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It's Time to Bury A-76—It Worked Once, But Its Day Is Past

Last month, Government Executive’s Charlie Clark posited the question of whether, in a Trump Administration, public-private competitions under the policy and methodology known as A-76 would be or should be revived (“Will Trump Bring Back Outsourcing and A-76?”). As the article demonstrated, opinions on the issue, which was for many years the focus of harsh, often bitter debate, have not changed much. But mine has. Despite having long been, and continuing to be, an outspoken advocate of expanding the use of competition to drive higher government performance and greater efficiency, I believe A-76’s time has passed and it would be wise to let this sleeping dog lie.

Make no mistake about it. Competition is the greatest single driver of performance and cost improvement. In fact, the data demonstrate clearly that savings to the government averaged around 20 percent simply by virtue of introducing A-76 competitions into areas where there previously had been none. And a significant Rand Corporation study demonstrated that those savings were, in fact, largely sustained over the life of the contract (there was almost no longitudinal data for work retained in-house).  

That’s the good news, and the primary argument for bringing A-76 out of...

The Most Unforgivable Email Mistake If You Want a Response

Making grammatical mistakes in your email subject lines correlates with fewer responses to your emails, suggests an analysis by the email management tool Boomerang.

The company used an automated grammar-checking software to spot errors in 250,000 emails and tracked those emails’ response rates. Mistake-free subject lines received a response 34% of the time, compared to 29% of the time for emails with one or more errors. The more errors an email subject line had, the less likely the email’s recipient was to respond.

Not all mistakes had the same impact. The mistake most punished by non-response was not capitalizing the first letter in a subject line sentence. Emails with this flaw only received a response 28.4% of the time, compared to a 32.6% response rate for email subjects with correct capitalization—an approximate 13% drop in overall response rate.

The Best And Worst Ways to Quit Your Job

What’s the best way to leave your job?

Quitting a job isn’t the most popular New Year’s resolution, but many of us have had fantasies about starting another year by leaving the office forever, perhaps in a blaze of glory—recall Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who cursed out passengers over the intercom, grabbed a beer, and jumped out of the plane via the emergency slide (paywall) before being subsequently arrested.

The folks in HR don’t generally recommend it. If you value your reputation, and plan on working again in the same field, leaving on reasonably amicable terms is a good idea.

There are seven basic ways of resigning, according to a Harvard Business Review article by Anthony Klotz and Mark Bolino, a pair of business professors who surveyed more than 500 managers and employees. The styles range from accommodating to destructive.

From the employer’s perspective, the preferred methods are what Klotz and Bolino call Grateful and In the Loop. Grateful employees, who may be leaving reluctantly, are conscious their departure is going to be a problem, so they work with their managers to find or train replacements. They also may have kept their...

Four Ways to Motivate Your Employees, From One of the World’s Most Prominent Behavioral Economists

What makes employees care about their work?

Money is what gets workers in the door, but it doesn’t make them go the extra mile. To better understand what drives us, Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University, designed a series of experiments aimed at unlocking the roots of intrinsic motivation.

Ariely, who has written best-selling books about irrationality and dishonesty (one of which led to a documentary), condensed his findings into a book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes our Motivations, and discussed them in an interview with Quartz.

Make work rewarding

In one of his experiments, Ariely asked subjects to build Lego toys, called Bionicles, and he paid them $2 for the first one they built, and slightly less for each subsequent toy. In one group, after receiving the completed Bionicle, Ariely’s researchers would set it aside. With another group, the researchers began dismantling the toys as soon as they received them. In the first group, the subjects made an average 11 Bionicles before giving up. The second group—whom Ariely compares to Sisyphus, the figure of Greek myth eternally rolling a rock up a hill— walked away after making just seven...

Civil Service Reform Is Coming; Employees Need to Play a Role

It’s safe to say that civil service reform is inevitable. The Trump campaign made that clear. The political winds appear to be solidly behind the need for change, and over the past decade, several states have successfully initiated reforms. Federal employees and the unions that represent them need to acknowledge what’s ahead and prepare to partner with the Trump administration to improve the way government works.

The recommended way forward was suggested in a recent Washington Post Innovations column, “How Ford turned thousands of employees into inventors.” The column’s usual focus is technology—artificial intelligence, drones and self-driving cars—but in this piece the reporter focused on innovating through employees. It confirms that even in an old line manufacturing company, an entrenched culture can be changed; given a supportive environment, employees can be a source of valuable ideas.

The discussion was not surprising but what was striking is that despite being a Washington newspaper, none of the comments following the column were from people working in government.

It’s worth reading. Ford was falling behind its competitors; just a few years ago, other “major automakers were being granted nearly twice as many patents.” Now Ford “has embraced...

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