When Your Job Wants You to Lie: Book Club Meeting on July 19

WHEN YOUR JOB WANTS YOU TO LIE: A book club meeting to discuss “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession” by Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras

We all face pressure to fudge in our jobs: You have to sign that you have read and understand a long document that nobody has time to read, or you have to report figures for something that nobody has tracked so the best you can do is guess-timate. Wong and Gerras studied how U.S. Army officers are routinely required to misrepresent, how they cope with it, how pressure to lie undermines the Army’s effectiveness, and what can be done. We will start the discussion with Wong and Gerras’s book, and move on to talk about the problem in other organizations, how we can cope with pressure to misrepresent in our own jobs, and possible broader solutions.

The book is short–just 35 pages excluding frontal material.
You can download it free from the Army War College at http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1250.pdf
or buy a paperback at

Join us for a discussion that will help us deal with the kinds of situations we all encounter.

Wednesday, July 19. Refreshments start 5:30. Discussion starts 6:00.
At the Partnership for Public Service, 1100 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005
Space is limited, so you must RSVP in advance at

Presented by the American Society for Public Administration, National Capital Area Chapter (ASPA NCAC).
The event is free for everybody, but some spaces are reserved for ASPA NCAC members.

Case Reports and Open Source Work Products in Public Administration

Public administration practitioners can be more successful if we learn from each others’ experience and inventions. We can look to medical doctors and to software developers for two ways practitioners can learn from each other.

The first way is case reports, as are published in medical journals. A case report is a description by a practitioner of a situation she encountered, what she did about it, and the results. Case reports are different than the case studies used in public administration teaching and scholarship. Case studies focus on the information about a case that illuminates a technique being taught or a theory being considered, but one value of case reports is presenting specifics that do not fit any existing framework. For example, AIDS research started with a case report of an inexplicable case of Kaposi’s sarcoma. Another difference is that case studies are typically by a researcher who was not involved in the events, while a case report is by a practitioner who handled the case.

A second way is open source work products. The narrowest definition of open source is disclosing the human-readable “source code” of a computer program. But open source has evolved a broader meaning, in which any type of work product is shared publicly, so that any interested person can contribute improvements to it. The work products that public administrators could make available to each other for open source collaboration include procedures, position descriptions for personnel, statements of work for contracting, and any number of other artifacts we produce and use in our practice. Center for Public Administrators is experimenting with open source collaboration on “annotated work instructions” as an alternative to ISO 9000. (See Project on Annotated Work Instructions.)

For more about case reports and open source work products in public administration, see my article in Public Administration Review (paywalled) or the open access version.

Public Administration Practitioners at Academic Conferences: Why to Present and How to Succeed

Most practitioners never attend any of the public administration academic conferences, but it could be well worth your time. And if you attend, it makes sense to give a presentation. My new working paper advises why to present, and how to do it successfully.

Here are some excerpts:

Presenting at a conference is evidence of your expertise. This is especially useful if your job does not provide much opportunity for accomplishments that are recognized outside your organization.

Many people practicing public administration were educated in a different field, so a conference can be an introduction to the public administration professional community..[T]he people you meet…tend to be the most innovative practitioners, the best prospects for collaboration within and outside your job, and the most willing to share information.

A practitioner can present her own experience with techniques she has applied or cases she has participated in. A frank presentation of what she tried, what worked, what failed and what she observed can show other practitioners what they want to copy or avoid, and can show academics a specific instance of phenomena they might want to study more generally…Your new information does not need to be broad in scope to be valid and valuable.

[A]fter your proposal is accepted and your panel is scheduled, you should do outreach to encourage people attending the conference to come to your panel. If you know anybody who will be at the conference, then contact them personally to invite them to attend your panel. If somebody on another panel is speaking on a topic related to yours, then contact them to say you are looking forward to attending their panel and suggest that they attend yours.

I also give examples of presentations by practitioners at the 2015 Northeast Conference on Public Administration (NECoPA), which I helped organize.

The working paper “Public Administration Practitioners at Academic Conferences: Why to Present and How to Succeed” is at