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Working Too Much Can Increase Heart Disease, Stroke Risk

In 1888, Rudyard Kipling famously wrote that too much work can “kill a man just as effectively as too much assorted vice or too much drink.” Working conditions have changed a lot since then, but a new analysis of more than 500,000 modern lives upholds the aphorism.

The meta-analysis published in The Lancet shows that those working 55 hours a week had a 33% greater risk of stroke and 13% increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in comparison to those working for 40 hours a week. This kind of analysis overcomes the limitations of past smaller studies, such as narrow demographics and weaker links, offering up a firmer, overarching conclusion.

One cause of stroke and heart diseases is the increased amounts of stress from extended work hours. Turning to alcohol as a stress reliever makes matters worse. So does the fact that overworked people have fewer hours available for exercise.

Sadly, the chances of your employer paying heed to this study aren’t great. According to the OECD, an international think-tank, the share of people working outside of normal hours has been increasing since the 1990s. Across the OECD countries, 12% of men and 5% of women worked more than...

How to Measure IT’s Strategic Value

Information technology has made possible the availability of real-time data and the tools to display that data, such as dash­boards, scorecards and heat maps. This has boosted the use of data and evidence by government decision-makers in meeting their agency and program missions. But what about the use of performance metrics by chief information officers?

Typically, CIOs have a good inventory of metrics regarding the performance of their technical infrastructure, such as server downtime. Metrics on nontechnical elements, however—such as the innovation capacity of the IT organization in an agency and its overall health as an organizational unit—are in earlier stages of development.

According to Kevin Desouza, in a new report for the IBM Center of the Business of Government, these types of metrics are critical for CIOs to effectively manage their IT organizations, and to convey the strategic value of their IT capabilities in meeting agencywide objectives.

Desouza interviewed over two dozen CIOs at all levels of government to understand what they saw as missing metrics and what challenges they faced in trying to fill the gaps and create a portfolio of balanced metrics to manage their organization. They told him that it was important to...

GE Saw the Light on Performance, Government Should Too

It’s happened again. Another major corporation has dramatically changed the way it manages employee performance. This time it’s General Electric. That’s important because the new approach is in direct contrast to the indefensible “rank and yank” philosophy attributed to former GE chief executive Jack Welch. That process involved a forced distribution of performance ratings, in which the lowest-ranked employees are fired. The new policy, described in a recent Harvard Business Review article, is focused on real-time performance development.

But recent headlines that say GE has decided to end annual performance reviews are misleading. The company’s new approach to managing performance should be closely considered by federal agencies. It has decided advantages. However, GE has not eliminated performance reviews.

If federal human resources practices were ranked using the Jack Welch logic, it is almost certain performance management would be at the bottom and eliminated. An assessment of the practice would be based on three core questions: Does the process contribute to better performance? Does the process help employees to develop their capabilities? Are performance ratings valid and useful in managing careers? There is little evidence that federal practices satisfy any of these purposes.

It’s significant that...

The Management Tool Amazon Employees Despise Might Be Coming to Your Organization

Who doesn’t enjoy a good round of brutal criticism? A lot of former Amazon employees, apparently.

In a deep dive into the corporate culture fostered at internet mega-retailer Amazon by founder Jeff Bezos, the New York Times reports on a piece of management software that is particularly controversial among the company’s employees: The tool, called “Collaborative Anytime Feedback,” was built into the company directory and allowed workers to send feedback about their colleagues directly to managers.

At Amazon, it reportedly became a powerful weapon in a culture that demanded complete commitment and brutal honesty. Workers said that annual firings of bottom-performing employees—”stack ranking“—led to the abuse and manipulation of the feedback system, including criticism pasted verbatim into performance reviews. A company spokesperson said most of the feedback generated by the tool is complimentary.

Workers using the system were offered boilerplate text to frame their complaints, including one suggestion printed in the Times: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”

Amazon built a digital retail rival to Walmart with a culture of frugality and an obsession with solving customer problems. But eighty-hour weeks, ruthless competition and little patience for family and health...

Why the Government Doesn’t Work

We're shocked -- shocked -- to discover that government files with sensitive personal information about citizens have been hacked, or that waiting lists for medical treatment for veterans have grown, despite extra funds and doctors. Before that, we were shocked to hear of the colossal failure of the enrollment system for the biggest change in health insurance coverage in decades, and before that, flood victims left helpless and hammers that were overpriced.

Why am I not among the shocked? Because I worked in the civil service for over 30 years. I know how hard it is to get things done and get things right under the rules and restraints associated with conducting the government’s business. It’s a problem that we the taxpayers -- the employers of the civil service -- ignore at our growing peril.

To some, the civil service constitutes a faceless bureaucracy of clerks, slackers and do-gooders interfering with the productive flow of the private sector. Others see the federal workforce as a hard-pressed, underfunded corps of idealistic public servants striving to carry out the will of the people without regard to politics.

There's truth to both assessments. Civil servants have had a lot to do with reaching...