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Perfectionism in the Office Doesn’t Need to be Toxic

Perfectionism would seem to be an ideal quality in an employee: Bosses should love you, clients and customers should ask for you and only you, and co-workers ought to be standing in line waiting to have you join their project.

Plus, students learn from a young age that an A+ is better than an A, and that constant striving ought to make them the star pupil and envy of their fellow students.

But as it turns out, the psychological underpinnings of perfectionism are quite complex. One factor that drives perfectionism is internal insecurity–and a desire to outdo those around you. Is your desire to be perfect a function of wanting to outdo those around you? If so you may fall into this group.

Related to this brand of personal insecurity is the need for constant validation from teachers, bosses and even parents. Perfectionists’ hunger for validation is a double-edged sword.

Once praised, some people develop the need to maintain this level of overachievement in everything they do. Whether it’s an evening meal or a DIY project produced via Pinterest, these kinds of perfectionists can even begin to be immobilized by their desire to be perfect. Living up to...

Why Your Employees Aren’t Performing

I can’t believe we spent a huge amount on customer-service training, and our staff still doesn’t consistently give great service. What a waste!

We sent out a memo explaining the summer dress code. I thought it was pretty clear, but the intern showed up dressed for a night at the club. In addition to having bad fashion sense, she seems to have problems with reading comprehension. 

He does the minimum, and that’s it. Why he doesn’t take more pride in his work and our business, I’ll never know. It’s extremely difficult to have him on my team. The guy’s a real energy drain.

Sound familiar? Probably. At any given moment, there are legions of employees busy “working” but not doing the work their managers expect them to do or, worse yet, doing their work in ways that hurt morale, productivity and the bottom line.

Perhaps a few of those frustrating employees have a professional death wish—but most don’t. In all likelihood, they are as frustrated by their performance as you are. The onus is on you, the manager, to identify and implement the fix.

For starters, you must come to terms...

Government Reorganization 2016: No Magic Wand

The recent history of government reorganization efforts hasn’t been very impressive. President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union offered a fairly mild proposal to reorganize the federal government’s trade functions. Republicans had proposed this idea in the 1990s, but the only bipartisan response it generated was opposition to any large-scale reorganization.

Is there a need to rethink the federal government’s organization and operations? Probably yes, given the reports regularly issued by the Government Accountability Office on program duplication and overlap. An advocacy group, the Government Transformation Initiative, has been promoting bipartisan legislation.

The Senate version of the bill proposes a seven-member bipartisan board, which would produce recommendations within a year, then monitor them and propose more over the six-year lifespan of the board. There would be expedited procedures for congressional consideration of any legislative proposals it offers.

Former Comptroller General David Walker is a strong supporter of this initiative. Steve Goodrich, one of the leaders of this initiative, said in a recent interview that the legislation would change how agencies do business.

However, the bigger question may be timing. Could it pass? Could it get implemented? I did a series of blog posts examining past...

Rethinking Federal Grants Management: From Oversight to Insight

Grants are among the most important tools the federal government uses to accomplish its objectives. At $600 billion, they comprise over 15 percent of annual outlays, forty percent higher than federal contract spending.

Sadly, the way federal grants are managed gets woefully little attention. To achieve higher returns on the taxpayer’s dollar, that needs to change. Both the mindset and the skill sets of federal grant managers need to evolve from primarily thinking about “conducting oversight” to figuring out instead how to generate insights that help grantees and others learn from experience and find new ways to improve performance along multiple dimensions, including outcomes, cost-effectiveness, customer experience (or, for regulated parties, interaction and transaction quality), fairness and unwanted side effects. That is not to suggest that persistently weak grantee performance is acceptable, but rather that attention to improvement should be the priority.

Last month, the Volcker Alliance joined with three other organizations – an evidence-based policy advocate, a policy area expert, and a grantees’ network – to urge changes in the way one federal grant program, Head Start, collects, analyzes, reports, shares, and uses performance and other data grantees submit. These recommendations, grounded in lessons from both the public and private...

How To Become Compulsively Successful

Project management sucks. Anyone who's spent five minutes in a large organization knows this. But there are people who manage to get it done: on time, on budget, high quality. And it's not only because of the conventional wisdom about what we can rely on to make a project great:

It's not about automation tools. They don't tout Trello, brag about Basecamp, or insist that "Sharepoint really works, if you take the time to learn it."

It's not about PM certification. I've seen highly trained PMs mouth off and melt down, just like there are those who get done without ever having cracked a textbook. Regular, agile, waterfall, windmill...none of it makes a difference.

It's not about communication, or emotional intelligence. That helps, of course, but I've seen virtual robots in human form power-saw through projects without so much as saying "good morning."

Here is what the best project managers have: An intensely powerful compulsion to fashion order out of chaos. You might think that such people would go for peaceful careers, like . . . I don't know, marine biologist? But it's just the opposite. They unconsciously gravitate toward fixing disarray...