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How Trump’s Plan to Reorganize Government Could Work

On March 13, President Trump issued an executive order for a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch. It calls for the OMB director and agency heads to develop plans for improving the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of agencies, subcomponents and programs within 180 days. It also calls for a post in the Federal Register to solicit public input along with  advice from experts inside and outside of government.

I like it.

No, I am not naïve, and yes, I have seen this many times before. But if done right, with a strong foundation and a plan, it could work. It could also be another once-and-done exercise that demonstrates little to no value. Many administrations have conducted similar exercises, most of which faded with the political passing. The Trump executive order runs the risk of having little or negative impact, reducing readiness and demoralizing employees. It also has the potential to do great things for our country.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make it work.

  1. It must involve Congress. Since lawmakers hold the statutory authority to reorganize as well as authorize programs, they must be in the mix. Capitol Hill and the administration must be on...

Hard-won Lessons From a Government Reform Pioneer

You can’t solve “horizontal” problems with “vertical” solutions, warns University of Maryland professor Don Kettl. That’s something officials in New Zealand learned the hard way.

Nearly three decades ago, New Zealand pioneered government reforms to make agencies more accountable and effective. While successful, it exacerbated another challenge facing government agencies—addressing problems that span traditional agency boundaries, known as “horizontal” problems. So, New Zealand undertook a new round of reform in 2012 to address a handful of persistent societal and economic problems by creating cross-agency performance goals, with measurable targets, and with a new approach to governance.

In a new report for the IBM Center for The Business of Government, Rodney Scott and Ross Boyd, who both are in New Zealand helping assess the progress of the five-year-old reform initiative, describe the approach, its framework, and the results of the initiative. They also offer insights that can be helpful to other governments pursuing similar objectives.

Interestingly, at about the same time, the U.S. federal government also created an initiative to address horizontal problems. In 2010, Congress updated the Government Performance and Results Act, directing the Office of Management and Budget to identify a handful of existing challenges...

Employee Burnout is Becoming a Huge Problem in the American Workforce

While companies are posting record profits, Americans are working harder than ever before for a nominal wage increase. The national unemployment rate has been cut in half since 2010 and the economy is projected to grow by almost 50% between 2010 and 2020. Despite this positive outlook, employees are overworked, burned out, and dissatisfied. A recent study my firm conducted, in partnership with Kronos, found that burnout is responsible for up to half of all employee attrition. Employees are working more hours for no additional pay and as a result, they are searching for new jobs. Nearly all employers surveyed agree that improving retention is a critical priority yet many aren’t investing in solving the problem, even though it costs thousands of dollars to replace each employee lost.

Employee productivity has skyrocketed between 2000 and 2014, yet wages and benefits have been stagnant. The Economic Policy Institute shows that productivity increased by 21.6%, yet wages grew by only 1.8% during this time period. Employees are spending more of their time doing work but their compensation hasn’t adjusted to reflect this increase in productivity. The legacy nine-to-five workday no longer exists either, and Gallup estimates that it...

Firing a Few Employees Will Not Solve Government’s Big Problems

March 14 marked the fourth anniversary of a Government Accountability Office’s report about serious problems the Department of Veterans Affairs had in scheduling patients for care. GAO reported the failings in detail, a year before CNN's explosive 2014 report that some veterans died while waiting for care set off a full-blown scandal. Four years and multiple investigations later, the department continues to grapple with the fallout. A fundamental issue remains: how to hold federal employees accountable and discipline them appropriately, without protracted delay, when their actions warrant it.  

Solving long standing people management problems is never easy. But firing or even threatening to fire employees is not going to result in long term improvement. It will not create a culture of accountability. If anything, it could backfire and trigger broader talent management problems.

It’s likely the critical attention exacerbated VA’s staffing problems. VA Secretary David Shulkin has acknowledged the agency has 45,000 job openings. He reportedly said that the negative attention caused a 78 percent drop in applications.

But it’s not only the numbers. A survey conducted by the Senior Executives Association found that VA executives broadly believe the qualifications of applicants for SES...

Study: Women Are Less Likely to 'Choke' Under Extreme Pressure Than Men

Competing in a Grand Slam tennis event is not for the faint of heart. Tens of thousands of fans pack the stands. Millions of dollars in prize money is at stake, with equal-size prizes for men and women.

All of which makes these matches an ideal way to examine who chokes under pressure more: men, or women?

It’s an important question, for many reasons. Women represent almost half the workforce in many countries, and yet face a stubborn pay gap. They are also notably under-represented in high-profile, high-paying positions, such as Fortune 500 CEOs, and in fast-growing, well-compensated professions, including those in science, technology and engineering.

Discrimination has been found to play a role, and some suggest that self-selection contributes to the problem (ie women pick lower-paid, lower-profile jobs). A group of researchers tested a third possibility: that men respond better to competitive pressure.

“There are several studies that show that women don’t want to get into a competitive environment, that they shy away from competition,” said Alex Krumer from the University of St. Gallen, one of the co-authors of the study on choking.

Krumer and his colleagues decided to look at the Grand Slam tennis tournaments—the...

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