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If We Can Put a Man on the Moon... Getting Big Things Done in Government

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Overview


The American people are frustrated with their government-dismayed by a series of high-profile failures (Iraq, Katrina, the financial meltdown) that seems to just keep getting longer. Yet our nation has a proud history of great achievements: victory in World War II, our national highway system, welfare reform, the moon landing.

We need more successes like these to reclaim government's legacy of competence. In If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, William Eggers and John O'Leary ...

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If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government

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Overview


The American people are frustrated with their government-dismayed by a series of high-profile failures (Iraq, Katrina, the financial meltdown) that seems to just keep getting longer. Yet our nation has a proud history of great achievements: victory in World War II, our national highway system, welfare reform, the moon landing.

We need more successes like these to reclaim government's legacy of competence. In If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, William Eggers and John O'Leary explain how to do it. The key? Understand-and avoid-the common pitfalls that trip up public-sector leaders during the journey from idea to results.

The authors identify pitfalls including:

-The Partial Map Trap: Fumbling handoffs throughout project execution

-The Tolstoy Syndrome: Seeing only the possibilities you want to see

-Design-Free Design: Designing policies for passage through the legislature, not for implementation

-The Overconfidence Trap: Creating unrealistic budgets and timelines

-The Complacency Trap: Failing to recognize that a program needs change

At a time of unprecedented challenges, this book, with its abundant examples and hands-on advice, is the essential guide to making our government work better. A must-read for every public official, this book will be of interest to anyone who cares about the future of democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Eggers and O’Leary may have created a new genre—the Government Policy Thriller. We couldn’t get enough of the stories—good policies gone bad, great ideas that flew off the rails, and, occasionally, the stunning triumph that gives us hope that we can get to the moon again.” - Chip and Dan Heath, coauthors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

“A clear-eyed look at how to get the best out of our public institutions. Instead of easy answers, the authors offer practical suggestions for successful execution in a very challenging and complex environment. A must-read for political leaders.” --Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson

“As we sort out the cross-pressures in twenty-first-century government, this book is a useful and lively guide to how to make things work. Driven by practical cases and pragmatic lessons, it’s an invaluable road map to the government of the future.” - Donald F. Kettl, Dean, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

“If We Can Send a Man to the Moon is the rare book that made me both shake my head in disbelief and nod my head with possibility. Eggers and O’Leary offer a trenchant analysis of how good government intentions can go awry. But they also show how sharper thinking and keener attention to design can help governments at all levels serve citizens better. Pick up two copies—one to read yourself, the other to send to your favorite elected official.” - Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

“After serving as a mayor, a congressman for twenty years, and as a secretary of two cabinet-level departments in two administrations from different political parties, I can attest that the challenges of executing successful government programs exist at all levels of government, in all parties, and in all locations. Eggers and O’Leary present exactly the most common traps that lead to a failure of execution, but more importantly they present ways to help avoid those traps. Their ideas should be presented to all government employees.” - Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781422166369
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 11/16/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 686,273
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

William D. Eggers is the Global Research Director for Deloitte's public-sector practice and Executive Director of its Public Leadership Institute, and a prolific author and columnist. John O'Leary is an expert in business process engineering and has extensive government and private-sector experience in companies including Scudder Kemper Investments, Lycos, and KPMG Peat Marwick.

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Table of Contents

Preface: The Conflict Behind the Cliche

Introduction The Seven Deadly Traps on the Journey to Success 1

1 The Tolstoy Trap: You'll See It When You Believe It 19

2 The Design-Free Design Trap: Blueprint Bootcamp 51

3 The Stargate Trap: The Space Between Possibility and Reality 79

4 The Overconfidence Trap: Fear, Risk, and the Best-Laid Plans 107

5 The Sisyphus Trap: The Rock, the Hill, and You 135

6 The Complacency Trap: Changing Times 167

7 The Silo Trap: The Walls Between Us 197

8 Creating a Better Future: The Execution Mindset 219

Appendix A Case Studies Analyzed 243

Appendix B National Academy of Public Administration Survey Results 249

Appendix C Senior Executive Service Survey Results 253

Appendix D Policy Execution Survey Results, Canada 257

Notes 261

Index 277

Acknowledgments 289

About the Authors 295

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2013

    Recommended for Anyone in any large organization

    The authors offer a lot of insight into the workings of government. But having worked for over 30 years in a large corporation I find it largely applicable to my corporation as well. Well organized and logically presented. I did enjoy reading it.

    There was, in my opinion, one significant omission. As an example, Congress today will deliberately sabotage execution of a project, perhaps one passed before their time, by not funding it. It is a deliberate subversion of the execution process. I wish they had addressed this phenomenon.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Perhaps you’ve heard the old complaint: “If we can p

    Perhaps you’ve heard the old complaint: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we...?” This argument can apply to many challenges facing the US today. But help is on the way. Public policy experts William D. Eggers and John O’Leary have figured out an amusing way to discuss this very serious issue. They ask: Why does the US now seem unable to solve its most intractable problems? And their answers are discomfiting, though their jocular style may make you laugh and nod your head. They cite compelling examples – including the Challenger and Columbia disasters, Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war and Enron – to illustrate times when government worked and times when it didn’t. They find that democratic government is sown with seven “traps” that can keep its practitioners from getting crucial work done. But despair not! Here’s how good public administration can spring those traps open. getAbstract is confident this book will send policy makers, bureaucrats and concerned citizens over the moon.

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    Posted February 22, 2010

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