Smarter, Faster, Cheaper

This operations efficiency benchmarking study documents the value of professional local government management.

Feb 1, 2011

In “Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: An operations efficiency benchmarking study of 100 American cities,” IBM’s David Edwards examined publicly available data on factors such as  population, geographic size, collective bargaining, and the like that are conventionally assumed to contribute to a city’s efficiency. What he found was that in reality, these factors had little impact on municipal efficiency.  Instead, Edwards’s findings suggest that the determining factor in how efficiently a city deployed resources is management. He defines management as “the ability of government leaders to make strategic and operational decisions about what services will be provided to which citizens at what level” and how. 

Edwards learned, for example, that cities with city manager forms of government are nearly 10 percent more efficient than cities with strong mayor forms of government, a finding which validates the assumption that placing executive authority with a professional manager who is not involved in the politics of running the city leads to more efficiently managed communities. “…[M]anagers are important,” writes Edwards. “They influence outcomes.”

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