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Lane Bailey, Chair, American Academy of Certified Public Managers
Beginning with this issue, PA TIMES will spotlight an ASPA Section Chair or Chapter President who will share his or her motivation for public service, insights into ASPA’s role in advancing excellence in public service, and vision for the Chapter or Section.
Edward Lane Bailey is a manager with the Arkansas Department of Information Systems. A former Marine, he entered public
service after working in the private sector for 10 years. He is chair of the American Academy of Certified Public Managers (AACPM), a Section created through a merger between ASPA and independent AACPM state chapters. Bailey shares his vision for AACPM and what inspires his commitment to the public sector.
I work for the State of Arkansas in its Department of Information Systems. I have been there for six years.
I am a manager with the Project Management Office (PMO). This is a new office, established by Mark Myers, our new state CIO. Project managers and business analysts who were dispersed throughout the agency will now be part of one organization. Our office will manage intra- and inter-agency IT projects for state government. My vision is to create a team of entrepreneurial project managers and business analysts—that is, a group of professionals who actively look for opportunities to add new value or eliminate gaps in state IT products, services and processes, in addition to leading projects set by various agencies.
I have worked at both the state and federal, the latter with the U.S. Marine Corps.
I enjoyed the Certified Public Manager courses so much that as I was nearing completion of the program, I decided to pursue an MPA at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The faculty encouraged graduate students to join ASPA. Membership proved to be a tremendous help in my academic endeavors. That I was already a member of AACPM when the Academy became a section of ASPA was serendipitous; it positioned me for developing—in conjunction with our Academy members, ASPA’s leadership and the National CPM Consortium—the enhanced ASPA/AACPM partnership upon which we are about to embark.
First, we have to rebuild our membership base. We lost a lot of members and local societies following the merger with ASPA. Our folks did not recognize the value of the partnership, and frankly we did not do a good job promoting the benefits. We are outlining a plan that highlights and expands upon the mutually-beneficial aspects of our partnership.
Next, we must realize that, while Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are at the helm of our Academy, ASPA and most government entities, our focus must be on the Millennials. They are a huge generation—almost as large as the Baby Boomers—and they are a wonderfully socially conscious group. They want to impact our world and what better home for them than the public sector? But we must fight for them, lest they go elsewhere. They are mobile; they will not work in a confined office with stringent workplace guidelines. It is imperative that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers do not try to change the Millennials; we must let them change us.
The Academy and ASPA must use our combined resources to prepare the public sector for this new generation. To entice them into our ranks, we must be willing to consider the cost of membership, develop more online and virtual venues and find ways to showcase how, together, we can affect real change in society.
Every public sector employee creates value. The problem is that we, as a society, do not measure public work in terms of value created, but in cost incurred. We can reverse that.
Police, firefighters, road crews, code enforcers and the like create value by protecting property, keeping insurance costs low, and ensuring that entrepreneurs—the largest drivers of employment and economic activity in America—can flourish in secure environments.
Social workers rescue children from cycles of abuse and poverty. They provide families in need with home-economic skills, substance abuse solutions and job training. Again, these activities are not costs; they are investments with real economic returns.
Additionally, public sector activities fill gaps where market forces lag. For example, my biggest project at the moment is building a coalition of public-private partnerships to install fiber optic connections to every school district in Arkansas. Because the private sector operates on a return on investment (ROI) basis, many rural or underserved areas might otherwise never see broadband Internet. But, with public-private partnerships, the state can act as what we call the “anchor” customer, spreading the risk so that corporate shareholders are comfortable with building into areas with low or long-term ROIs. The private-sector telecoms can then connect every neighborhood and small business en route to that school or other government facility. These connections will help businesses flourish and homeowners join the interconnected world. Remember, it only takes one Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla or Steve Jobs sitting in a rural home with a brilliant idea to change the world. But, that person must be connected; where the private-sector broadband market lags, public sector activity can spur investment.
This is where practitioners and academics must join forces. Take the school broadband initiative: It would be a shame to complete the project without measuring the economic impact on the state, but capturing that data is not within the scope of the project. Further, my agency does not have the resources or expertise to engage in such research. Finally, it’s simply not part of our mission; we exist to provide IT services, not economic impact studies.
ASPA, on the other hand, is the perfect conduit to help ensure such studies take place. Academics need research topics. Practitioners need to measure the value of their activities. It is imperative that we connect the two. I envision an infrastructure within ASPA that will make that connection. Together, let us research the direct and indirect economic impact of public projects and publish the results. Publication is the key. When a public-sector employee can share published quantitative data and analysis of the value generated by his or her activities up the chain of command—to the department director, mayor, chief of staff, governor—the the benefits of practitioners being part of ASPA will be realized.
I’ve spoken a lot about the value created by public sector employees. But, one thing academics in the public administration arena know is that for agencies to flourish, they must focus on their core missions. Unfortunately, measuring project and program outcomes (particularly indirect economic impacts) is usually not part of the government entity’s mission. Additionally, agencies do not have the resources or know-how to perform these measurements. This is where our partnership needs to be centered.
We need to build a virtual bridge, ideally within ASPA’s website, where we connect the practitioner with the undergrad, graduate student or professor. The practitioner will post descriptions of his or her project or program and request involvement from the academic community. This assistance can be in the form of advice, direction to published materials related to the topic or, ideally, an offer to measure outcomes as part of a research endeavor.
Conversely, the student or professor, operating in the publish-or-perish academic environment, can find ready-made research topics on the same virtual platform. As an added bonus, the educator will have a research team—in the form of the practitioner’s organization—at hand to provide data. Likewise, the practitioner will have a support staff—in the form of academics—to help advise the project or program and as a clearing house for data produced, results achieved and value earned.
In order to become a CPM, the participant is required to submit a project proposal designed to benefit his or her agency. We asked the National CPM Consortium to begin measuring the return on investment of these projects. If we can show that the typical CPM project results in increased value or reduced expenses for that agency, we can use that story to help agencies justify sending more students through the program.
But, the individual public manager must be willing to pursue professional development independently. Ambitious private sector professionals regularly earn MBAs on their own time and at their own expense. Dedicated public sector professionals can do the same with MPAs. I did it in three years with a full time job and a growing family. It wasn’t easy, but the rewards are incalculable.
That said, it is and should remain the responsibility of state and local governments to provide the professional development skills their employees need. The AACPM and its local chapters are working with the appropriate government entities to promote the value of professional development with the end goal of increasing training and education budgets.
It’s easy. I spent 10 soul-eroding years in the corporate world. Now that I am in the public sector, I go home every night knowing I’ve contributed to society. The pay is lower, and despite common perceptions, job security in the public sector is no greater than in the private world, but the rewards outweigh the alternative.
I never intended to work in the private sector. When I left the Marine Corps, the Cold War was ending but nobody quite believed it was really over at the time. I got a degree in Russian language and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Soviet history from Brown University, thinking of a career in academics or as an analyst with the federal government. After a little work toward a Ph.D., I finally acknowledged the limits of a career path focused on the USSR and opted for a job in the booming IT sector. Ten years later, I was mercifully laid off during the Great Recession and luckily landed a job with the state.
There are a few more projects I want to complete in state government and with AACPM, but at some point I would like to earn that Ph.D., this time in public administration—a field less likely than the USSR to vanish on me—and spend the latter part of my career sharing what I’ve learned with the next generation. Unfortunately, there are no doctoral programs nearby and I’m just not willing to relocate. So, that might be one of those life dreams left unfulfilled. In the meantime, I hope to use membership in AACPM and ASPA to strengthen the public sector in any way I can.