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

How to Kick-start Your Career

Many talented people feel that they do not have anything new to learn in their chosen field. They believe what got them there is enough.

Those who are determined and who work hard often spend a lot of time and effort to learn new skills and maintain their existing ones. They display the most current knowledge of new technology and ideas. Having employees who will improve themselves over and above the management-sponsored training is critical to an organization wanting to innovate and improve.

Eleven years ago, Ben got a job working in the mail room at a local business during the summer before starting college. The company had been in existence for over 60 years and was currently being led by Jack—a longtime employee and company legend who started in the mail room. Three weeks into the job, on his way from the basement to the top floor, the elevator stopped and who should enter the elevator but Jack. He smiled at Ben, introduced himself, and mentioned that he started out in the mail room. Ben was a little star struck, but as they both exited the elevator, Ben asked if Jack had any advice for him.

“Never stop ...

The Value of Remembering Ordinary Moments

At Christmastime, my brother, my father, and our chocolate Labrador pile into the car to drive across the state of Washington to see my grandparents. We’ve been doing it since I was born. The three of us—before my brother and I put our headphones in to tune everything out—try to have meaningful conversations. Soon I’ll go back to school in England, my brother will go back to school in California, and Dad will go back to work in Washington, a transatlantic triangle keeping us apart. The three of us are together twice a year, at best, but on our car trip there’s rarely anything new exchanged. We recount memories of Mom; we discuss job prospects, baseball teams, and books (if we’re lucky); and usually we end up having a brief argument about religion or politics to round it all out. Nothing to write down. Nothing to remember.

Quotidian life seems too banal to document. Why write down routine conversations, ones we’ve had a million times and will have a million times more? Isn’t it more important to remember extraordinary moments: first steps, graduations, jobs, awards, marriage, retirement, vacations? Yet people seldom realize ...

Lessons About Government Performance From Latin America

Harvard’s Bob Behn has written about the spread of the “PerformanceStat” movement across the U.S during the past two decades. Now the creation of “Delivery Units,” which is another name for this phenomenon, has spread across the world ­– even to Latin America.

Behn’s recent book on PerformanceStat says this data-driven management approach is more of a leadership strategy than a process or a program to deliver better performance and results. However, a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank shows that having the right processes and structures matter as well. The study examines the increased attention in Latin American and Caribbean countries on defining and delivering results. They found that using tools and techniques, such as Delivery Units that report to the heads of government, are an effective way to strengthen the coordination and implementation of cross-agency initiatives.

The authors of the IDB study highlight the importance of “an integrated, whole-of-government approach (i.e., one that emphasizes a common strategy for the entire government, rather than letting each department implement its own agenda)." They recommend a range of routines, processes and technologies that help make this approach work for public executives. The study’s recommendations reach beyond ...

5 Strategic Planning Mistakes to Avoid in 2015

Now that we are beginning 2015, many nonprofit and government leaders are rethinking their strategies and strategic plans. Just like most New Year’s resolutions, strategic goals are easy to plan but difficult to implement. We have a little advice for leaders trying to get out of that typical cycle. Here are five mistakes we typically see:

Not talking with your stakeholders and customers. Planning out what you want to do in a vacuum is a satisfying exercise. If you didn’t need to deal with your customers, you would have a fantastic strategy. Customers and stakeholders force you to make tough decisions and deal with the realities of world. On the positive side, if you can truly understand what they need, it is an inspiring way to ground a strategy. Try to find avenues to interact and talk with your customers and stakeholders through formal interviews, working groups and scan for existing sources of data about them.

Not prioritizing initiatives. Most leaders I’ve worked with get into the planning phase and take on too many things. As they say, the eyes are bigger than the stomach. You only have a finite amount of time, attention, and resources. The ...

Attention: A Muscle to Strengthen

"Today is Thursday, the day of Meaning."

That's the message at the very top of the page. And from there down, almost everything about Amit Sood's website,, is couched in the self-help jargon that scientists instinctively dismiss. So it's especially interesting that Sood is a physician, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, no less. There he recently founded the Global Center for Resiliency and Wellbeing and is now taking to the Internet to teach people how to train their minds for a better life.

One of the core elements of Sood's practice is helping people to "create intentionality." He describes the approach plainly: choosing where you deploy your attention and how you process information. It's unique ground for an M.D. to tread, but increasingly relevant as the connection between mindset and physical health bears out. Sood argues that most of us spend more than half of our mental energy flitting from thought to thought, from app to app; we would ultimately be more productive and resilient, less depressed, and physically healthier, if we were only more deliberate with our cognitive energy. Which is all fine and good, if more easily ...