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Risk Management Isn’t Just for the Finance Staff

Federal law enforcement and other operational mission leaders are hearing about new requirements for enterprise risk management, an organizationwide approach to managing risks that has been in practice in the commercial sector for some time.  

As they begin to understand ERM, many agency leaders are asking: What is the quickest way to check this box and get back to serving the mission? The concern is valid, and compliance requirements and other guidance from the Office of Management and Budget may sound like a task best delegated far down in the organization. But if operational and mission leaders take a closer look, they will see that ERM represents an opportunity for them—it’s not just a task for the finance and accounting people.  

Let’s start with some definitions. OMB recently published Management’s Responsibilities for Enterprise Risk Management and Internal Control. As such, agencies must create an integrated risk governance structure to “improve mission delivery, reduce costs, and focus corrective actions towards key risks.” The process should include “leadership from the agency Chief Operating Officer and Performance Improvement Officer, and close collaboration across all agency mission and mission-support functions.” It lays out requirements for managing risk across the agency...

Agencies Need A STEM Talent Management System

The government’s technology problems are largely staffing problems. For years, workforce concerns were ignored. But high-profile data breaches have shifted the focus. Government’s technology problems are as complex and difficult to address as any in the world. Agencies need to be able to hire the best.

That’s true in other fields as well—medicine, science, engineering, etc.  Fortunately, many of the best minds already work for government. However, it’s clear that government has not assembled the IT expertise it needs, as evidenced by the continuing problems at the Office of Personnel Management.

The important step last year was the creation of the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework and the posting of the Cybersecurity Workforce Development Toolkit. This is a unique investment to increase government’s cybersecurity workforce that highlights the importance of the staffing problem. It’s the foundation for a talent management strategy.

The business community has similar problems. A February article in Harvard Business Review, “Why Boards Aren’t Dealing with Cyberthreats” discussed the reasons.  

But the potential damage and the cost of data breaches and hacking has to be far larger for government than in corporations.

Recent testimony of Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen...

Setting Goals Around Tasks, Not Outcomes, is the Best Way to Improve Performance, a Study Shows

The importance of setting goals is well-established.

Athletes routinely use goals as motivation. Corporate boards set goals for CEOs to create incentives. Scarcely a middle-school assembly or motivational speech goes by without a speaker exhorting the audience to set goals.

But some goals are more effective than others. A new study of US undergraduates suggests students who set task-based goals—such as taking a certain number of practice tests—will outperform students who set performance-based goals, such as a letter grade for the course. The findings, from economics professors at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, and the University of Florida, have been released in a working paper (pdf) by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and so hasn’t been peer reviewed yet.

The researchers ran two experiments with a total of nearly 4,000 students in an introductory course at a public university. In one, students who set a goal of taking a fixed number of online practice tests were 5% more likely to get a B+ grade or better than those in a control group with no set goal. In the other experiment, students who set a letter grade as a goal were no more...

A TED Speaker Coach’s Trick For More Commanding Presentations Involves Your Toes

There’s nothing more distracting than a fidgety presenter. Mindless shifting, swaying and shuffling—it’s a common tick that can undermine hours of preparation. The traditional advice for speakers is to move or gesture to emphasize a point or stand in one spot. But staying put is harder than you think—especially for nervous speakers without a podium to hide behind.

At a July 17 Spotlight Presentation Academy “speaker bootcamp” at TED’s New York City headquarters, TED speaker coach Bryn Freedman gave participants a surprising hack to get them to stand still onstage.

With feet about six inches apart, Freedman asked speakers to imagine curling their toes around a small branch. The task is imagine gripping the branch and keeping it from slipping for the duration of their presentation. This simple visualization centers the speaker and prevents them from moving their feet.

“Before I learned about it, I used to pace back and forth during my talks, which came across as a nervous tick,” says Kesha Williams, a software engineer who participated in the TED speaker training. “I actually used it when I spoke recently and only moving for emphasis was a great way to engage my audience...

How To Talk To Yourself To Control Emotions

During stressful times, talking to yourself in the third person—silently—could help you control your emotions.

This method doesn’t take any more mental effort, say researchers, than talking to yourself in the first person, which is how people normally talk to themselves.

The study in Scientific Reports indicates that such third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of self-control.

Say a man named John is upset about recently being dumped. By simply reflecting on his feelings in the third person (“Why is John upset?”), John is less emotionally reactive than when he addresses himself in the first person (“Why am I upset?”).

“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” says Jason Moser, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”

The study involved two experiments that both significantly reinforced this main conclusion.

In one experiment, at Moser’s Clinical Psychophysiology Lab, participants viewed neutral and disturbing images and reacted...