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

The Risk of Letting Employees Know Where They Rank Versus Their Peers

It’s possible to rank employees in entirely new ways in the age of big data. People in sales are used to seeing their numbers compared. But now everything from how well truck drivers drive, to individual author web traffic and how quickly engineers write code can be quantified in great detail.

Companies need to be careful about how they use that information. Ranking people publicly, even if it’s done with the intention of creating friendly competition or transparency, can backfire depending on a company’s culture.

In a new study of a trucking company in the midst of adopting Toyota’s famous lean principles (which emphasize respect, humility, and collective outcomes over individual ones) researchers from NYU and Columbia found that putting up a leaderboard comparing individual performance had vastly different effects, depending on whether or not an individual site had undergone the new cultural training.

The leaderboard is populated through an on-board recorder that transmits detailed driving behavior. In the sites that maintained the original, more individualistic culture, comparative rankings boosted performance substantially.

It had the exact opposite effect in the places that had started the transition to the Toyota-inspired system. And this was before any major ...

What Women Want: A Fair Shot at Defense Careers

Discrimination is still an issue in the defense industry and the government isn’t doing enough to attract women to defense and government careers, according to a recent ClearanceJobs survey of cleared professionals.

ClearanceJobs surveyed more than 1,200 men and women, asking for their thoughts and experiences with discrimination in the defense industry. In almost every area, men and women were in near agreement. The defense industry is a “boys’ club,” and until more women pursue defense careers, it’s likely to stay that way.

Eighty-three percent of female respondents said they had witnessed discrimination or experienced it firsthand. When asked to provide examples, women cited being treated differently than men, being talked down to, receiving inappropriate comments about attire or pregnancy, and more.

“It happens frequently in meetings where a woman gets interrupted or talked over,” said a female respondent in the ClearanceJobs survey. “I myself have been yelled at in the past, working as a government contractor on a government site. It was a fellow contractor who was my boss. I can’t fathom he would speak to or confront a male peer that way–ever.”

In a survey where women and men were largely in agreement ...

A Guide for Working Families

In his memorandum for modernizing federal leave, the president wrote, “Men and women both need time to care for their families and should have access to workplace flexibilities that help them succeed at work and at home. Offering family leave and other workplace flexibilities to parents can help achieve the goals of recruiting and retaining talent, lowering costly worker turnover, increasing employee engagement, boosting employee morale, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

This week, as President Obama continues his conversations with working families across the country, the Office of Personnel Management is proud to release a new online handbook that gives federal employees the information they need to take advantage of the government’s many leave policies related to having a baby, adopting, or becoming foster parents.

Our Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care provides scenarios and tips to give employees realistic and specific examples about how these policies can and should be applied. It was developed with the help of representatives from more than 40 federal agencies, and it is an important milestone in achieving the president’s vision for federal working families.

Federal employees will be familiar with many of our ...

Help Shape the Next President’s Agenda

How can the next president avoid management mistakes and improve the performance of the federal government?

A bipartisan coalition of 16 good government groups seeks answers with the Transitions in Governance 2016 initiative launched this week. In keeping with the crowdsourcing movement that is so effective in solving other challenges, the Transitions in Governance initiative is asking for your input.

Each new administration comes into office promising to do things differently. Within each federal agency, new political appointees arrive, vowing to fix long-standing management problems. They quickly learn that changing the way government does business is incredibly difficult. Change-resistant cultures within bureaucracies, combined with complex and confusing statutes, can cause even the best and well-intentioned ideas of these political appointees to wither on the vine.

The goal of Transitions in Governance 2016 is to identify some of the greatest challenges the new administration and its appointees will face and provide thoughtful recommendations and reforms for consideration—a shortening of the learning curve, so to speak.

The initiative will examine what is and is not working in a variety of federal management areas, including performance management, information technology, data transparency, workforce recruitment and retention, acquisition reform, intergovernmental relations, and private sector ...

2,500 Years Later, the Hottest New Management Guru is Confucius

When CEOs are looking for guidance, they might read Jack Welch, listen to Warren Buffett or study Steve Jobs. But there is another management guru who should get more attention inside corporate suites: Confucius

Sure, the Chinese philosopher espoused his doctrine 2,500 years ago—long before quarterly earnings reports, the S&P 500, labor unions, or even capitalism itself. Yet he spent much of his time deliberating on good leaders and how to become one. In fact, the Analects, the most famous text containing Confucius’s wisdom, is filled with advice for anyone aiming to win friends and influence people.

During his lifetime, Confucius’s target audience was China’s ruling elite—the kings, dukes and nobles who, by his reckoning, were doing a pretty lousy job of governing the country. His teachings, though, can be applied by anyone managing any sort of organization, the modern corporation included. Smart leaders, no matter how powerful, should also be open to dissent 

The ideal Confucian leader ought to be both strong and benevolent. Confucius believed that ultimate authority should be vested in one person, and that person should manage decisively. But Confucius did not favor autocrats. Leaders were not to abuse ...