end. Our child welfare system needs to be continually enhanced, and I think this is true for all kinds of work.
[00:35:52] Nelson Mandela, who I think is one of the greatest public servants of the last hundred years, if not more, said it in his own way, after climbing a great hill, and he did, one only finds there are many more to climb. There’s the framework. And here’s a thank you to you all. Barbara, I took a touch longer. I’m turning this over to you.
Julian Agyeman: [00:36:16] Barbara, your thoughts?
Barbara Kellerman: [00:36:17] Yes. I don’t really even barely know where to begin. First of all, Julian, thank you for having me. Steve, thank you so much for a very stimulating presentation. But even much more to the point, for partnering with a chief executive of one of the most important states in the country, on not only years of governance, but on producing in consequence of those years of governance, a book, I would even say a kind of model that other people could and should adapt.
[00:36:54] So let me just make a few quick comments. I know we’re all anxious to get to participants who I don’t doubt have many questions. So let me just make a few quick comments as you would have picked up if you heard Julian’s presentation, my own expertise is very much in the field of leadership. I’ve written many books and articles on the subject in various ways. I’m a bit of a deviant, which we won’t go into now, but some of that will be reflected in my comments.
[00:37:31] The leadership industry is a multi-billion dollar business in which a lot of people make a lot of money purportedly telling other people how to lead. I have some skepticism about it in ways that Steve and Charlie’s book will illustrate. The skepticism is primarily rooted in the proposition or in the finding that most of what the leadership industry is focused on is on the self, on enhancing self-development. It’s very much, dare I use the word, a narcissistic enterprise. I have a model that I’ve developed over the years which relates actually to the book under discussion, which is very simple — I call it the leadership system, which de-focuses emphasis on the leader and brings into much sharper focus two other components. And in fact I give them equal time.
[00:38:37] Part one of this triad is the leader, for sure, I’m not saying leaders are unimportant, but of equal importance are the followers or the others, whether they be constituents, whether they be members of the team, however, defined — other people. And the third and I think Steve would very much support this one as well, is the context. What is the context within which we’re operating, which to some considerable degree is neglected?
[00:39:06] I’m going to just read a paragraph or two from an article that’s coming out in the Harvard Business Review in a — I think it’s actually already out. It’s called The Leadership Odyssey, and I’m citing it because in my view, it’s quite typical of what you find in the leadership literature. It talks about broadening your people skills and then it boils that down into three different stages or steps. One is what they call departure. I won’t take the time to define it. Two is what’s called the voyage, and three is what’s called the return. But I would say this kind of literature is really rather the antithesis of what Kadish and Baker have tried to do, which is really a hands-on, extremely practical manual of how literally to proceed.
[00:39:57] So again, in the interest of time, I’m going to make just a few closing comments. My own feeling about the book and in particular the four-step framework, is that by far the most interesting one is step three, which is the focus on how. It is the implementation. I cannot tell you, having been in this field for many years, how little talk, how much — as I said a moment ago, people talk about the self. I need to be more self-aware. I need to be more self-conscious. I need to develop my own skills. And how little people talk about how in fact important it is to figure out if you want to get from point A to point B, how as a leader or a manager, by the way, I’m not going to spend time on the differences between those two words — many times they used interchangeably how, as a leader or a manager, are you actually proposing to do that? To get from point A to point B? The degree to which that is underemphasized in my field is impossible to exaggerate.
[00:41:05] For those of you who have the book, holding the book up, Steve, I hope you’re pleased with that. There is on page 86, and I think Steve briefly alluded to it, but I’m going to single it out. What he calls a checklist, what they call a checklist to green. And I just want to make a brief comment about checklists. Checklists — the word has rather a mundane kind of connotation. Oh, how boring a checklist. It has been demonstrated particularly, or I should say first, in the field of medicine, that checklists, instead of being mundane, are actually, I myself have written oddly about this, are actually extremely useful and practical guides to do what I described earlier as getting from point A to point B.
[00:41:57] So I commend the checklist. I, particularly for those of you who are interested in, to use a word that is not exactly original with me results to those of you who are interested, in results, this checklist, I would argue, is particularly important mainly because this issue of results is often sidelined by those who say they care most about getting results.
[00:42:22] Finally, again, I could spend hours on all of this, as I’m sure Steve felt frustrated that he only had about a half hour. But I’m going to close my comments by saying that the military, and particularly the Army, has a kind of three-stage mantra, leadership mantra, which they call be, know, do. Once again, even in the military, which by and large think does a better job of leadership training and education and development than any other organization, academic or otherwise, in the United States, the emphasis even when they say do if you look at what they mean by do, they’re not exactly talking about the same thing as the two authors of the book under discussion. It’s kind of a more general framework. What’s really strong about this book are the specifics of how to get again from point A to point B, because there’s oddly, curiously, very little out there that covers this territory in particular. Julian, I turn it back to you in the interest of enlarging the conversation.
Julian Agyeman: [00:43:36] Okay. I don’t see any questions in the chat, but I’m going to call on Rachel Bratz as a mentor of Steve’s to offer some reflections. Rachel.
Rachel Bratz: [00:43:48] Thanks, Julian, and thanks so much, Steve. And as ayour former professor, Steve, I’m really so proud of you for what you’ve done, not only by writing this book, but also for your remarkable career in the public and private sectors. You’ve absolutely distinguished yourself in so many critical ways.
[00:44:08] Barbara, thanks also for your very wise comments. They were really incredibly helpful, I think, in focusing on some of the major contributions of the book and also bringing up the point of context. As Steve knows, this is a point that I raised with him when I read the book this past summer. I asked Steve the question of how much do you feel the results that you and Governor Baker were able to achieve were, in part a result, sorry to use that word again, were the result or the outcome of being in a state that has much softer partisan politics than many other states, a place where the fact that a Republican governor could appoint you, Steve, as chief of staff, could appoint somebody like Chrystal Kornegay as her chief, one of her chief housing people. And it goes on and on with the numbers of people who he appointed across the aisle, because in Massachusetts, the aisle seems to be kind of a mushy construct. So I wonder whether you want to, Steve, comment on that and also comment on Barbara’s comment about the importance of looking at other frameworks such as the framework that the military uses and other frameworks that might be useful in your work going forward.
Barbara Kellerman: [00:45:41] Steve, do you mind if I make just one comment before you reply to Rachel’s question very quickly? I wrote an entire book about leadership in the pandemic. The book, curiously, is called The Enablers, and I am talking obviously about Trump’s leadership during the pandemic, which is, shall we simply say, rather the diametric opposite of what you were able to accomplish in Massachusetts. But as the book suggests, you were able to accomplish so much in Massachusetts. And Rachel’s comment is related, is not just because of the leader, but because of the team, which you obviously also emphasize, and Trump’s team during the pandemic, they were to use the word title, the book with enablers, which is, I gather, exactly the opposite of what you were able to — the group that you were able to bring together in the state of Massachusetts.
Steve Kadish: [00:46:39] Rachel, the point you bring up is, did this work? Does this work? You know, even more pointedly, because it’s Massachusetts and it’s because you two guys and. And I think that’s an absolutely fair observation. And I’ll respond with two things. In — I’m going to use the example of Massachusetts, but I know it’s true in any state administration and probably also true in local government and in federal government. But in Massachusetts, if we have, say, 43,000 employees in the state administration, there might be 200 people in the administration who have the word policy in their title and honestly, in their responsibility. The rest of us are all responsible for delivering services which by and large are not political.
[00:47:41] And there is so little help provided to the public sector in terms of training and learning how to actually implement the wishes of the legislature or making the change that needs to occur or launching a new program is that I have found myself over and over again in a bunch of organizations really on the question, on the point that Barbara made so well it’s focusing on how do you get from A to B idea to the actual delivery. And so I’ve had the opportunity to make lots of presentations to people now throughout the country and having a framework that is pretty simple, that is very flexible, and love that you pulled out the checklist, Barbara and a way to know where to start has been so useful for people.
[00:48:55] So I’m going to say the relationship that Charlie Baker and I had is unusual was unusual. We’re able to do things, therefore, I think quickly, more quickly. But the precepts of the results framework I know now are allowing a whole lot of other people who don’t have Charlie or Steve as their names to get things done. So it works. It works. I know it works at the local level. I’ve seen it work on international projects. I’ve seen it work at state-level projects without my and Governor Baker’s personal involvement.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:36] We do have a question, Steve, from the audience from Erin Graves. Erin says the example of good leadership in the military reminded me of an underlying question: How does this help assess the merits of an initiative?
Steve Kadish: [00:49:51] Yeah, Erin, thank you for being here. And this is the same Erin, I think Julian, who kicked off your your series at the in January. So, Erin, double thanks for being here. I believe that and I can’t address the military decisions to go to battle, so I’m going to translate that to what that means for state and local government. And that’s why we focus. We follow the facts, and we spend good time on understanding the hard data as well as understanding the points of pain. And the purpose of that is to not just I’ve seen too many people leap to the Oh, I know what the problem is, let’s do this. I think I get what’s going on. Let’s do this. Spending time on the facts, understanding the data, and then understanding the legitimate, often difficult points of pain of those who are receiving the services directly or indirectly, or those are providing it really help to frame, describe, define what is the problem to solve. And then therefore, the what to do should be based upon the problem to solve or the new program to launch. So I can’t and will not speak for the decisions that go into the some of the larger military decisions. But I can say on 90 plus percent of the work that state and local government confronts. If you are focused on following the facts, both the data evidence and the points of pain, you will then create the what-to-dos that legitimately focus on those problems or launch new programs.
Barbara Kellerman: [00:52:01] I need to take very quick — Steve, I’ve agreed with every word out of your mouth until this response. You’ve used a phrase that I do want to take issue with. You said, and I’m now quoting you exactly, Military decisions to go to battle. For the record, those decisions are not usually military decisions. They’re political decisions. And the military executes or, dare I use the word implements, policy decisions that are made by, generally speaking, elected officials and or their deputies. So sorry. I think it’s good that we disagreed at some point. You know, we don’t want to be we don’t want to be too kissy kissy huggy here. So that’s good.
Steve Kadish: [00:52:42] Thank you. And one minute, playing with that word as I spoke. And Barbara, thank you for making this honest.
Julian Agyeman: [00:52:52] Okay. Laurie Goldman. Laurie, would you like to ask the last question?
Audience: [00:52:57] Yay, last question. Thank you very much for this presentation. I really love that you have so cogently called attention to the need to focus on the work of governance and the work of implementation, that that’s something that we need to be doing and that’s part of the continual improvement that you noted. So I’d love to hear how you think about those who are closer to the ground of where the policy doing has its effects, are involved in this process of the continual improvement. And by the folks on the ground mean both the constituents, the residents, the participants in the programs, the people influenced by the regulations and also the frontline staff who are part of using their discretion as part of that adjustment that is going on.
Steve Kadish: [00:53:52] Thank you, Laurie. We have this concept called getting out of the tower, and it’s to stress the importance of, so often, an organization will believe public or private, that it has the answers. And often the leadership believes that they have the answers or know what’s going on and understand what needs to be done. And what I’ve appreciated about Governor Baker, and this is one of the things I’ve really learned from him is the importance of getting out of the tower, whether that is reading a hard data peer performance report about how your organization is doing versus another organization and learning from that, whether that is speaking to the folks that you’ve engaged to provide the service, whether that is. And it’s so powerful to hear people who are the customers of the service and the staff who are providing the service. And so in the last few years, I have spent time working with state agencies on key initiatives to help them create the forums where they’re listening to folks who are either the direct providers or the staff and also be open to the direct impact of customers. But it makes it better. And it also allows you to be honest about when you roll out an idea with full good intention based upon good fact, and then you’re measuring the results that when it’s not working, you can make the adjustments. Great question, Laurie. Thank you.
Julian Agyeman: [00:55:51] And I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for. Can we thank Steve, Barbara, the questioners. Great presentation, Steve. Let’s give a UEP thank you to Steve. Our next colloquium, our final colloquium for the semester will be April 26th, when Aseem Inam from the University of Cardiff in Wales will present on Co-designing Publics Radical democracy and Transformative Urbanisms. Thank you and see you in two week’s time.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:56:24] We hope you enjoyed this week’s lecture. You can access the video, transcript, slide deck, and graphic recording of Steve Kadish’s presentation on Shareable.net. There’s a direct link in the show notes. As Julian mentioned, the final lecture of our spring semester, Co-designing Public’s: Radical Democracy and Transformative Urbanisms with Aseem Inam is happening next week on Wednesday, April 26th. Please click the link in the episode notes to register for a free ticket. If you can’t be there live, you can always find the recording right here on the podcast.
[00:56:55] Cities@Tufts Lectures is produced by Tufts University and Sharable with support from the Kresge, Barr and Shift Foundations. Lectures are moderated by Professor Julian Agyeman and organized in partnership with research assistants Caitlin McLennan and Deandra Boyle. “Light without Dark” by Cultivate Beats is our theme song, Roame Jasmine is our co-producer, Robert Raymond is our audio editor, additional operations, funding and communication support are provided by Allison Huff, Bobby Jones and De Angelus Garcia. Anke Dregnet illustrated the graphic recording, the original portrait of today’s speaker was created by Caitlin McLennan and the series is produced and hosted by me, Tom Llewellyn.
[00:57:31] Please hit subscribe, leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts and share it with others so this knowledge can reach people outside of our collective bubbles. That’s it for today’s show. Here’s a final thought.
Steve Kadish: [00:57:43] We think about the book as a book about how to make the public sector work and hopefully provide some hope.