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How to Host an Effective Offsite Leadership Meeting

Leadership offsites are multi-day meetings held away from the office. The purpose could be anything from strategic planning, to team building, to airing of professional grievances. However, such meetings all have the same basic aim: to create cohesion among the participants.

Leadership offsites have higher stakes than other meetings because of time and cost. Organizers ask the participants to sacrifice time away from their daily responsibilities to focus on other issues. By the time you factor in the expenses associated with travel and meeting space, as well as participants’ time itself, a two-day offsite can quickly add up to a significant annual budget line item. For the time and cost invested, it’s important to have a productive meeting. But how, exactly, can you ensure it’s a worthwhile investment?

Meeting hosts and organizers feel this pressure, and they focus on adding the right ingredients for a productive session. They create a list of objectives, draft an agenda, send out material to read in advance, and maybe even do a mini-survey of participants to determine what exactly they want to accomplish. These are necessary steps. But there is an underlying question that—when answered—helps to knit all of the...

What Government Can Learn from Business about Customer Experience

The White House recently launched a SWAT team to bring ideas from the business world to help make government more effective: the White House Office of American Innovation. One of its primary goals is to drive improvements that will benefit citizens as the customers of government, according to Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, who will lead the office.  

Not all lessons from the private sector apply to government. But there are many areas in which federal leaders can learn from the business community about how to provide a better customer experience. One key lesson is that improving the customer experience leads to benefits that go well beyond happy customers.

For businesses, improved customer satisfaction can lead to higher profits. In government, it can help agencies advance their missions.   

In a new issue brief, “The Most Important Customer: Improving the Citizen Experience with Government,” the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services explain how a customer focus can make government more effective and help the administration accomplish major goals.

Providing customers with a user-friendly process can help promote public safety and security, for example. When the State Department made it easier to report lost or stolen passports...

The Path to Better Management of Government’s Huge Programs

  • By Alan Balutis, Dan Chenok, Greg Giddens, Stan Soloway and Jim Williams
  • April 7, 2017
  • Leave a comment

With the enactment of the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act late last year, the federal government has the opportunity and mandate to address two long-standing challenges: delivering successfully on large-scale change initiatives and addressing the dearth of well-qualified program managers across executive branch agencies. For a government that operates through the execution of programs -- many of them large and complex -- such gaps represent enormous risk.

Even in a modular, agile world, the role of program managers remains essential, because change initiatives are more likely to cross multiple organizations. After all, the federal government manages more than $3 trillion in annual budgets and hundreds of huge programs critical to the nation and its citizens.

But the federal landscape remains littered with what Peat-Marwick once dubbed “runaway systems” -- projects that are over budget, behind schedule and failing to deliver promised benefits and functionality. Thanks to the PMIAA, the Office of Management and Budget now has the responsibility to implement a set of policies to improve program management in government. As the Trump administration takes shape, OMB should leverage this opportunity to increase the probability of successfully delivering on its initiatives.

About a decade ago, the five authors of this article began...

Old Brains Need as Much Sleep as Young Brains, but They’re Worse at Getting It

We’re all supposed to be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, and that gets harder and harder to do that as we age—especially once we hit our 50s and beyond. For a while, scientists thought that the older among us simply needed less sleep. But that wouldn’t explain why the elderly tend to feel tired throughout the day—or how often they fall into unplanned naps (paywall).

Scientists are starting to think that that our own brains might get in our way of sleeping as we age. In a review paper published April 5 in Neuron, neuroscientists from the University of California, Berkeley argue that older brains are worse at recognizing the brain signals and patterns that generate deep slumbers.

“It’s almost like a radio antenna that’s weak,” Matthew Walker, a psychologist at Berkeley and lead author of the paper, told Popular Science. “The signal is there, but the antenna just can’t pick it up.”

Walker and his colleagues combed through the existing scientific literature on adult sleeping patterns and found that the problems with poor sleep in the elderly were two-fold. First, they noticed the kind of deep sleep...

Four Ways to Give Your Employees Better Feedback, From Management Veterans

Performance reviews are an unpleasant but inevitable reality of modern corporate life. Employees loathe getting them, and managers hate given them. Even as the format and techniques have evolved, with companies including GE and JP Morgan Chase moving from annual reviews to continuous feedback, the essence remains: Criticism must be delivered and received.

Here are four principles all managers should consider next time they sit down with their subordinates for this dreaded ritual:

Be sincere

You’ve probably heard of the “feedback sandwich,” first advocated by the advice book The One-Minute Manager, where the bad news is book-ended between praise. Don’t serve that up.

Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz calls it the “shit sandwich,” because all but the most junior employees can see through the technique, and recognize that the praise is offered only to make the criticism more palatable. If praise isn’t sincere, it can erode trust as much as overly hard criticism.

“It’s extremely important that you believe in the feedback that you give and not say anything to manipulate the recipient’s feelings,” Horowitz says. “You can’t fake the funk.”

Be useful

In sports, feedback should identify performance flaws and devise ways to address...

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