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How 'Monsters, Inc.' Met Priority Goals

Agency chief operating officers are required to conduct quarterly progress reviews on priority goals. Sometimes called “PerformanceStat” meetings, they can be effective problem-solving sessions or terrifying blame games.

So, how do you make PerformanceStat meetings effective? OMB says they should be constructive and focus on learning. Observers such as Harry Hatry at the Urban Institute say leaders need to be “hands on” and actively engaged to convey the importance of the sessions.

But just how does a leader do this? Interestingly, the answer may come from Pixar—the movie animation company with 14 box office hits in a row. If the creators can build success from toys, cars, rats, bugs and monsters, then maybe their leadership secrets can help federal agencies with more mundane issues, such as reducing poverty and climate change.

The president of Pixar, Ed Catmull, writes in Fast Company that the secret is “candor.” He says: “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms. Our decision-making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group. Candor is the key to collaborating effectively.”

The leader’s job is to put mechanisms ...

The Best Measure of an Employee Is How Well She Mentors Others

On his faculty profile at Wharton’s management department, the first qualification that Adam Grant lists is not his work with Goldman Sachs and the United Nations, his Oprah-endorsed bestselling book Give and Take, or the distinction of being called “brilliant” by  Malcolm Gladwell. Those accomplishments are there, to be sure, but the first thing Grant wants you to know about him is that he is the school’s youngest and highest-rated full professor.

That’s consistent with Grant’s argument that the way we measure and reward achievement is all wrong. His book, which is being translated into dozens of languages and has been named one of the best books of 2013 by several outlets, focuses on how mentorship, generosity and helpfulness are a better path to success than trying to come out ahead in every interaction—which Grant calls “taking” behavior.

Most companies measure performance based on individual accomplishments. But that system doesn’t reward people for a lot of essential behind-the-scenes work. And it can reward people that either take credit for others’ work, or are better at showing off than working. The traditional approach sometimes advances the wrong people, and can end up hurting companies, Grant ...

Our Cubicles, Ourselves: How the Modern Office Shapes American Life

Each year, the average American spends nearly 2,000 hours working. For many, that time passes inside the three little walls of a modern cubicle.

Writer Nikil Saval explores these odd spaces—how they came to be, how they make us feel—in his new book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. I spoke to Saval about the modern office, and a lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Your book is, as I see it, about twin themes: the spaces we work in, and the quality or character of the work itself. Can you talk, just briefly, about the relationship between those two ideas?

I’ve found that space in an office often reflects the way power operates in a workplace: design expresses (though not in a simple way) relationships of hierarchy, control, and authority.

The idea that they were related at all came to me when I was first doing the research for this book, which coalesced into an article for n+1 (where I’m an editor), called “Birth of the Office” (winter 2007). I was working in my second cubicle, much smaller than my first, and looking into the history of it: Where did it ...

3 Tips for Effective Interagency Collaboration

Coordinating policy across multiple agencies is a major challenge for many federal program managers and leaders. Responsibilities are not always neatly divided within agencies or even between agencies. The results are conflicting policies, duplication of effort and inefficiency. At the core of the issue is each federal agency’s struggle to hold on to what it defines as its responsibility and mission space. A 2011 Government Accountability Office report identified 34 areas in which agencies have overlapping initiatives. In 2013, the updated GAO report didn’t indicate much improvement. Thirty-one areas were still identified with significant “fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.”

The pinch of tightening budgets leads agencies to try to do more with less. As a result, many agencies are trying in earnest to reduce inefficiencies.  Interagency collaboration is a means to improve policy and outcomes while potentially reducing costs. It may seem like an obvious solution, but the road to doing it successfully has serious potholes.

Here are three tips for avoiding the potholes:

1. Find the right contact. Locating and engaging the right point of contact is invaluable. You need to find the person in another organization that has the knowledge and internal connections to make things happen ...

What Turns a Perfectionist Into a Lunatic

For sports fans, the spectacle of red-faced, screaming coaches—even more than daffodils and chirping birds—is a harbinger of spring. Occasionally, the rage of some of those men (and they are overwhelmingly men) has overflowed into headline-grabbing incidents and viral YouTube clips: former Dodgers coach Tommy LaSordatackling a mascot, for example, or Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew head-butting a player—not to mention the train wreck of court-side meltdowns at last month’s NCAA college basketball tournament.

Whether all that gesticulating and cursing helps motivate players is unclear, but the apoplectic coaches have served at least one useful purpose—for science. A new study (paywall) uses coaches as examples of perfectionists, and links different perfectionist types to how the coaches handle stress. It suggests that the ones with the noisiest, most colorful displays are reacting just as much to what people are saying outside the game as to what’s happening on the field.

“Lots of coaches display features of perfectionism,” Andrew Hill, a psychologist from the University of Leeds, told Quartz. “It could be that sports can require flawlessness/exceptional performance; they promote perfectionistic tendencies among coaches and athletes.”

Broadly speaking, perfectionists come in two brands: those ...