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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

How Agencies Can Deliver Better Results for Less Money

As the Trump administration continues to set its agenda for the federal government, it is emphasizing accountability, efficiency and tangible results. The message is clear: agencies must deliver better results with fewer resources.

With budget cuts, hiring freezes and greater scrutiny of program funding, we need a fundamental shift in the way agencies acquire services and deliver on their missions to citizens. Outcomes-based contracting, which promotes a tight collaboration between agencies and their contractors, is a natural fit for this environment. With the administration’s business-centric approach to problem-solving, it would make sense for agencies to tie contractors’ compensation to their ability to deliver defined program outcomes.

The Opportunity

In an outcomes-based contracting model, companies are paid for the results they deliver. It’s an approach that has already gained popularity within the technology industry, so much so that Gartner predicts that by 2018, one-third of all IT contracts will be based on program outcomes, replacing traditional cost-plus contracts that pay based on the completion of individual tasks or activities.

Outcomes-based contracting has enormous potential beyond IT procurements. Amid growing skepticism about the effective implementation of both large and small public programs, outcomes-based contracts help to ensure that agencies are...

I Kicked My Smartphone Addiction By Retraining My Brain To Enjoy Being Bored

As an only child who grew up before the rise of the Internet, boredom was my constant companion. Summers were an endless stretch of riding my bike around town, reading, and staring up into the sky, imagining stories that I later wrote into my tattered journals.

This tendency toward unscheduled downtime carried over into adulthood, and it frequently fed my creative writing process. Then, in my late 30s, I got my first smartphone—and pretty soon, my dreamy, idle periods began filling up.

As a freelance writer, it made sense that I’d check my email frequently. But I also enjoyed surfing the Internet to break up the dull moments of child-rearing. Checking Facebook was a great way to keep tabs on far-flung friends. Before long, I was never bored: not at the post office, the grocery store, or while getting my oil changed. None of this seemed like a problem—until I noticed a creeping feeling of mental clutter, and a significant decline in my creative writing.

It hit me while I was driving one day: I no longer let myself be bored. I wondered just how bad that was for a writer—or for any other creative type...

The Performance Revolution Government Needs

In a recent column, Terry Gerton, President of the National Academy of Public Administration, noted that government will not be able to solve many problems until the civil service system is reformed. NAPA’s new white paper, “No Time to Wait:  Building a Public Service for the 21st Century,” spells out the need clearly.

I have made the same argument many times in this publication, although my background is very different from that of Gerton’s or the report’s authors. I have never worked in government. The qualification that’s relevant here is the realization that people who look forward to going to work in the morning are lucky.  I’ve known too many government employees who are frustrated and angry about their experience at work.

But several comments added at the end of the column raise an important issue.  Bmj1’s comment is one of several on point: “You've stated this over and over, as have many others, but what is the driving need for reform? What is the problem and what are we trying to fix? . . . I've yet to see an actual problem defined and a solution proposed . . . To quote a line: ‘Let's work...

'Do You Have Any Questions For Us?'

This question originally appeared on QuoraWhat reply does the interviewer expect when he asks “do you have any questions for us”?Answer by Ambra Benjamin, engineering recruiter at Facebook.

Almost every interview process will leave some time at the end of the interview (or each interview, if you’re partaking in a loop where you meet with multiple individuals) when you will undoubtedly be asked the question, “Do you have any questions?” It’s important to note throughout your entire career that when you interview for a job, you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Moreover, any way you can demonstrate that you are taking the interview process seriously will only ever help, not hinder you.

Having well-thought-out questions to ask during your interview is part of the research process in you understanding if this company and role would be a good fit for you. I can think of a few times in my career when I completed my interview with a company and thought, “This is not going to be a good fit,” and completely withdrew myself from the entire process.

In preparation for your interview, you should do a lot of research...

Why Warmth Is the Underappreciated Skill Leaders Need

When it comes to success in leadership, there has never been just one playbook. Some leaders are extroverts, natural mentors, and charismatic speakers; others prefer to lead by example and take a more hands-off approach.

There is, however, one simple fact that leaders ignore at their peril: those who demonstrate high levels of “interpersonal warmth” have a better chance at long-term success.

“Warmth is the differentiating factor,” says Loran Nordgren, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. He cites a Zenger Folkman study that looked at 50,000 managers and found that a leader’s overall effectiveness is predicted more by warmth than competence. “If you’re seen as low-warmth, you have something like a 1-in-2000 chance to make the top quartile of effectiveness as a leader.”

The lesson for aspiring business leaders is not to smile more broadly. Instead, Nordgren recommends simply being aware of one’s perceived warmth and taking steps to manage that perception whenever possible.

Just as it pays to consciously demonstrate one’s own competence—by accepting challenging projects, say, or solving an issue without being asked—it helps to be more proactive, even strategic, about expressing warmth.

“There isn’t...