About Bob Behn

Bob Behn

Robert D. Behn, a lecturer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the faculty chair of the School’s executive-education program on “Driving Government Performance: Leadership Strategies that Produce Results.” He specializes in governance, leadership, performance, and the management of large public agencies. He also conducts custom-designed executive-education programs for public agencies.

Bob earned a B.S. in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and a Ph.D. in decision and control from Harvard University. He served on the staff of Governor Francis W. Sargent of Massachusetts, as a scholar in residence with the Council for Excellence in Government, and on the faculty of the Harvard Business School and of Duke University's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, where he was director of its Governors Center.

For over three decades, Bob has taught numerous executive-education programs and made a variety of presentations to public officials on such topics as: "Strategies for Ratcheting Up Performance in Government"; "Ten Key Issues in Performance Measurement"; and “Performance Leadership.” He has led retreats for gubernatorial offices and cabinets in Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Washington. He has conducted a variety of executive seminars for agencies in half the states (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).

He has also conducted executive seminars for federal agencies and the U.N., and on six continents: ­in Bangkok, Berlin, Bogatá, Brisbane, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Guatemala City, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon, Madrid, Melbourne, Monterre­y, Oslo, Ottawa, Reykjavik, Sydney, and Wellington. (Don’t the folks in Antarcti­ca need help improving performance?)


Bob’s books include:

Rethinking Democratic Accountability (Brookings);

Leadership Counts: Lessons for Public Managers (Harvard University Press);

Quick Analysis for Busy Decision Makers (with James Vaupel, Basic Books); and

Innovation in American Government (coedited with Alan Altshuler, Brooking­s).

His most recent book, published by Brookings Press, is The PerformanceStat Potential: A Leadership Strategy for Producing Results.


Bob's scholarly articles include:

“Management and the Neutrino: The Search for Meaningful Metaphors,” Public Administration Review, (Sep-Oct 1992): Recipient of the Marshall E. Dimock Award for the best lead article in PAR in 1992.)

“Cutback Budgeting,” The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, (Winter 1985): Winner of the Raymond Vernon Prize for the article in JPAM’s Vol. 4 that “makes the greatest contribution to intellectual discourse on public policy and management.”


Two of the 75 articles selected as “most influential articles” published during the first 75 years of Public Administration Review were by Bob:

“The Big Questions of Public Management,” Public Administration Review, (Jul-Aug 1995).

“Why Measure Performance? Different Purposes Require Different Measures,” Public Administration Review (Sep-Oct 2003);


Some of Bob's other articles are:

“Rethinking Accountability in Education,” International Public Management Journal (2003);

"The Psychological Barriers to Performance Management: Or Why Isn't Everyone Jumping on the Performance-Management Bandwagon?" Public Performance & Management Review (2002);

“Strategies for Avoiding the Pitfalls of Performance Contracting,” Public Productivity and Management Review (1999, with Peter A. Kant);

“Branch Rickey as a Public Manager,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (1997); and

"Management By Groping Along," The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (1988).


At the 1996 meeting of the American Society for Public Administration, Bob delivered the first Donald C. Stone Lecture: "Performance, Managerial Competence, and Democratic Accountability: The Three Challenges of Public Administration."

Bob grew up a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. At the end of the 1967 season, however, he went to Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox’ last game. (If you fail to appreciate the significance of this, he will explain it in more detail than you want to know. He can also decipher both the theory and the technicalities of the infield fly rule.)

Bob’s newspaper pieces include: "A Professor's Ode to the Red Sox," The Wall Street Journal; "Red Sox Lessons for Our Elite," The Washington Post; "The Next Ted Williams? I'm Your Man," The New York Times; and "Before the Curse," The Boston Globe.

Bob’s monthly publication, Bob Behn’s Performance Leadership Report, is available online at:


Bob believes that his mental health is inversely related to how long it has been since he slept in a tent.


Robert D. Behn

John F. Kennedy School of Government

Harvard University

79 John F. Kennedy Street

Cambridge, MA 02138