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

A Guide for Working Families

In his memorandum for modernizing federal leave, the president wrote, “Men and women both need time to care for their families and should have access to workplace flexibilities that help them succeed at work and at home. Offering family leave and other workplace flexibilities to parents can help achieve the goals of recruiting and retaining talent, lowering costly worker turnover, increasing employee engagement, boosting employee morale, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

This week, as President Obama continues his conversations with working families across the country, the Office of Personnel Management is proud to release a new online handbook that gives federal employees the information they need to take advantage of the government’s many leave policies related to having a baby, adopting, or becoming foster parents.

Our Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care provides scenarios and tips to give employees realistic and specific examples about how these policies can and should be applied. It was developed with the help of representatives from more than 40 federal agencies, and it is an important milestone in achieving the president’s vision for federal working families.

Federal employees will be familiar with many of our ...

Help Shape the Next President’s Agenda

How can the next president avoid management mistakes and improve the performance of the federal government?

A bipartisan coalition of 16 good government groups seeks answers with the Transitions in Governance 2016 initiative launched this week. In keeping with the crowdsourcing movement that is so effective in solving other challenges, the Transitions in Governance initiative is asking for your input.

Each new administration comes into office promising to do things differently. Within each federal agency, new political appointees arrive, vowing to fix long-standing management problems. They quickly learn that changing the way government does business is incredibly difficult. Change-resistant cultures within bureaucracies, combined with complex and confusing statutes, can cause even the best and well-intentioned ideas of these political appointees to wither on the vine.

The goal of Transitions in Governance 2016 is to identify some of the greatest challenges the new administration and its appointees will face and provide thoughtful recommendations and reforms for consideration—a shortening of the learning curve, so to speak.

The initiative will examine what is and is not working in a variety of federal management areas, including performance management, information technology, data transparency, workforce recruitment and retention, acquisition reform, intergovernmental relations, and private sector ...

2,500 Years Later, the Hottest New Management Guru is Confucius

When CEOs are looking for guidance, they might read Jack Welch, listen to Warren Buffett or study Steve Jobs. But there is another management guru who should get more attention inside corporate suites: Confucius

Sure, the Chinese philosopher espoused his doctrine 2,500 years ago—long before quarterly earnings reports, the S&P 500, labor unions, or even capitalism itself. Yet he spent much of his time deliberating on good leaders and how to become one. In fact, the Analects, the most famous text containing Confucius’s wisdom, is filled with advice for anyone aiming to win friends and influence people.

During his lifetime, Confucius’s target audience was China’s ruling elite—the kings, dukes and nobles who, by his reckoning, were doing a pretty lousy job of governing the country. His teachings, though, can be applied by anyone managing any sort of organization, the modern corporation included. Smart leaders, no matter how powerful, should also be open to dissent 

The ideal Confucian leader ought to be both strong and benevolent. Confucius believed that ultimate authority should be vested in one person, and that person should manage decisively. But Confucius did not favor autocrats. Leaders were not to abuse ...

The Lowdown on Agency Strategic Reviews

The director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shaun Donovan, put agencies on notice last week that the administration is doubling down on the implementation of its priorities and tracking progress more closely.

This memo indirectly adds some urgency to the relatively new annual strategic reviews which are underway in agencies across the government.

The 2010 amendments to the Government Performance and Results Act created a series of cycles for four-year strategic plans, annual plans, the designation of two-year agency priority goals and four-year cross-agency priority goals. The law also requires the Office of Management and Budget to annually assess agencies’ progress.

To do this, OMB created an annual strategic review process whereby agencies would self-examine their progress of programs in the context of the strategic objectives—the building blocks of their four-year strategic plans—and share those results with OMB. The first complete cycle of agency-level strategic reviews was conducted last spring and summer, and results were reported along with the president’s fiscal 2016 budget in February.

What’s Been the Result?

The president’s budget provided a high-level assessment of the agency strategic reviews. In addition, agency-by-agency results were made available on, but it ...

Video: Capuchin Monkeys Show How Keeping Up With Your Peers is an Early Need

You’re reading the Sunday paper, with the sun shining and a cup of coffee to hand. Life is good. And then you see it: a familiar name in the paper, perhaps an old schoolmate, winning an accolade, money, praise. Worse: they work in your field. They might as well have turned up at the breakfast table and punched you in the stomach.

We can revel in the achievements of strangers and close loved ones, but why does the success of people we know but with whom we are not intimate hurt so much? Kevin Starr, director of the Mulago Foundation, which funds philanthropic projects in the developing world, says that one of the fundamental components of human happiness is status. Starr, who gave a presentation on happiness at the Skoll World Forumon social entrepreneurship in Oxford, UK, said that striving for status is deep in our makeup as humans. This urge comes from the time when we lived as members of small bands wandering the African Savannah, which happens to account for 99% of human existence so far.

These bands worked according to a system of reciprocity and relationships based on status. To illustrate, Starr showed an extraordinary ...