Evidence-Based Management is the Road Less Traveled, Says Prof. Anthony Kovner
When organizations or businesses stumble, the search for an explanation often leads back to the quality of the evidence-gathering process. It is that process, known as Evidence-based Management (EBM), that fascinates Anthony R. Kovner, who has spent more than a decade trying to get managers to employ it when they seek ways to improve their organization’s performance and results.
Professor Kovner teaches EBM to students at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he is a professor of public and health management and the director of the Executive MPA Program for Nurse Leaders. He is also the author of several books on healthcare management. Shortly before the publication of a chapter he recently wrote, entitled “Adventures in the Evidence-based Management Trade,” for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Management (Oxford University Press), he sat down with NYU Research Digest (Spring 2012) to discuss Evidence-based Management.
What’s the theory behind EBM?
Evidence-based Management comes out of medicine—the idea that if you make a medical intervention, it should have a predictable and positive outcome. We said, “Why can’t we apply this in management?” Well, the truth is, it’s not a simple matter. We know a lot less about management than medicine, for which there’s a huge medical research establishment, the randomized clinical trial, and an established process for scientific review.
What professional sector does EBM most lend itself to?
To every sector. So for example, when two large health organizations decide to merge, we say, “Wouldn’t it make sense to look at the best available evidence before making a decision to merge?” Instead, a very common managerial response is: “We want to merge—let’s find the evidence that justifies it.” So these managers need to do more than just type “hospital merger” in Google? Keep in mind that all managers make decisions based on evidence. The point is, what is the quality of the evidence? It can be pretty shabby.
What’s wrong with the process as it works now?
When, for instance, two large institutions decide to merge, to what extent do they ask in advance, “What do we know about successful and unsuccessful mergers?” Generally speaking, what they do is ask the consultants, and the consultants say, “This would work in Akron.” But of course that doesn’t mean that it would work in Brooklyn. Are the merging institutions’ two geographies compatible? What about their respective cultures? It’s not that you get to a solution—these kinds of problems are too messy, too wicked, and the causation is not as clear as in randomized clinical trials. But it informs your thinking so you can see and avoid the worst consequences of what might happen.
How should the evidence gathering begin?
Three basic steps: search and locate the best available evidence, learn from best practices, and try doing your own management research. If you are studying why nurses turn over so much in your hospital, it’s important for you to understand the differences between the 12-hour day shift and the 12-hour night shift. The most important step, though, is to ask the right question, and translate your management challenge into an answerable one.
If EBM is so effective, why don’t more organizations engage in it?
That’s the $64,000 question, and it’s not an easy question to deal with. What it really is about is power and hierarchy and organizations. Let’s say an employee comes up with a better way of doing something and tells the boss about it. You’d expect the boss to say it’s a great idea, let’s do it. But in practice the boss says, “You’re insulting the way I’m managing this place,” or “If you thought of it, then how good can it be, if I didn’t think of it,” or “Go ahead and present your ideas to the higher-ups, and if they like it I’ll take credit for it, and, if they don’t we’ll blame you. “
That sounds almost insurmountable.
The trick of it is to make the politics work for you. To get it implemented, you have to get the managers to see that it’s in their political interest to practice evidence-based management. And I believe it is.”
Prof. Hilary Ballon Wins The American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award
The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced today the recipients of its 2012 architecture awards - including Hilary Ballon, professor of urban studies and architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York Unversity.
The Academy's architecture awards program began in 1955 with the inauguration of the annual Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, which is awarded to a preeminent architect from any country who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. In 1991, the Academy began giving Arts and Letters Awards (formerly called Academy Awards) to honor American architects whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction. An additional award category was created in 2003 to honor an American from any field who has contributed to ideas in architecture through any medium of expression.
Professor Ballon is a University Professor at NYU and Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi.
This year's award recipients include:
The Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture of $5000 recognizes an architect of any nationality who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art.
An Arts and Letters Awards of $7500 recognizes an American who explores ideas in architecture through any medium of expression.
An Arts and Letters Awards in Architecture of $7500 recognizes an American architect whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction.
Elizabeth Gray & Alan Organschi
An Arts and Letters Awards in Architecture of $7500 recognizes American architects whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction.
An Arts and Letters Awards in Architecture of $7500 recognizes an American architect whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction.
The winners were chosen from a group of 40 individuals and practices nominated by the members of the Academy. The members of this year's selection committee were: Henry N. Cobb, Michael Graves, Hugh Hardy, Steven Holl, Ada Louise Huxtable, Richard Meier (chairman), James Polshek, Billie Tsien, and Tod Williams. All five awards will be presented in New York City in May at the Academy's annual Ceremonial. Work by the winners will be featured in the upcoming exhibition on view in the Academy's galleries on Audubon Terrace.
For more information, please visit the Academy's website.
NYU Wagner Soars in US News & World Report Rankings
The just-released U.S. News & World Report rankings of 266 public affairs master's programs across the country show NYU Wagner tied for 6th overall this year.
The results are thrilling confirmation of Wagner's upward trajectory. In the previous survey four years ago, Wagner finished in the top 10 for the first time, having risen from 26th in 2001. Additionally, Wagner is top-ranked in six of the specialty categories: #2 in City Management and Urban Policy; #8 in Health Policy and Management; #5 in Nonprofit Management; #8 in Public Finance and Budgeting; #9 in Public Management Administration; and #8 in Social Policy.
Wagner is grateful to the deans, directors and department chairs of master's programs around the country whose votes acknowledge our path of distinction and success.
Furman Center Receives MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy a recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. This distinguished award recognizes the Furman Center's excellence in providing objective, policy-relevant research to address the challenges facing neighborhoods in New York City and across the nation. The award, announced on February 16, comes with a grant of $1 million, which the Furman Center will use to broaden its research and policy analysis to more national issues.
"We are humbled and honored that the Furman Center was selected for such a prestigious award," said Vicki Been, faculty director of the Furman Center. "The demand for our work has grown dramatically with the housing crisis and the increasing need for sustainable and affordable housing across the country. This award presents a remarkable opportunity for us to expand our research beyond New York City to help policymakers in Washington and across the nation make more effective housing and community development investments and policies."
"Because we are based at New York University, and are a joint project of the NYU School of Law and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, we're able to draw on the talents of a diverse team of faculty and students to produce rigorous, interdisciplinary research on urban policy issues," Furman Center Co-Director Ingrid Gould Ellen said. "The MacArthur Award comes at a critical time, allowing us to continue to expand the work we've always done in New York City to cities and neighborhoods across the country, and to address a broader range of national issues and public policy debates."
From analyses of how subsidized housing investments affect neighborhoods, to studies of the impacts the foreclosure crisis has had on local crime, neighboring property values, tenants, and the educational trajectories of children, the Furman Center has been committed to producing objective and empirically rigorous research on pressing policy issues. Its policy breakfasts, roundtable discussions, and conferences bring thought leaders from all sectors and all points of view together to discuss topics ranging from new models for housing extremely low-income households to creative ways of addressing credit needs in a volatile and declining housing market. The Center launched an Institute for Affordable Housing Policy in 2010 to bring research, policy analysis, and debate about promising new ideas and innovative practices to bear on the challenges of creating cost-effective affordable housing programs. Through its annual State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods report, Quarterly Housing Updates, and Subsidized Housing Information Project, the Center provides essential data and analysis for the media, government agencies, non-profit housing providers, and affordable housing developers and financiers.
The award is both a recognition of the excellence of the Furman Center's prior research and policy analysis and an investment in the Furman Center's future. The Furman Center will use the grant to build data and research partnerships that will allow it to broaden the geographic scope of its research, strengthen and expand its policy analysis, and improve its communications and data management infrastructure.
More information, including an overview video about the Furman Center, is available here.
The Furman Center is one of only 15 organizations from six countries to be recognized today with the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. "From Chicago to Kampala, these extraordinary organizations demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. "They provide new ways to address old problems. They generate provocative ideas and they reframe well-worn debates. And their impact is altogether disproportionate to their size."
The MacArthur Foundation does not seek or accept nominations for its Creative and Effective Institutions awards. To qualify, organizations must demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness; have reached a critical or strategic point in their development; show strong leadership and stable financial management; have previously received MacArthur support; and engage in work central to one of MacArthur's core programs.
Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award Goes to Two NYU Wagner Scholars
A distinguished pair of NYU Wagner professors have been named as recipients of New York University's 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award.
Congratulations to Shankar Prasad, who is adjunct assistant professor of public administration, and Associate Professor Deirdre Royster, who is co-affiliated with the NYU Department of Sociology.
The faculty award recognizes University professors who exemplify the spirit of the late civil rights leader through their scholarship, research, and teaching by making a positive contribution to their students in the classroom and to the greater NYU community.
Professors Prasad and Royster and three other honorees were recognized at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award Reception on February 8 in Pless Hall Lounge. Prasad's research focuses on political learning within immigrant communities across the United States. Royster is the author of "Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue-Collar Jobs" (2003).
GovLoop/NASPAA Scholarship Competition - Part II
NYU Wagner has not just one, but two finalists in the national Public Service Scholarship essay-writing competition sponsored by the GovLoop social network for government and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. He's Brian Footer, who is working toward an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy with a specialization in Financial Management.
Way to go, Brian!
Brian is one of 15 finalists. His essay was chosen from more than 170 submissions by judges from GovLoop and NASPAA. In the next and last phase of the competition, the three winning pieces on how to prioritize federal sending in fiscally constrained times will be picked by the GovLoop network of more than 50,000 members in an online vote, and will be eligible for a scholarship award of as much as $2,500.
"If the U.S. government had only $100 million left in the budget," Brian's thoughtful and well crafted submission begins, "I would begin devising a grant program to direct money to local governments in the pursuit of assisting the most fragile and disenfranchised populations. I believe government's inherent social value is establishing services essential to provide basic human needs. This, however, is not a mandate for government to deliver services. Rather, government should be a coordinator of parties and resources, and no one understands the unique demands of each geographic community better than local government."
The piece goes on to explain how the locally guided grant process would work.
Brian's own career as a passionate public servant is more than 10 years in the making.
He moved to New York City to work on Christine C. Quinn's successful campaign for re-election as City Council Speaker, and later served as the Speaker's Scheduler. Prior to arriving in the city, he lived in Washington, D.C., and worked on Capitol Hill, for the Democratic Governors Association as a fund raiser, and for the US Tax Court as a Clerk.
He is now a Legislative Policy Analyst to the New York City Council's Committee on Aging and Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Brian volunteers his time at the Abzyme Research Foundation, helping to advocate for development of abzyme technology in hopes of producing the world's first effective HIV vaccine and improved treatments. After two years of effort and dedication toward developing a small-donor program, Brian is a member of the Board of Directors.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Prelaw from Ohio University.
NYU Wagner Student's Essay Selected as a Finalist for GovLoop/NASPAA Scholarship
A thought-provoking essay by NYU Wagner student Neil P. Reilly, positing a novel way to strengthen publicly subsidized housing arrangements, has been selected as a finalist for the GovLoop/NASPAA scholarship.
A Master of Public Administration candidate with a specialization in public policy analysis, Neil is potentially eligible for a scholarship award of as much as $2,500. His essay will be among 15 pieces judged in the final round of selection soon. The judges are from GovLoop, the online community for government, and NASPAA (the National Association for Schools of Public Affairs and Administration). Well done, Neil!
Neil's essay, "A Boost to Rentals and Public Housing," argues for creation of a federal rental insurance program. This new type of insurance would protect a tenant, and, indirectly, his or her public or private landlord, against the tenant's unexpected drop in household income due to loss of a job, say, or a marriage breakup. The tenant would pay a modest premium for this insurance, and from then on it would function like unemployment insurance - available to use during a difficult patch.
Although public-housing tenants' rents are adjusted on a sliding scale linked to income levels, Neil notes there can be a lag in the provision of rent adjustments, or a lengthy legal dispute between building owner and tenant. Housing insurance, as envisioned by Neil, would reduce housing dislocations and the dynamic of dependency between landlords and tenants in both public housing developments and other forms of publicly subsidized housing.
"Federal rental insurance," he writes, "would mitigate the unfairness of denying other housing to some households. It would avoid the game of ‘hot potato' played between landlords, which adds significant inefficiencies and costs to the process of finding subsidized housing. These costs, currently borne by the tenant, would be reduced. Important externalities, specifically the health, jobs and education outcomes of tenants, would also receive vital boosts."
As he works toward his MPA at Wagner, Neil is serving as Book Reviewer for the Wagner Review. He has experience working in nonprofit grant writing and outreach, most recently at New York Foundation for the Arts. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he is an avid writer and a musician, resides in Brooklyn, and says his coffee table is stacked with newspapers and magazines.
Global Research Institute names Natasha Iskander as Research Fellow
Natasha Iskander, assistant professor of public policy at NYU Wagner, has been named a research fellow at the Global Research Institute at the University of North Carolina.
Professor Iskander conducts research on labor migration and its relationship to economic development, labor mobilization, and processes of institutional innovation and organizational learning. She recently authored Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development in Morocco and Mexico (Cornell University Press: 2010), which examines how nations' governments elaborated policies to build a link between labor emigration and local economic development.
There are six 2011-'12 Global Research Institute fellows, the second cohort to receive research support from the Institute. The focus this year is the theme of immigration. The fellows' work contributes to the development of policy recommendations designed to keep North Carolina competitive on a national and global level.
Urban Policy Students Explore China's Massive Urbanization in Shanghai Summer Course
Students in Wagner's 2011 summer course utilized Shanghai's bike-share program, the largest in the world.
Within the next 20 years, China will move 300 million people--similar in number to the entire U.S. population--from rural to urban areas. This massive and rapid urbanization poses tremendous challenges to environment and sustainability, but also offers great opportunities for industrial restructuring and economic development.
Zhan Guo, an assistant professor of urban planning and transportation policy at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, has completed the second summer course in Shanghai, exposing 19 students during the summer of 2011 to the unparalleled transition from a centrally controlled economy to a market oriented economy. The urban policy students are from Wagner and several other graduate schools across the United States.
The 12-day course, to be offered each summer, exposes students to diverse issues under this context, such as the household registration system, migrant rural workers, motorization and high speed rail, the land finance and real estate bubble, property rights and forced eviction, economic development zones, and environmental protection. The course is held at NYU Shanghai [http://www.nyu.edu/global/shanghai/campus/campus_photos.htm], and combines classroom lectures, local guest speakers, visits to local organizations, and field trips in Shanghai and nearby towns and villages.
Excursions take students on visits to migrant worker enclaves, suburban ghost "new towns," and the vast Yangshan deep-water port, the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), a large-scale mixed-class residential development, and Bao Steel factory.
Students also met the planning director of Suzhou and chief planner for SIP, discussed the real estate bubble with one of the largest developers in Shanghai, participated in a workshop at an architectural studio, and interacted with domestic students.
NYU Wagner courses abroad provide students and professionals with an opportunity to enhance conceptual knowledge, learn and interact with leading experts in the field, and apply new skills in a practical setting - in Accra, Ghana; in Cape Town, South Africa; and in Geneva, Switzerland, in addition to Shanghai.
For more information about the Shanghai program, please visit here: http://wagner.nyu.edu/shanghai.