Making Crime Pay As A Prison Consultant

Posted April 19, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Ethics, Innovation


Just about anything that one has experience at can be turned into a consulting business. I never heard of a prison consultant until I read a New York Times article titled Making Crime Pay

If you are heading to prison for the first time and are looking for advice on how to survive such an ordeal, you can actually hire a prison consultant to assist you. With names like Jail Time Consulting, Executive Prison Consultants and the Prison Coach, you have quite a few options. There is even a National Registry of Prison Consultants.

Well entrepreneurs certainly know how to recognize customer needs and provide a product to fill such needs. With public corruption cases existing every where, there is probably a consultant targeting the politician prison market.

If you have come across other interesting consulting fields or services, please share them.

We Need Public Financing Of Elections

Posted April 17, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Government Reform

Tags: , ,

Political campaigns are where power and cash meet. Politicians need lot’s of money to run for office. People seeking jobs or government business provide the money politicians need. The current campaign process truly is a “pay to play” system in that the best way to get a politicians attention is by donating money to their campaign.

Less than .5 percent (1/2 of a percent) of New York State residents contribute to political candidates. New York politicians can collect up to $60,800 per donor for a statewide race. That compares with about $5,000 per contributor for most other states. There are no limits on contributions to political parties.

Andrew Cuomo raised $24 million when running for Governor of New York State. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in campaign years has amassed a war chest of $1 million, in a city that is the third poorest in the nation with a shrinking population of 270,000. Those campaign dollars represent a lot of IOU’s that have to be addressed one way or another for a politician to continue receiving needed funds.

People donate money to political candidates with an expectation of getting something in return and they are usually not seeking good government. What is typically sought by campaign donors are jobs or government business contracts.

A lack of money prevents many people from seeking public office or from having their ideas heard in any meaningful way if they do run. Public financing is an important way to address the influence obtained by big political donors and the advantages afforded to incumbents.

In 1988 New York City adopted a partial public financing system, which currently provides participating candidates six dollars in public matching funds for each of the first $175 that an individual city resident gives to their campaigns. This formula makes a $175 donor as valuable to participating candidates as a $1,225 donor is to non-participants.

According to a report by the Campaign Finance Institute:

In New York State in 2010, only 6% of candidates’ money came from donors who give $250 or less. In contrast, 78% came from non-party-organizations (such as PACs) and individuals who gave $1,000 or more.

According to the Campaign Finance Institute, New York City’s public financing of campaigns has significantly encouraged more candidates, more small donors and more public interest in elections. A city candidate can get $6 in public money for every $1 raised, up to $175 per donor. As a result, 37 percent of the contributions to participating city candidates are for $250 or less. Only 5 percent of state donors give less than $250.

We need public financing of campaigns to encourage more competition and participation in elections.

Continuous Improvement Is About Engaging Employees

Posted April 15, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Employee Engagement, Leadership, Lean Management

Not very long ago Honeywell was a troubled company. Several years ago Honeywell changed how it operated by focusing on continuous improvement and engaging all levels of employees. The new management approach, which also involved the implementation of Six Sigma has had a positive impact.

Every department in Honeywell, including the smallest shop-floor unit starts the day with a short meeting (under 15 minutes) to identify problems and ideas for improvements, which are then pushed up to senior managers. All workers are expected each month to come up with two implementable ideas for doing things better.

This simple form of communication and tapping into employee ideas has reaped huge benefits for Honeywell as explained in a recent Economist article.

Sales in 2011 were 72% higher than in 2002, and its profits doubled to $4 billion. It used to take 42 days to make and deliver a sophisticated toxic-gas detector, for clients including Intel and Samsung; now it takes ten. The production process used to consume the factory floor; now, it uses merely a quarter of it. This has freed up the rest of the factory to make lots of other products.

In my 17 years of government experience it was a rare event where employee ideas were sought to improve how services were delivered. An important part of Toyota’s and Honeywell’s success has been the constant feedback sought and obtained from employees on how to produce products better. While many companies do not solicit and implement employee ideas, Toyota implements an average of nine ideas per employee per year.

We need more elected officials and department heads in government who are willing to communicate with and listen to ideas from employees and citizens on how to improve the operation of government. We need government officials who are willing to move beyond setting up a suggestion box.

20 Signs That You Cannot Be Trusted As A Leader

Posted April 12, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Employee Engagement, Leadership


Job satisfaction has decreased since the beginning of the recession in 2008. According to Gallup polls U.S. workers have reported a decrease in job satisfaction. The Gallup-Healthways Work Environment Index score has dropped from 51.3 on January 1, 2008 to 47.5 on June 1, 2011. The Index includes four items: job satisfaction, ability to use one’s strength at work, treatment of supervisor, and is it an open and trusting work environment.

Other studies highlight how stressful the work environment can be:

71percent of American workers are”not engaged”or”actively disengaged” at work (Gall-up2011)

69 percent of employees report that work is a significant source of stress (American Psychological Association, 2009)

52  percent of employees simply don’t believe the information they receive from managers (Discovery Surveys, Inc.)

47 percent of employers think that employee trust has declined (Hewitt Associates LLC, 2009, p.2)

All of the above items are strongly effected by the leaders employees report to or are supervised by. Dan McCarthy has a great blog devoted to leadership topics and his blog post 20 Signs That You Cannot Be Trusted As A Leader contains some great examples of how many leaders destroy trust in the workplace.

1. You don’t do what you said you were going to do.

2. You overpromise and under deliver.

3. You’re unpredictable and inconsistent.

4. You always seem to have a hidden agenda.

5. You’ll agree just to avoid conflict.

6. You never share anything personal about yourself.

7. You never seem to finish anything you start.

8. You have a reputation that says you can’t be trusted.

9. You’re never willing to take a stand.

10. You won’t listen.

11. You don’t seem interested in what’s important to others.

12. You gossip about other people and disclose confidential information.

13. You make decisions but don’t explain how and why you made the decision.

14. You often change your plans or mind and don’t tell others about it or explain why.

15. You come across as uncompassionate and insensitive.

16. You won’t admit your mistakes or acknowledge your weaknesses.

17. You misrepresent other’s views.

18. You’ll say anything to achieve your objectives and results.

19. You sugarcoat the truth.

20. You see others as a threat when they are successful or come up with good ideas.

Anything to add to the list?

7 Basic Principles For Open Government

Posted April 10, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Open Government

The steps necessary to making government more transparent are often not that expensive or cumbersome. What is needed more than anything is a change of mindset among government officials.

Several civic organizations including Citizens UnionCommon Cause New YorkLeague of Women Voters of New York State, and the New York Public Interest Research Group , and Reinvent Albany, have released a report that highlights how to make the operation of government in New York State more open and transparent.

The full report which you can read here also puts forth seven basic principles for using technology to open up government, that can serve as a useful guide for other municipalities. Simple steps like putting documents online in a searchable format can go a long way in promoting open government.

1. Government information is public information. Information subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law is public information, except for privacy, security and contractual concerns.

2. Public digital information should be put online in a searchable, usable, common format, and kept updated.

3. State policymakers should use Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to guide what information goes online first. The universe of digital records is huge. New York State government gets twenty thousand or more FOIL requests a year. The most FOILed (non-personal) records should be posted online in usable formats.

4. The State should seek ways to use technology to keep the public informed and engaged. Information Technology is abundant and cheap. Most transparency measures involve a change in mindset, not great expense.

5. Online digital information should be searchable, downloadable, and usable by the public. Government documents should be online in common, usable formats like TXT and CSV. Government should not hide information in plain sight — scanned paper copies of documents, saved as image files in PDF format are unsearchable from the web or within the document. They are effectively inaccessible to the public.

6. Government should welcome and share public feedback
Government websites should give the public many opportunities to comment on government decisions before they are made. Those comments and responses should be shared.

7. The state should use online maps to show the public what government is doing.
A picture is worth a thousand words — a map is worth ten thousand. A government serious about transparency will post information online as interactive maps as the federal government did with, including spending, tax breaks, capital projects, member items, economic development projects, etc.

Love The “Just Give It A Shot” Mentality!

Posted April 8, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Innovation


Detroit is dealing with a host of financial issues as the city struggles to survive and reinvent itself. As a recent article pointed out:

“The city’s badly strapped bus system recently halted late-night service (between 1 and 4 a.m.) and even cut off some routes at 8 p.m. Those buses that do run rarely show up on schedule, and 20 to 50 percent never show at all, according to a recent report. In one horror story, riders waited three hours for a bus to arrive, only to find it too packed to board. Detroit riders, understandably, are furious.”

Twenty-five year old Andy Didorosi, a young entrepreneur and lifetime Detroiter, decided to do something about the lack of quality bus service by buying three buses and starting a private transit company, which is expected to start operating in late April.

“The whole thing was born out of listening to all these solutions we had for Detroit’s transit woes come and go, you hear about these over and over and over again and your thought is: why doesn’t someone just give it a shot?”

“If people can’t get anywhere, the city doesn’t work,” Didorosi says. “As Detroiters we’re just frustrated as hell. This is my small effort to put something back together. Maybe we’ll bring some innovation to the market and move forward as a city.”

We need more people like Andy Didorosi. Twenty-five years old and starting a bus company. Why not just give it a shot!

Empowering Residents Through Participatory Budgeting

Posted April 3, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Innovation, Open Government


Kudos to four New York City Councilmembers who are letting residents of their districts have a say in how some discretionary funds are being spent. Joe Moore an Alderman from Chicago has also utilized Participatory Budgeting, which I discussed in a previous blog post.

An article in the New York Times highlights how Participatory Budgeting works. There is even a non-profit organization devoted to assisting communities with implementing Participatory Budgeting.

People are so cynical and distrusting about how government operates, so I support any process that encourages and engages the public in government decisions. One of the quotes highlighted in the Times article says it all: “So far, I love feeling like we have some say in what is done,” said Maggie Tobin, a participant from Kensington, Brooklyn, in Council District 39.

The ability to dole out government money is power that all elected officials relish and are reluctant to share. When I served as Chief of Staff to the Buffalo Common Council the big question that every councilmember wanted to know when the Mayor’s budget was released was how much discretionary funding were they going to have access to. Very little discussion or debate took place regarding budget priorities or policies proposed by the Mayor. The only fighting or negotiating that took place primarily involved how much money Councilmembers could control.

Turning the power of determining funding priorities over to citizens is a great way to encourage and increase public participation in government. Very few elected officials have been willing to empower community residents to have a direct say regarding budget decisions. I applaud the four New York City Councilmembers and Alderman Moore in Chicago for empowering community residents and hope that this idea spreads to other local governments.

What do you think about the concept of Participatory Budgeting?

Should Elected Officials Be Required To Resign Before Seeking Another Office?

Posted April 1, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Government Reform

Tags: ,

Recently I learned that the City of Philadelphia Charter requires city elected officials to resign their position if they want to run for another public office. Six years ago a city councilmember attempted to remove the requirement for city elected officials to resign when seeking another public office and city voters defeated eliminating the law.

Now a city councilmember is seeking to expand the law by requiring state and federal officials to resign when they seek another elected office. Last year three state representatives ran and won elected city positions in Philadelphia while serving in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

I am not familiar with any other cities that have a law like Philadelphia does. Without a doubt candidates serving in one public office while running for another have an advantage as far as name recognition, raising money and campaigning while receiving a public pay check. Should that advantage be reduced by requiring current office holders to resign when seeking another public office? Or is such action not necessary?

Ordering A Pizza With A Fridge Magnet!

Posted March 29, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Innovation

The VIP fridge magnet, standing for Very Important Pizza, can be synced to smartphones so customers can complete their order through bluetooth.

Once your preferred type of pizza is set up, by simply pushing the magnet your order will be electronically submitted and delivered. Only one pizzeria in Dubai is set up to do this currently, but you can expect that other restaurants will follow.

See how the magnet works in the clip below:

How can we utilize this push of a button technology in government?

Are Change Leaders Polarizing Figures Or Consensus Builders?

Posted March 27, 2012 by paulwolf2
Categories: Leadership

Tags: , ,

Mark Funkhouser a former Mayor of Kansas City has written an interesting post titled “Our Misguided Love Affair With Political Consensus”. Funkhouser states:

“Journalists seem to see the ability to build consensus as the epitome of political leadership, but in actuality political leadership almost never involves consensus. Consensus favors the status quo, not progress.”

Funkhouser’s point is great leaders that accomplish big items are polarizing figures not consensus builders. Recently I did an analysis of votes cast by the town board members where I reside (Tonawanda, NY), and I was shocked how few times members voted “no”. From 2008-2010 the Tonawanda Town Board voted on 3,179 items and during this three year period there were only 11 instances where any Town Board member voted “No”! In other words there were 3,168 instances of unanimous consensus. Seems like a whole lot of status quo to me.

I realize that the agenda of most local government meetings is pretty routine stuff but Funkhouser has a point. Leaders who are looking to challenge the status quo have many opportunities to vote “no” at a minimum. If you as a leader are serious about making a difference in your community then you have to be willing to address big controversial issues where strong opinions exist for and against change.

Do leaders have to be polarizing to make change happen or is building consesnsus where change happens?