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

Should Computers Decide Who Gets Hired?

Anyone who has ever looked for a job knows that sometimes connections can trump qualifications. That’s why networking—despite its awkwardness— has become such a highly touted skill. Knowing someone who knows someone could mean finding out about a job before it’s publicly posted, or better yet, finding someone who can put in a good word or review an application himself. Many people hate this, because it is perceived to be unfair. But do these personal and subjective assessments ultimately result in better hiring? 

new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research says quite the opposite: Relying on a “feel” for a candidate—as opposed to objective qualifications—makes managers’ hiring decisions worse.

The paper’s authors, Mitchell Hoffman of the University of Toronto, Lisa B. Kahn of Yale, and Danielle Li of Harvard, say that, at least in theory, there are two ways that managerial discretion could go. It could be better: These decision-makers are privy to better, more comprehensive information about job candidates than tests and resumes can provide, thus they wind up hiring people who stick around longer and perform at a higher level. Or, it could be worse, with managers instead injecting...

Going Beyond Jack of All Trades

The White House-driven category management initiative offers important new opportunities for procurement professionals.

For the first time, for example, they have a chance to specialize in and master specific categories of spending, in addition to being jack-of-all-trade buyers. Category management of more than $270 billion in annual spending on commonly purchased goods and services requires skills not yet gathered in any existing federal position description, nor taught in federal procurement training institutions.

More than ever, the procurement corps has an opportunity to deepen its relationship with the programs accomplishing the true business of government — its missions. More than ever, government buyers are expected to deeply understand their markets and suppliers.

The category team structure — the central organizing principle for the 10 types of common governmentwide purchases — opens an array of potential new positions for team members in:

  • Professional services
  • Information technology
  • Facilities and construction
  • Security and protection
  • Industrial products and services
  • Office management
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Travel and lodging
  • Human capital
  • Medical services

Within those fields there are 49 subcategories governed by Level 2 category team leaders. Commodity teams will carry out the strategic plan of each Level 2 team through demand management, strategic sourcing, supplier relationship management and total...

Bad Boss? Are You Sure It's Not You?

Just about everyone I’ve encountered recently — or so it seems — has an ax or two to grind with their boss. From “she just doesn’t understand me” to “he’s only in it for himself” to “he micromanages me,” the complaints sound like the story lines of bad (redundant?) relationship-gone-wrong episodes of the Dr. Phil Show.

I ran into an individual celebrating leaving an alleged miserable manager in the lurch by quitting. Another was busy scheming of ways to undercut her manager by sinking one of the manager’s pet projects. (Harsh and stupid.) And, the coldest cut came from someone genuinely positive that his manager was out on sick leave. I asked whether it was serious, and the guy laughed and said, “It’s not my problem.” (Harsh and cruel.)

I’ve experienced my own fair share of individuals in leadership roles who would have struggled to organize a pumpkin judging contest for 8-year-olds. And there are more than a few I’ve encountered, where it has crossed my mind that karma will be a b@tch. However, newsflash: It’s not always the manager that’s the issue.

If you’re struggling with a challenging boss, a...

To Move Ahead in Your Career, You Must First Disrupt Yourself

In her new book, Disrupt Yourself, Whitney Johnson argues that the principles from Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen’stheory of disruptive innovation can also be applied on an individual level. Just as companies like Netflix created a new market before competing directly with (and ultimately disrupting) Blockbuster, individuals stand a better chance of achieving high status (and higher earnings) in their professions by taking a counter-intuitive path to success.

Johnson, a co-founder in Rose Park Advisors with Christensen, uses her own story—she landed a job as a secretary on Wall Street with no experience and a music degree, and eventually worked her way up to equity analyst—to illustrate how the S-Curve can be applied to individuals. Initially a disruptor enters the market in a weak position and largely stays under the radar, but over time momentum leads to hyperactive growth:


“I had no business credentials, connections, or confidence, so I started as a secretary to a retail sales broker at Smith Barney in midtown Manhattan,” Johnson writes. “It was the era of Liar’s PokerBonfire of the Vanities, and Working Girl. Working on Wall Street was exciting. I started taking business courses at night and...

Building a Shared Services Marketplace

Novelist William Gibson once said, “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.”

This has been the state of shared services in the federal government during the past 15 years. Is that about to change? Given recent events, it certainly appears more possible than ever.

At an event hosted by the Partnership for Public Service in October, Dave Mader, the acting deputy director of management at the Office Management and Budget, and Denise Turner Roth, head of the General Services Administration, announced the creation of the Unified Shared Services Management Office to oversee shared services for the federal enterprise.

The new office will be headed by Beth Angerman, most recently the director of the Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation at the Treasury Department. Angerman will be responsible for developing and implementing an enterprisewide shared services strategy, and helping meet the administration’s cross-agency priority goal to “strategically expand high-quality, high-value shared services to improve performance and efficiency throughout the government.”

Cities, states, the private sector and other countries have embraced shared services as a way to improve the quality of services to customers while driving down costs. The federal government, however, has had mixed success in...