Tobias: Government best practices found all over the world

Thursday - 8/5/2010, 8:49pm EDT

Robert Tobias

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Smart managers are looking for best practices wherever they can find them. Some observers say there is a lot of knowledge you can gain from learning how governments around the world deal with the same challenges you face every day.

Robert Tobias, Director of Public Sector Executive Education at American University, is one of those observers. Bob recently took 15 Master's Degree candidates on a field trip to the seat of the European Union to compare how the EU does things with how our Federal government operates.

"We met with members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council. We spent a day at NATO headquarters, because how NATO interacts with the EU is fascinating," Bob said. "To a student, every single student said they learned more about their government by being forced to compare others."

But another point was to find best practices to take back to the agencies. "By really studying the tension in the EU between where they were, with 27 independent member states, and where they are, where 60% of the legislation is common, [the students] started to understand what it takes to really create consensus for action between people with divergent interests," Bob reported. "My question to almost every person that we met with was, 'Why does anybody agree to anything?' And the response was, there is an ever-increasing recognition that we can do more together than we can do separately. One of the examples of that is the train system in Europe."

Bob and I discussed many observations and reflections on his time in Brussels with his students, how those observations impact the agencies his students work for, and how they can impact your agency if you choose to apply them. You can hear my entire conversation with Bob by clicking on the audio link.