- By Adam Grant
- May 10, 2013
Several decades ago, a team of experts built the world’s most expensive mirror. It was for the Hubble Space Telescope, and the mirror was the key to focusing light that predated the stars, capturing images that had never been seen by human eyes. The precision was measured in millionths of an inch. If the mirror’s surface were the size of the Atlantic Ocean, the surface would need to be so smooth that no wave would be taller than three inches.
When the telescope launched in 1990, the images came back blurry. The mirror was the wrong shape by 2 percent of the width of a human hair. It couldn’t focus light with the required precision. The telescope was only able to do about half of the work that it was launched to do, and in 1993, NASA burned several hundred million dollars on a repair mission.
What went wrong? When journalists Robert Capers and Eric Lipton investigated, they discovered that the team of designers, engineers, and technicians at Perkin-Elmer resisted help from experts. When initial tests of the mirror pointed to potential problems, the engineers refused an independent test. To safeguard against errors, the company appointed a ...
- By Kaylan Billingsley
- May 10, 2013
As technology has made it easier to remotely connect with others, many businesses, corporations and federal agencies have made the move to allow employees to “telework” or “telecommute.” There are various reasons as to why these employers are implementing telework policies. Many cite morale and stress reasons, while others claim environmental reasons and cutting costs. Whatever the reason, teleworking has become more prevalent in work environments, which has sparked discussion about whether or not it is more or less productive for employees than traditional office operations.
The federal government has not been immune from this discussion. The question about the productivity of telework policies is of particular importance to the federal government, which is already plagued by the reputation for red tape and ineffectiveness. Now with deep cuts being made to federal agencies, teleworking is being explored even further in government operations. In a report published by the US Office of Personnel Management, as of September 2012, of over two million federal employees, 684,589 were considered eligible for telework, and 168,558 employees were participating in telework programs. Of these employees, 46,000 were teleworking three or more times a week. In a Young Government Leaders survey of 166 ...
- By John Kamensky
- May 10, 2013
Public Service Recognition Week recognizes a lot of hidden talent across the government. But is that talent always available when the government needs it? Sometimes, it is.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen was superb at handling big, complex challenges that reach across agency boundaries. He led the evacuation of lower Manhattan during 9/11. He took over the Katrina rescue operations after they floundered. He led the U.S. response to the Haiti earthquake, and the Gulf Coast BP Oil Spill.
Before Allen retired, I asked him “Where does the government find the next one hundred Thad Allens?” He didn’t have a good answer. But answering that question becomes more critical as the government finds itself increasingly facing cross-agency challenges.
Bruce Barkley, a former federal senior executive, offers provocative but practical answers in a new IBM Center report, Developing Senior Executive Capabilities to Address National Priorities. He recommends two sets of actions, creating a small, governmentwide cadre of seasoned career executives, and creating within each department an enterprise-wide focus among their career executives.
- By Mark Micheli
- May 9, 2013
Welcome back to Excellence in Government's round up of the best management tips from around the web. This week we tell you to stop worrying about your inbox, to be funnier and provide you some great tips to prepare your office for the summer intern(s).
1. Stop Worrying About Your Inbox – Go Do Something Awesome
From the man who created the concept of “Inbox Zero” comes this quote: “A life in which we habitually abandon the known Good Things in order to helplessly stab at ‘managing’ a nebulous morass of chaoses that we can never control is not much of a life at all.”
Creative safe-haven 99U adds:
At the end of the day a box full of email is just a box full of stuff that may or may not hold any relevance to your work and life. Obsessing over keeping that box empty at the expense of the really cool projects you’ve already accepted responsibility for isn’t a great trade-off.
From the man who literally coined the phrase “Inbox Zero” — you have permission to close your email and do something awesome.
2. Stop Trying to Think Harder…You ...
- By Todd Woody
- May 9, 2013
The mandatory US federal budget cuts known as sequestration may seem like bad news for environmental programs. But there’s a green lining to government dysfunction: less money to carry out environmentally damaging policies.
Case in point: Citing the sequester, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has postponed pending lease sales for oil and gas exploration in California until at least October, when the new fiscal year begins. Those leases include 1,278 acres (517 hectares) of government land sitting atop the Monterey Shale, a vast geological formation that holds the US’s largest reserve of shale oil, an estimated 15.4 billion barrels.
The only way to extract that oil is through the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Environmentalists have already been trying to stop the sales by suing the BLM for not considering the environmental impacts of fracking, which involves injecting chemical-laced water under high pressure into wells to break up subterranean rock formations that contain oil and natural gas.
Image via Calin Tatu/Shutterstock.com