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Why You Hate Strategic Planning (and why it doesn't have to be that way)


Public servants look forward to strategic planning about as much as they look forward to a dental appointment.  This short paper describes a simple “field-tested” formula for doing strategic planning differently and better. 


Being Right is Not the Point. Lessons from 20 Years of Management Consulting


"Being right is not the point" is lesson number ten. Read about this and nine other lessons Mark Schacter has learned from two decades of providing consulting services to the public sector.

Does Deliverology Matter?


What does deliverology mean for the Canadian public service? Is it really something new? Can it lead to better program delivery or might it do harm?

The Tyranny of Wrong Measures


This commentary, published in the December 2015 edition of Canadian Government Executive (at p. 10), argues that the Government of Canada's performance measurement and reporting system is broken. (The commentary is a condensed version of Drowning by Numbers - below.)


Drowning by Numbers


The Government of Canada's approach to performance measurement and reporting, though founded on solid principles, is undermined by flawed implementation. A large performance reporting "machine" generates data that are too rarely of use to public sector managers, Parliamentarians and Canadians. This paper analyzes the flaws of the current system and makes proposals for fixing it.




The concepts behind performance measurement (and its cousins: program evaluation, risk assessment and strategy development) are simple, but public managers tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Once you recognize how simple the concepts really are, you will become more confident and effective users of these basic public-management tools.


If / Then. A Practical Guide to Risk Assessment of Public Programs
This paper is written for anyone who wants to improve his or her understanding of basic concepts and techniques in risk assessment.
Performance Measurement Q & A
In a recent engagement with a client I was asked to respond to a series of written questions from staff on elements of performance measurement. The issues they raised were relevant to public sector managers everywhere. 
Tell Me What I Need to Know.  A Practical Guide to Program Evaluation for Public Servants

This paper aims to help public servants who are not evaluation experts strengthen their grasp of key evaluation concepts and

The Art of the Performance Dashboard
There is growing demand for performance "dashboards" in government departments.  Unfortunately, dashboards often fail to meet expectations.  This paper describes an approach to dashboards that may be more effective.
Economic reporting in the red: much ink, no insight
This commentary, published on, criticizes the superficiality of economic news reporting in advance of the Canadian general election of October 2008.
How Good is Your Government? Assessing the Quality of Public Management
This paper aims to stimulate discussion on the key characteristics of good public management at the whole-of-government level.  It presents a draft framework for measuring the quality of government-wide public management.
When performance targets miss the mark
This commentary, published on, argues that setting performance targets for public programs can often lead to worse rather than better performance.
Interpreting the Possible.  A Guide to Strategic Management in Public Service Organizations
This paper aims to bring clarity to the notions of “strategy” and “strategic management” in public service organizations. These terms are both over-used and poorly understood in the Canadian government. 
Trashing Results-Based Management; or, Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water
(Published as "In Defence of Results-Based Management" in Public Sector Management, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2007)
An article in Canadian Public Administration questioned the wisdom of implementing results-based management in the Canadian federal public service. This paper provides an opposing view. 


Revelation:  I'm not an organization man.  Are you?


This commentary, published in the Globe and Mail, is personal a reflection on self-employment and self-knowledge.


The Worth of a Garden.  Performance Measurement and Policy Advice in the Public Service.


This paper, commissioned by the Treasury Board Secretariat, aims to stimulate discussion about measuring the performance of policy-advice units in the federal government.  It observes that the measurement challenges are conceptually identical to, but more acute than, those related to the performance of program units. 


Don't rush wait-times decisions


This commentary, published in the Globe and Mail, argues that Canadian politicians' single-minded focus on waiting times for health services may do more harm than good.


Performance Measurement Meets the Real World.  Leadership, Accountability, Politics & Scandal


Results-based management (RBM) is a great principle, but it has to be implemented in the real world.  This speech, delivered to the Cognos Government Forum, addresses the gap between the rhetoric and reality of RBM in the Canadian federal public service.


Before you clamour for results-based management in the civil service, remember that Chuck Guite could be its poster boy


This commentary, published in the Globe and Mail, argues that caution is required when translating "results-based management" from the private sector to the public sector.


Boards Face New Social Responsibility


(Originally appeared in the May 2005 edition of, a publication of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.)

Observes that corporate directors are expected, increasingly, to look out for the interests of corporate stakeholders as well as shareholders.  Identifies four major trends that will affect how directors deal with "corporate social responsibility".


A Framework for Evaluating Institutions of Accountability


(Published in Fiscal Management, by Anwar Shah (ed.), Washington:  The World Bank.)

Describes an operationally-oriented framework for diagnosing weaknesses in public institutions of accountability.  The analysis has broad applicability, but is directed especially to practitioners in developing countries.


Social Responsibility is All About Governance


(Originally appeared in the FSA Times, Second Quarter, 2005, published by The Institute of Internal Auditors Inc.)

As corporate social responsibility becomes a prominent issue for business leaders and oversight management teams, internal auditors should ensure that pertinent issues are included in their organization's risk management plan.


What Directors Need to Know About Corporate Social Responsibility


This paper argues that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is best understood as an adjunct to corporate governance. It aims to help corporate directors appreciate CSR’s relationship to the exercise of corporate power. 


Combating Corruption:  Look Before You Leap (with Anwar Shah)


(Published in Finance and Development, a quarterly journal of the International Monetary Fund.)

Analyzes recent approaches to fighting public sector corruption in developing countries, and offers a simple framework for developing an anti-corruption strategy.


External Provision of a Whistleblower Reporting System:  A Relevant Solution for the Federal Government?


This report aims to help Departments in the Canadian federal government assess whether management of their whistleblower reporting systems would be best managed by external contractors. 


Measuring the Performance of Corporate Ethics Programs.  Creating an Ethics Performance Story (with Zachariah Ezekiel).


(Published by The Conference Board of Canada.)

Presents a strategy for measuring the performance of corporate ethics programs.


Results-based Management at the Water Cooler.  Perspectives from the working level on RBM.


Based on opinion data from public servants, indicates that staff have concerns about senior leadership of results-based management in the Canadian public service.  Also indicates that staff capacity to implement RBM is low.


Civil Society and Public Governance: Getting a Fix on Legitimacy (with John Saxby)


(Published by The Conference Board of Canada.)

Civil society organizations have gained a strong foothold in governance. This briefing looks at their legitimacy as political actors, and provides some guidelines for interaction between government and civil society.


What Will Be, Will Be. The Challenge of Applying Results-based Thinking to Policy 


This handbook examines the special challenges of applying results-based management and performance measurement to policy as opposed to programs.


Not a Toolkit. Practitioner's Guide to Measuring the Performance of Public Programs 


This brief handbook covers the basic concepts and steps involved in developing a performance-measurement framework for a public program. Not a Toolkit is based on the author's experience working on performance measurement with Canadian government agencies. It argues that telling a believable "performance story" is at the heart of good performance measurement.


Look Before You Leap. Notes for Corruption Fighters 


Describes a practical framework for thinking about anti-corruption initiatives in the public sector in developing countries. Suggests that a direct approach to fighting corruption may not always be the best or the only option.


Sector Wide Approaches, Accountability and CIDA. Issues and Recommendations 


The sector-wide approach (SWAP) is emerging as a vehicle for delivering international development assistance. This paper looks at how SWAPs are forcing donor agencies to re-think critical accountability arrangements. 

(Ce document est aussi disponible en français.)


The Heart of the Matter. Donors, Development Assistance, and Public Sector Reform 


Provides an overview of major lessons learned from donor-supported efforts at public sector reform in developing countries. Assesses promising future directions.


When Accountability Fails. A Framework for Diagnosis and Action


(Published in Isuma.  Canadian Journal of Policy Research.)

Describes a simple framework for understanding and strengthening the relationship between "institutions of accountability" and public-sector agencies.


Capacity Building:  A New Way of Doing Business for Development Assistance Organizations


Reviews the challenges faced by development assistance agencies in adopting a capacity-building perspective, and describes approaches to addressing the challenges.


Monitoring and Evaluation Capacity Development in Sub-Saharan Africa : Lessons from Governance Programming 


(Published by the Operations Evaluation Department of the World Bank.) 

Reviews lessons learned from governance programming in Africa, and assesses their relevance to interventions aimed at building public-sector evaluation capacity on the continent.


From Restorative Justice to Restorative Governance (with Shereen Benvzy Miller) 


(Published in the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice.)

Argues that the concept of restorative justice must re-framed within the broader principle of restorative governance.


Social Policy Leadership in a Federal State : International Lessons for Canada (with Elder Marquez) 


Outlines ways in which central governments in federal states have exercised a leadership role in social policy.


Public Sector Reform in Developing Countries. Issues Lessons and Future Directions 


Provides an overview of recent lessons and experiences in public sector reform in developing countries.


Public Good, Private Gain. A Study of Canadian "Exemplary" Companies and Their Relations with Government 


An examination of what constitutes an exemplary company in the eyes of senior public officials. It also shows how admired companies view their relationships with the public sector and with civil society.


Means ... Ends ... Indicators: Performance Measurement in the Public Sector 


Operationally-oriented overview of key concepts related to performance measurement in public sector organizations.


Cabinet Decision-Making in Canada : Lessons and Practices 


Based on a study commissioned by the World Bank, this paper examines the cabinet-level decision-making process in Canada . 


Results-Based Management and Multilateral Programming at CIDA: A Discussion Paper 


This paper seeks to contribute to discussion within in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) on using Results-Based Management (RBM) to assess the performance of multilateral programming.

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