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Lessons About Government Performance From Latin America

Harvard’s Bob Behn has written about the spread of the “PerformanceStat” movement across the U.S during the past two decades. Now the creation of “Delivery Units,” which is another name for this phenomenon, has spread across the world ­– even to Latin America.

Behn’s recent book on PerformanceStat says this data-driven management approach is more of a leadership strategy than a process or a program to deliver better performance and results. However, a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank shows that having the right processes and structures matter as well. The study examines the increased attention in Latin American and Caribbean countries on defining and delivering results. They found that using tools and techniques, such as Delivery Units that report to the heads of government, are an effective way to strengthen the coordination and implementation of cross-agency initiatives.

The authors of the IDB study highlight the importance of “an integrated, whole-of-government approach (i.e., one that emphasizes a common strategy for the entire government, rather than letting each department implement its own agenda)." They recommend a range of routines, processes and technologies that help make this approach work for public executives. The study’s recommendations reach beyond ...

5 Strategic Planning Mistakes to Avoid in 2015

Now that we are beginning 2015, many nonprofit and government leaders are rethinking their strategies and strategic plans. Just like most New Year’s resolutions, strategic goals are easy to plan but difficult to implement. We have a little advice for leaders trying to get out of that typical cycle. Here are five mistakes we typically see:

Not talking with your stakeholders and customers. Planning out what you want to do in a vacuum is a satisfying exercise. If you didn’t need to deal with your customers, you would have a fantastic strategy. Customers and stakeholders force you to make tough decisions and deal with the realities of world. On the positive side, if you can truly understand what they need, it is an inspiring way to ground a strategy. Try to find avenues to interact and talk with your customers and stakeholders through formal interviews, working groups and scan for existing sources of data about them.

Not prioritizing initiatives. Most leaders I’ve worked with get into the planning phase and take on too many things. As they say, the eyes are bigger than the stomach. You only have a finite amount of time, attention, and resources. The ...

Attention: A Muscle to Strengthen

"Today is Thursday, the day of Meaning."

That's the message at the very top of the page. And from there down, almost everything about Amit Sood's website, stressfree.org, is couched in the self-help jargon that scientists instinctively dismiss. So it's especially interesting that Sood is a physician, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, no less. There he recently founded the Global Center for Resiliency and Wellbeing and is now taking to the Internet to teach people how to train their minds for a better life.

One of the core elements of Sood's practice is helping people to "create intentionality." He describes the approach plainly: choosing where you deploy your attention and how you process information. It's unique ground for an M.D. to tread, but increasingly relevant as the connection between mindset and physical health bears out. Sood argues that most of us spend more than half of our mental energy flitting from thought to thought, from app to app; we would ultimately be more productive and resilient, less depressed, and physically healthier, if we were only more deliberate with our cognitive energy. Which is all fine and good, if more easily ...

A Compelling Case for Bringing Back Private Offices at Work

The cushy private offices, complete with couch and bar, that Don Draper and his ilk enjoyed would be unthinkable in most companies today. The workplace has seen a years-long trend of shrinking personal space—driven, if you believe the companies doing it, by a desire for increased collaboration in an open office (and not at all by the cost-savings of packing more people into smaller spaces).

But there’s a growing backlash to the open-plan office, and the New York startup Stack Overflow lays out a compelling case for the resurrection of the private office.

That strategy seems to be working out just fine for Stack Overflow itself, which makes private offices available to all of its developers. The company, which primarily operates as a question and answer site for programmers, announced this week that it raised another $40 million in venture capital.

The benefits of giving people the option of working privately have been huge for Stack Overflow, the company’s VP of Engineering, David Fullerton, writes in a blog post. Here’s his reasoning:

It gives people control over their own productivity


The major benefit of the private office is that people can decide when they need to ...

Leaders, Don't Let Knowledge Walk Out the Door

I visit a local bakery every Friday afternoon to purchase Challa bread, a sweet egg bread that just seems to go well with just about every meal. I've been buying a loaf there, each week, for years. Unfortunately, of late, the quality just hasn't been there. We've noticed the bread is not as it should be—and oddly doughy at the center. It was such a surprise when this began to occur. We realized this was a sign that something was off track.

Of course, we let them know what we were experiencing. (It's wrong to leave without offering diplomatic feedback. As it turns out, many other customers voiced their concern, as well.) The root of the problem began with a personnel change in the bakery—as a highly experienced baker left quite suddenly. With her, left all of the subtleties of the trade that were so important to continued excellence. Sadly, her legacy was lost.

This is an issue that organizations both large and small, must address. How do we effectively capture all of what our valued employees know—all of the strategies and nuances that set them apart as contributors? How do we ensure ...