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

Stop Complaining About Your Indecisive Boss

It is one of the biggest frustrations people have with the government, with the workplace, with their loved ones, significant others and even with themselves—the inability to simply make a decision:

  • "I do not understand how they can sit and sit and sit on that legislation."
  • "I wrote that article months ago, and it's still sitting in her office."
  • "We've been dating for four years now. He still won't make a commitment!"
  • "I don't know what I should major in. There's just so much pressure!"

Of course, the more invested you are in the person or situation affected by indecisiveness, the worse the emotions surrounding it.

But the truth is, as bad as all of this is, that real pain doesn't come from other people's indecisiveness. You know very well that you can never control what others feel, think or do; that looking outside yourself for inner meaning, joy and purpose is worse than irrational. It's actually self-destructive. 

If we've learned nothing else from pop psychology over the past 50 years, we have absorbed this: The only person you can control is you.

So complaining about other people's behavior...

An Excess of Multiple-Award Contracts Is Creating New Problems for Government

For the better part of the past decade, procurement shops throughout the federal government couldn’t seem to stop themselves from creating new contract vehicles. There’s something alluring about seeding and cultivating a multiple-award contract, with dozens of companies clamoring to participate and the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars blooming under a vehicle of your creation. Since 2005, thousands of multiple-award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) programs have sprung up, many with multi-billion-dollar ordering ceilings.

The contract vehicle garden is now overgrown. Supply clearly exceeds demand.

Just look at IT services. The 10 largest contract vehicles have $17 billion in annualized ordering capacity. But those vehicles hosted under $12 billion in actual orders last year, leaving 37 percent excess capacity. Examples of underutilized contracts abound. The Interior Department’s cloud computing IDIQ has a $1 billion annualized ceiling. It attracted just $27 million in spending in fiscal 2015, according to federal procurement data.

The excessive excess capacity won’t last. Contract vehicles will die off over the next few years, with competition among procurement shops and among prime contractors deciding which IDIQs survive.

Take, for example, an Army order for program management support services currently residing on the Army...

The Hard Work of Leading Is All In Your Mind

The hardest work of leading you’ll ever do is not the coaching, problem-solving, communicating and other externally focused activities that occupy your days.

Rather, the heavy lifting of creating success as a leader goes on in the space between your ears. It’s choosing right versus wrong; thinking long-term versus short-term, deciding left or right and saying no, when the temptation is yes. Successfully navigating these and the many other challenging issues you encounter demands that you regularly refresh on five key and very personal issues.

Five Personal Issues Every Leader Must Master:

1. Cultivate an accurate view-of-self. How well do you understand who you are as a person and as a leader and how does this internal view manifest in the right behaviors? Do you see and understand and apply your superpowers? Are you aware of your gaps and are you doing something to mitigate or eliminate the adverse impact of your gaps. (Hint: most coaching scenarios with senior leaders involve working with them to stop or alter the behaviors that make people around them crazy.)

2. Retain and renew your sense of mission about your role. It’s easy to lose track of your real purpose and...

People Over 40 Are More Productive When They Work Part-Time

After a relaxing four-day weekend, you might find that you’re more productive at work than usual.

You’re not the only one. Researchers have evidence that aging brains function best when they work part-time.

For employees over the age of 40, the sweet spot for the best productivity is around three days of work per week, according to a new study (pdf) by researchers at the University of Melbourne. That’s when workers showed the highest level of brain functioning.

The findings are based on an analysis of the work habits and cognitive skills of 3,000 men and 3,500 women aged 40 years and older, living in Australia. Their brain functions were scored based on the results of three tests: a memory test; a reading test; and an attention, visual comprehension, and motor skills test.

In all three tests, participants who worked part-time, around 25 to 30 hours a week, showed the sharpest cognitive skills.

Cognitive abilities worsened among those who worked more hours, or fewer hours, per week. They were lowest among those who worked 50 to 60 hours per work and in those didn’t work at all. The findings suggest that some work is...

Obama Administration’s New Performance Grade: Improved, But Work Remains

The Obama administration has made substantial progress in measuring federal program effectiveness, but more needs to be done to shift federal funding to programs that work, according to a scorecard released Monday by Results for America, a bipartisan advocacy organization that supports greater performance in government.

"This administration believes in the power of evidence," said OMB Director Shaun Donovan at an event announcing the new ratings. "Evidence should drive policy decisions. We need to do what works and stop doing what doesn't."

The scorecard rated seven federal agencies, both domestic and international, including the Department of Education, HUD, Department of Labor, and USAID. It was assembled after consulting with more than 75 current and former federal officials and other experts earlier this year.

Most of the rated agencies have made significant progress in embedding the use of performance data and program evaluations in their decision-making, according to the report.  It commended the administration for strengthening federal evaluation offices, adopting agencywide evaluation policies and research agendas, and building out information clearinghouses like the Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse.

The agencies received lower scores on integrating performance information into the federal grantmaking process, however. The administration received its worst...