Rethinking the Role of the Cabinet: Maryland's Center of Government Reforms, 2007-2012


When Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley assumed office in January 2007, he took over a government hamstrung by ineffective coordination and imprecise monitoring. The state had 20 executive departments, 80,000 state workers, and a $30-billion budget. Winning cooperation to work toward shared goals and keeping tabs on progress posed daunting challenges. A Democrat who had served as mayor of Baltimore, Maryland's largest city, O'Malley had staked his campaign on promises to reform the education sector, increase public safety, safeguard the environment, make health care more affordable, and improve the state's economy. As he had done while mayor of Baltimore, O'Malley decided to focus his cabinet on several main priorities and set specific goals. Then he and his team (1) invested substantial amounts of time to come to understand the inner workings of the various departments, (2) developed measures of department performance, and (3) met regularly with department heads to evaluate progress. Because the governor was able to keep abreast of what was getting done and what wasn't, his team could focus on department performance in a timely manner and from a position of knowledge. O'Malley called the process StateStat. The implementation of StateStat kept departments focused on the governor's priorities, promoted greater coordination among departments and agencies, and produced measurable progress toward goals set by the center of government. 

Michael Scharff drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Annapolis, Maryland, in October and November 2012. Additional interviews were conducted by phone in February and March 2013. Although the governor was unavailable to be interviewed for this case study, aides and officials close to O'Malley described the reform process in detail. Case published July 2013.

Associated Interview(s):  Matthew Gallagher

Governor Martin O’Malley
delivery unit
Centers of Government
Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr.
University of Maryland
Managing for Results
Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit
Tony Blair
Chesapeake Bay
Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown
Focus Area(s)
Centers of Government
Critical Tasks
Adaptive management
Improving cabinet efficiency
Preparation of policy papers and choices
Strategic planning
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
United States
Case Studies
Michael Scharff