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7 Tips for Accommodating Your Older Staffers

Mary loved her job as a recreational therapist in a skilled nursing facility. Her co-workers marveled at her ability to assess the needs of residents and propose exactly the right activity for a patient recovering from a brain injury, stroke or other trauma. Her 30-plus years of experience in all manner of expressive arts therapies helped her serve her patients well. She worked efficiently and effectively with quiet compassion.

And then came the inevitable hours of paperwork. For Mary, writing long detailed notes in medical charts was a normal part of her day. But she wasn’t as speedy as she had been in the past, and documentation requirements were increasing. While a physicians’ notes are usually transcribed from a dictated recording, medical support staff still struggle through pages of writing by hand at many facilities. Her immediate supervisor, 15 years her junior, pushed her to speed up. Mary felt stressed and unable to cope with the continuing pressure. After starting to dread her job and feeling like she was getting worse instead of better, she applied for and received a medical leave of absence.

Was this the best solution for Mary and her employer? Probably not.

Mary is one ...

Creating Innovation Offices That Work

Innovation offices are being established by many governments—including cities (Austin, Philadelphia and Chicago), states (Maryland, Colorado and Pennsylvania) and federal agencies (the National Archives and Records Administration and the departments of Health and Human Services and State). But not all offices are organized the same way and not all have the same mission or metrics. In a new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government, “A Guide for Making Innovation Offices Work,” Rachel Burstein and Alyssa Black detail how these various innovation groups fall into structural categories and how their success metrics map to their missions.


The authors identified six basic structures of innovation offices, noting that many combined two more or more of these models:

  1. Laboratory: An autonomous group charged with developing new technologies, products, fixes, or programs, sometimes in partnership with other groups and often with a public face. (Examples: New Urban Mechanics, Boston and Philadelphia; the Health and Human Services Department’s IDEA Lab)
  2. Facilitator: One person or small group working to convene government departments on internal improvements or external projects. (Examples: Governor’s Innovation Office, Pennsylvania; Chief Innovation Officer, Kansas City)
  3. Adviser: A small autonomous group or single person within government ...

3 Tips for Keeping Your R&D Budget Healthy

The last five years have been uncertain and tough ones for federal research and development spending. In the wake of the Recovery Act and constant budget battles, many programs experienced cuts or at least flat spending. Only in the last year have things been looking at all better. No matter what the macro trends are, there are a few things any program can do to improve their odds of shoring up or increasing their budget.

  1. Stay focused. The best federal R&D programs stay focused on what they are good at and avoid building far-flung empires. Knowing what you are good at and sticking to it is one of the hardest lessons a leader can learn. There’s a great story Walter Isaacson documented about Steve Jobs telling the new CEO of Nike: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” There’s always the temptation to extend the empire but don’t build your castles on sand.
  2. Link your investments to clear customer needs and/or required capabilities. How many times ...

How Retirement Was Invented

In 1881 Otto von Bismarck, the conservative minister president of Prussia, presented a radical idea to the Reichstag: government-run financial support for older members of society. In other words, retirement. The idea was radical because back then, people simply did not retire. If you were alive, you worked—probably on a farm—or, if you were wealthier, managed a farm or larger estate.

This was a big "if," at the time. That retirement age just about aligned with life expectancy in Germany then. Even with retirement, most people still worked until they died.

There were exceptions though. Military pensions had long been given to soldierswho had risked their lives (though those pensions didn't necessarily mean they could stop working ...

Leon Panetta’s Hard Lessons in Leadership

  • By Mark A. Abramson and Paul R. Lawrence
  • October 24, 2014
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A host of memoirs by former Obama administration Cabinet chiefs have been arriving in bookstores, offering valuable management lessons for political appointees and career civil servants. This is the last in a series on the experiences of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Stress Test), Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Duty), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Hard Choices), and Defense and intelligence chief Leon Panetta (Worthy Fights).

In Worthy Fights, Leon Panetta chronicles his tenure during the first term of the Obama administration as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (February 2009 to June 2011) and as secretary of Defense (July 2011 to February 2013). He also served as a member of the House and as budget director and chief of staff for President Clinton. While Panetta’s memoir is stirring controversy over his criticism of President Obama’s leadership style, the management insights for government leaders have received far less attention:

Involve key staff in decision-making. Panetta acknowledges that his credentials for the CIA position were not based on prior experience in covert action or intelligence gathering, and says he got the job because he knew something about running organizations. Based on his work in the Clinton administration, Panetta had seen the ...