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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Two Sayings to Live By for Federal Managers

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Successful public speaking often involves boiling ideas down to snappy aphorisms. Two succinct examples came through the microphones last Thursday at Government Executive's  Excellence in Government conference.

Beth McGrath, deputy chief management officer at the Defense Department and a 24-year Pentagon veteran, addressed the need to modernize equipment and procedures in such areas as background checks for security clearances. She deployed the following aphorism: “Anything older than I am should be eliminated or at least revised.”

Jackson Nickerson, executive director of the Brookings Institution’s Executive Education project and a professor at Washington University at St. Louis, encouraged federal employees to avoid leaping to solutions for a given problem before first applying some disciplined thought to how the problem should be formulated. “A poor solution to the right problem,” he said, “is better than a great solution to the wrong problem.”

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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