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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Six Ways to Stop Wasting Time in Office Meetings

In a business world where time is as precious a resource as money, an enormous amount of it is wasted in meetings.

Senior executives now spend the equivalent of two days a week in meetings, and the average organization spends 15% of its collective time in meetings, according to Michael Mankins and Eric Garton, a pair of management consultants at Bain in their new bookTime Talent Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag & Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power.

They refer to one company, which discovered that a weekly, 90-minute meeting of mid-level managers was costing $15 million annually. Most organizations exercise no oversight when it comes to the scheduling of meetings, despite their high cost in time and productivity.

But some meetings are inevitable—and even if you escape the office, teleconferencing means you can’t escape the meetings themselves. Garton and Mankins offer six guidelines to get the most from them:

  • First, does the meeting even need to happen? Not every task requires a meeting to discuss it. Reaching a group consensus on a new initiative might, drafting a document probably doesn’t.
  • Set an agenda. About a third of meetings don’t have one, and most don’t send...

Exploiting Public Office for Private Gain

  • By Steven L. Schooner and Kathleen Clark
  • January 29, 2017
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At no time in the modern era has the nation’s chief executive appeared not only willing, but eager to exploit the nation’s highest office for the benefit of his personal, family, and business wealth. Conflicts of interest—the divided loyalties associated with serving two masters—might seem vague to some, but the problem is real.

The details of President Trump’s business arrangements matter. For example, turning over operations to his sons may reduce the president’s distractions, but Trump’s ownership and interest in his businesses remain, and therein lies the rub.

Yes, the President Can Have a Conflict of Interest

At a Jan. 11 press conference, where Trump announced his new business arrangements, he incorrectly declared that he couldn’t have a conflict of interest. Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, sees it differently: “A president is no more immune to the influence of two masters than any subordinate official. In fact, our common experience of human affairs suggests that the potential for corruption only grows with the increase of power.”

But lost in the day’s hullaballoo was Shaub’s clarification: “We can’t risk creating the perception that government...

How Reporters Misread Trump’s First Week in Office

Let’s look back at President Donald J. Trump’s amazing first-week flurry of executive orders: Not since the media coalesced around the “Trump can never win” meme have so many reporters gotten so much wrong. Much of the coverage has been apocalyptic, but most of the orders have been more pop than sizzle.

What a boffo opening! The Trump team actually managed to convince reporters—and subsequently most Americans—that the flurry of executive orders actually did something. They’re part of a deliberate chaos, masterfully orchestrated to create as much disruption to Washington’s governing traditions as possible—and from the chaos, to give Trump the chance to do what he really wants to do.

But the challenge comes after the curtain rises on Trump’s second act: how he will move past the announcements of ideas to building capacity to get results. Steven Suskin’s book on the biggest bombs in Broadway musicals, Second Act Troubles, points to the real issues. There’s a long list of big plays with big stars and great opening numbers that fell apart in the second act. Sometimes personality conflicts and artistic differences shredded the play. Sometimes costly rewrites and recasting...

The Border Wall Is a Negotiating Tactic Straight Out of 'The Art of the Deal'

On Jan. 25, representatives of Mexico’s government arrived in Washington to meet with White House officials. The purpose: preliminary discussions ahead of talks between Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and new US president Donald Trump, who are scheduled to meet on Jan. 31 to discuss NAFTA, immigration, and border security.

It’s expected to be a contentious discussion. And even before the Mexican delegation landed, Trump undermined their negotiating position.

With a single tweet, Trump ratcheted up the already high stakes for Peña Nieto in renegotiating his country’s most important international relationship. The Mexican peso plunged (though it’s since more than recovered) and Mexicans had a fit, some even demanding that their president cancel the trip in response to the Trumpian affront.

The timing perhaps was coincidental. But reading the wall announcement as a tactic for revamping what Trump has repeatedly characterized as a lousy deal with Mexico is not completely preposterous. After all, Trump himself has argued that one of his top qualifications to be president is his ability to make...

Why It’s So Hard for Women to Break Into the C-suite

With the first U.S. presidential election featuring a major party female nominee in the rear-view mirror and her male rival about to take the presidential oath, now is a good time to examine the progress women have made toward gender equality.

First, the good news: While Clinton lost the election, she still won the popular vote – by almost three million votes, in fact. About 66 million Americans affirmed that a woman is fit to lead one of the world’s most powerful nations.

In addition, women now account for 51 percent of management, professional and other high-wage occupations in the U.S., and research shows they perform slightly better than men at work. Some analysts argue that once women’s career choices, such as taking time off or opting for flexible hours, are considered, the male-female pay gap disappears.

Does this mean the glass ceiling has been broken?

Well, not so fast. Now the bad news.

Fewer than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, while Donald Trump has nominated just three women to join his 15-member Cabinet. In addition, women who seek power are still met with skepticism – or worse – by many.

Clinton’s gender, for example...

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