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

What is a Stakeholder? 6 Things You Should Know

The word stakeholder is used to mean many different things in government, the nonprofit sector and in business. It’s a broad and confusing term that takes in everyone who has any interest in what an organization does. They have a “stake” or interest in the decisions and fate of your organization. Is that broad enough for you? Although the term is loose, it still has meaning. It’s important to understand some key concepts about this term and the people it describes. Understand that:

  • They aren’t necessarily customers. Customers are a subset of your stakeholders but many people use the terms interchangeably. Some people with an interest in your organization and its mission will never do business with you or be served by you. The term has a much broader meaning than simply a customer.

  • They aren’t all created equal. Some stakeholders (like the ones who control your budget) are more important than others. You need to understand the influence, resources and power each stakeholder or stakeholder group has in order to navigate your environment successfully.

  • They have different interests. For example in a publicly traded company, investors may favor paying out profits to stockholders while employees ...

Building Inclusive Diversity: More Than Numbers

My passion for building a federal workforce that looks like the America we serve is not just about numbers. It is about the American people benefiting from the talent, the wisdom, the experience, and the insights of people from every community in this great country. We need that diversity at every level and at every decision table.

In August 2011, the president issued an executive order that called for a governmentwide coordinated effort to promote diversity and inclusion within the federal workforce. The President’s Management Agenda builds on that commitment.

At the Office of Personnel Management, we work every day to help agencies build a workforce that reflects the bright mosaic of the American people. We know we must work equally hard to be sure that once hired, employees feel included and engaged at all levels of government. Although we know there’s still much work to do, the data shows us that we are making progress on the president’s vision.

For example, four years ago, the president set a goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities. I am proud to say that we are more than half way toward reaching that milestone. In fact, OPM’s ...

You Are Almost Certainly Starting Salary Negotiations Wrong

Asking for a raise is one of the most fraught parts of a working life, a process maniacally Googled and agonized over with friends. Advice is often conflicting. Don’t give your number first, or always do. Start with a number you don’t really expect to get, or ask for nothing at all.

A frequent piece of advice, enshrined in one of the standard business school texts (pdf) on negotiation, is to avoid giving a salary range, because an opponent or manager will seize on the low end.

Not only is that advice dead wrong, but done right a range actually leads to better results than going with one number, according to a new study from researchers at Columbia University, first covered at The Wall Street Journal (paywall).

It’s not that people don’t know to throw out a range. More than half of people reported using one at some point in their most recent negotiation, a separate study (pdf) recently found. But there’s scant advice on how to figure out the correct range to use, or at what point in the negotiation to deploy it.

The Columbia researchers had a hunch, and their study bore it ...

​Five Ways to Avoid GAO’s High-Risk List

In February, the Government Accountability Office welcomed the incoming Congress with its 2015 high-risk list of poor performing federal programs—an unlimited gift card for some, a messy glitter bomb for others.

I read the report. Well, OK, I skimmed it and focused on the sections of most interest. Federal real property is at the top if the list for me. The trend I noticed over and over again were the low scores on demonstrating progress. Immediately I wondered—are agencies not making actual progress or is it a communication issue?

There is no objective, observable way to know. So, I suspect it’s somewhere in the middle—performance measure purgatory.

Performance measures are incredibly fragile and yet they endure year after year—even when they’re not precisely what we want to measure. They are almost always confusing or misleading and ripe for manipulation.

Despite the challenges we all have in working with performance measures, they are what we have right now to quantify our impact. Unfortunately, we never get as much accomplished as we’d like. We have to explain ourselves at every turn, justify the budget, make up for delays, motivate staff, and on top of it ...

How to Manage Up Without Ever Leaving Your Cubicle

Contrary to what many people think, leadership has nothing to do with titles and organizational charts. In fact, someone in a cubicle with no direct reports can still be a leader for one simple reason: Leadership is about being able to influence others.

“Leading up” (or “managing up”) allows anyone to positively influence the boss, or even the boss’s boss. Often when direct reports see their boss doing something questionable or that doesn’t appear to make sense, they just assume the boss has thought it through. However, the truth is, they may be unaware of the real implications.

Let’s take two recent examples from the news. While we don’t know the particulars, we can imagine that if someone on Hillary Clinton’s staff noticed her using her private email for official State Department correspondence, that person could have “managed up” by respectfully bringing the potential implications to her attention. Similarly, NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was suspended after questions about his reporting surfaced, might have been approached by a member of the crew who recalled, for example, that he was not in the helicopter that was fired upon in Iraq as he said, but in ...