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

Study: Fathers Also Want to ‘Have It All'

Have you seen the T-shirt slogan: Dads don’t babysit (it’s called “parenting”)?

This slogan calls out the gendered language we often still use to talk about fathers. Babysitters are temporary caregivers who step in to help out the parents. But the fact is that fathers are spending more time with their children than ever before. In fact, American fathers today spend 65 percent more time with their children during the workday than they did 30 years ago.

According to the 2016 National Study of the Changing Workforce, almost half of fathers in heterosexual relationships say they share caregiving responsibilities equally or take on a greater share of caregiving than their partner.

This week we witnessed the release of the first State of America’s Fathers, a report that draws on numerous social science research studies as well as new analysis of the 2016 National Study of the Changing Workforce.

As a sociologist who studies fatherhood worldwide, I think the most important message of this report is a simple one: Fathers are parents, too.

But dads' desire to “have it all,” as we once talked about in relation to working mothers, means that they are also having difficulties successfully...

Is the Productivity Drive Hurting Employers as Well As Employees?

Productivity is supposedly at the heart of any successful enterprise. We are told that we are in a global race to grab our share of the 21st century marketplace. Countries, nations and even individuals all must constantly enhance their performance if they are going to survive, let alone prosper.

It is not without its cost. Recent research has highlighted potentially negative aspects of this incessant drive for productivity, such as how the use of expanding performance measurements intensifies employee anxiety. Some of us might be painfully aware that rather than empowering workers, it can stoke insecurities leading to problems of burnout and a disengaged workforce.

Given the largely pro-market bent of the last three decades, this is far from surprising. But less considered is the thought that the pursuit of productivity might be taking its toll on employers. Can it threaten their profits and fiscal position by shifting the focus to short-term accounting practices and away from genuine innovation?

So, we must ask, what are the hidden costs of productivity for both employers and employees? And who is this new productivity culture benefiting? Anyone?

Counter-productive measures

It seems that companies everywhere are trying desperately to become more productive. At the...

Reinventing Management, Again

In 1994, Peter Drucker gave a lecture to government employees called “Reinventing Government: The Next Phase.” (The Drucker Lectures, 2010

In it, he commented on the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, earlier known as the National Performance Review and commonly known as NPR. This was a governmentwide management reform initiative spearheaded by Al Gore, which led to the founding of the Federal Communicators Network 20 years ago. (I previously served as Chair of the FCN from 2011-2012.)

Drucker praises NPR’s success, crediting the fact that it was “focused on performance.” However, he shares his concern that an “individual, isolated” change effort is “just good intentions unless it becomes permanent, organized, self-generated habit.”

Ultimately NPR had a significant impact, including $137 billion in savings. But Drucker’s concerns were well-placed, as the work of the NPR influenced future administrations, but was not duplicated by them in the same way.

At its height NPR made a tangible positive difference in the way government functioned, not only because it was an interagency entity but also because it was well-funded and well-staffed, with 250 federal employees paid by their home agencies all working together. 

Warned Drucker:

“We need ‘reinventing government.’ If we do...

It’s Time to Invest in Government’s Infrastructure -- Its People

For several years, the recession provided an excuse to ignore the country’s deteriorating infrastructure. Buildings have aged, the cracks grown wider and the potholes bigger -- and the costs for maintenance have increased. Delaying the inevitable expenditure makes the problems worse. 

That same argument can be made for the infrastructure of government – the people who make government work. The pressure to reduce spending has the same impact as deferring investments to maintain bridges and roads. Talent leaves, morale declines, performance deteriorates, and the public’s frustration grows.

Leaders in successful organizations would never allow that to happen. Talent management has become a C-suite priority. They manage the workforce as an asset, not a cost, and adopt strategies to gain everyone’s commitment to maintaining their success. Multiple research studies confirm very clearly that effective workforce management practices generate significantly better performance.

Government’s performance problems could be reduced with more effective work management practices. The way that pay has been managed is at the heart of those problems. The “cost” of performance problems, especially those that make the headlines, should be considered whenever pay is debated.

Excuse the rant, but the contentious debate over federal pay hurts government.  A series...

Are You Ready for the Next Organizational Crisis?

Whether it is retrieving astronauts from space or clarifying a tactless comment that created a firestorm for someone in the communications office, all organizations face challenges that force employees to think and act differently in response.

At a time when many agencies just want to fly under the radar and focus on mission work in anticipation of the next administration, there are a few that can’t seem to avoid critical attention for their handling (or mishandling) of organizational issues. The VA continues to struggle with ridding the agency of underperformers. Homeland Security faces questions about executives’ use of private email. And the National Park Service faces accusations of employing “scum” by one especially vocal Congressman.

As the public gets a glimpse into the leadership’s handling of public crises, one has to wonder what’s going on beneath the surface with the career staff. How does a pounding in the press affect morale and engagement?

We intuitively know that an engaged workforce—one that shows dedication and effort in their work—is crucial to high-performing organizations. In fact, one study  in the Harvard Business Review shows that employee engagement is key to reaching organizational goals, reducing turnover, improving work...

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