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

The Playbook for Privatizing Air Traffic Control Already Exists

If you can get beyond the rhetoric, there are serious, practical issues to be considered when deciding whether to privatize America’s air traffic control function. To some, the idea sounds downright crazy. But it may surprise many people that the Federal Aviation Administration has undertaken a similar effort already. And there’s a lot we can learn from that experience.

In what remains the largest federal civilian privatization resulting from the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-76 process, in 2005 the FAA outsourced operation of its Automated Flight Service Stations, from which general aviation pilots receive weather briefings and other information on flying conditions. Performance improved, much-needed enhancements to automation were implemented on time and within budget, facilities were both modernized and consolidated, and billions of dollars were saved for the American taxpayer.

There’s no guarantee that will happen with the significantly more complex air traffic system. However, to improve the chances of success, here are five important factors for decision-makers to consider as they decide whether to privatize this important function:

Clarify who is accountable and for what. Few people understand the breadth of critical activities that the FAA performs today, including the complex system...

Smart Employers Don’t Let Job Applications Disappear Into a Black Hole

Harrison Priest estimates he’s applied to about 200 jobs since graduating from Skidmore College two years ago. He’s gotten replies from about 10, he says.

“It gets so you don’t expect it,” said Priest, who finally found a job working at an Apple Store this summer. “It’s almost a bit of a treat if you do hear back.”

Not that long ago, unsuccessful applicants could count on getting a rejection notice in the mail. Often just a form letter, it was a small courtesy that gave job seekers a measure of closure. With the advent of online job listings, however, that analog practice has gone the way of record stores and travel agents. Applicants now may get an automated email telling them their applications was received, but for most job seekers, that’s the last they’ll hear from a company. Even candidates who receive interviews may be left twisting in the wind.

That’s a mistake, says Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse, a career site that caters to millennials. Companies that don’t notify applicants aren’t just being disrespectful, they risk damaging their reputation. Frustrated applicants might share negative experiences with friends, colleagues...

Why Innovation Programs Should Target Middle-Aged Bureaucrats

Imagine the benefits of these things: An earlier test for autism that could improve the ability to treat it. A new procedure to treat atrial fibrillation that holds hope for reducing the risk of strokes. A test for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that, by focusing on biomarkers could enable more accurate and scaled diagnoses and treatments. These are just a few of the hundreds of innovations that competed in the Merage Institute’s fourth annual innovation competition in Tel Aviv last month, at which I was privileged to be a speaker and judge.

There were specific criteria competitors had to meet to ensure that their innovation would merit the $100,000 prize. But one requirement stood out: Competitors had be over 45 years old.

I, for one, thought that was a brilliant idea, which is one of the reasons I was so delighted to participate. And not just because 45 is for me well in the past. The competition highlighted a growing issue that those of us who believe the government must move aggressively into the digital age need to think about. That is that the demographic divide in government could create serious barriers to major change.

For example, at...

10 Factors for Successfully Implementing Large Initiatives

Failed initiatives hog the headlines, but successes in government rarely see daylight. However, the federal government recently managed to quietly and successfully implement a key element of the DATA Act: It took a website of financial data from across the government live and nothing bad happened! What lessons were learned that could be applied to other large-scale, governmentwide initiatives in the future? A panel sponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration recently explored this question.

First, some background: The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act was passed in May 2014 and the executive branch was given three years to implement its key provisions. One key deadline was to post federal agency spending data on a single website by May 9, 2017.  

The law requires all federal spending data—including, for the first time, transfers of funds between agencies—to be posted on at least a quarterly basis. That involves more than $3.8 trillion in annual federal spending that the public will able to track from congressional appropriations all the way down to local communities and businesses for the first time. The scale of this initiative was huge and required significant stakeholder engagement, including public transparency and advocacy groups as...

For Younger Employees, the Annual Performance Review Is An Outdated Concept

For many employees the end of the financial year signals performance review time. The dreaded time of the year when they sit down with their supervisor and receive feedback on their performance over the previous 12 months.

In Australia and the US, businesses are reconsidering this traditional approach to managing employee performance. Managers are worried the traditional approach is resource intensive, emphasises employee evaluation over development and tends to be retrospective. Feedback delivered after an event, can leave employees with an inaccurate assessment of their performance.

Employees vary in their views on the frequency of feedback. One survey found that baby boomers prefer less frequent feedback while millennials prefer more. Experienced workers know the job so see no value in feedback. Younger workers feel blindsided by feedback that comes but once a year.

An alternative would be to drop traditional performance reviews and implement regular feedback sessions with employees - maybe twice yearly, quarterly, monthly or even weekly.

One study found that feedback interventions (both positive and negative feedback) resulted in lower performance in over one third of cases examined. Another study suggests that feedback without any consequences won’t be effective. This study reported that when feedback was used alone...