The book Power to the Public by Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank is a fantasic overview of the Brownfield nature of the public sector. The book goes into a few fantastic examples of how things can be better.
My favorite part
The examples about USCIS and Healthcare.gov were events that I personally watched unfold, like that steam roller scene in Austin Powers. Things that you can just see are going to be terrible but everyone is locked in.
A close second is the author’s elevation of data as a required capability. The examples show that you don’t have to be Google to apply data skills to your problems to improve outcomes.
As in things mentioned in the text that I hope readers will dig into:
- Deming’s work on constraints
- Systems thinking, though it may get glossed over by people unfamilair with it as a concept
- Technology as the foot-in-the-door
- Procurement of solutions is the blocker
My least favorite part
Near the end they talk about misuse of public system data, or accelerating bad policies. These were just kinda blanket warnings but there are extremely important things to consider.
- A lot of unjust policies are only persisting because they’re subtle. If a terrible policy is accelerated, the repair work can begin sooner.
- Data can be incredibly toxic and avoiding collection or storage or relating certain data points to others is crucial.
- Light is the best cleanser, and since public works are paid with tax dollars, all inputs and outputs should be open for scrutiny.
If they talked about any of these three points at the caveat section, I’d have given this post an even more entusiastic title.