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

Why CEOs Like Rex Tillerson Fail in Washington

Rex Tillerson is hardly the first person to be targeted in a tweet from Donald Trump, but on Tuesday morning, he became the first Cabinet official to be fired by one. It was an ignominious end to Tillerson’s 13-month stint as secretary of state, a tenure that would have been undistinguished if it weren’t so entirely destructive.

Compared with expectations for other members of Trump’s Cabinet, the disastrous results of Tillerson’s time in office are somewhat surprising. Unlike the EPA’s Scott Pruitt, Tillerson did not have obvious antipathy for the department he headed; unlike HUD’s Ben Carson, he had professional experience that was relevant to the job; and unlike Education’s Betsy DeVos, his confirmation hearing wasn't a disaster.

The fact that Tillerson publicly clashed with Trump over everything from North Korea policy to relative IQ did nothing to make his job any easier, but his sorry legacy as secretary of state was sealed by a complete misunderstanding of the job before him. Rather than the nation’s top diplomat and an embodiment abroad of American values, Tillerson appeared to regard his mandate as little more than an exercise in cost-cutting and corporate...

Government Needs to Rethink Employee Compensation Plans

The Office of Management and Budget is committed to improving government’s performance. But while reorganizing and eliminating unnecessary jobs could reduce costs, that does not necessarily lead to better results. Reorganizations actually tend to disrupt working relationships so, for a time at least, performance often declines. Real gains come from assembling essential talent, adopting management practices that encourage collaboration and focus on organizational goals, and empowering employees to proactively achieve goals.

In that context, recognition and reward practices can reinforce desired behavior, provide focus for work efforts, and influence the level of effort. That’s broadly accepted and backed by extensive research.

It all falls apart, however, when managers and supervisors are ineffective—that includes micromanaging staff—or top management adopts policies that fail to acknowledge employee contributions. It’s when the work experience turns negative that employees become disengaged and their productivity declines.

Compensation is a core issue, of course. The way pay is managed can increase employee engagement or it can trigger disengagement and performance problems. Perceived fairness governs employee reactions.

It’s clear the administration is uncertain how to address the compensation issue. On some basis the plan is to transition to pay for performance. One...

Your Best Opportunity to Get Better at Your Job Is One of The Easiest to Miss

At Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, employees constantly tell their colleagues exactly what they think of them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s like your annual performance review, except it happens all day, every day.

Nearly every meeting is recorded to ensure full transparency and learning opportunities for all. And every morsel of feedback is permanently documented on proprietary apps meant to create, as Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio puts it, a “pointillist painting” of each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, for all of her or his colleagues to see.

It sounds fine and good, until you’re the one being roasted in front of your whole team, or even the whole company. Which, I can attest, really sucks. (I worked at Bridgewater for a year before switching back to a career in journalism.) But there are ways to cope and even turn this pain into something positive, as anyone who has lasted more than a few weeks at Bridgewater will tell you.

According to Dalio, whose book Principles: Life and Work explains his thinking and serves as a manifesto on Bridgewater’s culture, we all have “higher” and “lower-level” selves. These two selves respond to...

Could The Open Government Movement Shut The Door On Freedom of Information?

  • By Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Alex Ingrams and Daniel Berliner
  • March 14, 2018
  • Leave a comment

For democracy to work, citizens need to know what their government is doing. Then they can hold government officials and institutions accountable.

Over the last 50 years, Freedom of Information – or FOI – laws have been one of the most useful methods for citizens to learn what government is doing. These state and federal laws give people the power to request, and get, government documents. From everyday citizens to journalists, FOI laws have proven a powerful way to uncover the often-secret workings of government.

But a potential threat is emerging – from an unexpected place – to FOI laws.

We are scholars of government administration, ethics and transparency. And our research leads us to believe that while FOI laws have always faced many challenges, including resistance, evasion, and poor implementation and enforcement, the last decade has brought a different kind of challenge in the form of a new approach to transparency.

Technology rules

The new kid on the block is the open government movement. And despite the fact that it shares a fundamental goal with the more established FOI movement – government transparency – the open government movement threatens to harm FOI by cornering the already limited public and private funding and government staffing available...

People Don't Actually Know Themselves Very Well

When Donald Trump tweeted that he was a “very stable genius,” he was accused of lacking self-awareness by journalists and comedians. But the truth is that no one has perfect self-awareness—you probably believe more than a few things about yourself that are false.

Whether it’s in trying to land a job or impress a date, people spend a staggering amount of time making claims about themselves. It makes sense: You’re the only person on earth who has direct knowledge of every thought, feeling, and experience you’ve ever had. Who could possibly know you better than you? But your backstage access to your own mind sometimes makes you the last person on Earth others should trust about it. Think of it like owning a car: Just because you’ve driven it for years doesn’t mean you can pinpoint when and why the engine broke down.

Sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people at work have shown that people’s coworkers are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. As a social scientist, if I want to get a read on your personality, I could ask you to fill out...