Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Could The Open Government Movement Shut The Door On Freedom of Information?

  • By Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Alex Ingrams and Daniel Berliner
  • March 14, 2018
  • Leave a comment

For democracy to work, citizens need to know what their government is doing. Then they can hold government officials and institutions accountable.

Over the last 50 years, Freedom of Information – or FOI – laws have been one of the most useful methods for citizens to learn what government is doing. These state and federal laws give people the power to request, and get, government documents. From everyday citizens to journalists, FOI laws have proven a powerful way to uncover the often-secret workings of government.

But a potential threat is emerging – from an unexpected place – to FOI laws.

We are scholars of government administration, ethics and transparency. And our research leads us to believe that while FOI laws have always faced many challenges, including resistance, evasion, and poor implementation and enforcement, the last decade has brought a different kind of challenge in the form of a new approach to transparency.

Technology rules

The new kid on the block is the open government movement. And despite the fact that it shares a fundamental goal with the more established FOI movement – government transparency – the open government movement threatens to harm FOI by cornering the already limited public and private funding and government staffing available...

People Don't Actually Know Themselves Very Well

When Donald Trump tweeted that he was a “very stable genius,” he was accused of lacking self-awareness by journalists and comedians. But the truth is that no one has perfect self-awareness—you probably believe more than a few things about yourself that are false.

Whether it’s in trying to land a job or impress a date, people spend a staggering amount of time making claims about themselves. It makes sense: You’re the only person on earth who has direct knowledge of every thought, feeling, and experience you’ve ever had. Who could possibly know you better than you? But your backstage access to your own mind sometimes makes you the last person on Earth others should trust about it. Think of it like owning a car: Just because you’ve driven it for years doesn’t mean you can pinpoint when and why the engine broke down.

Sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people at work have shown that people’s coworkers are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. As a social scientist, if I want to get a read on your personality, I could ask you to fill out...

Who Is The You That Posts On Social Media? Philosophy Has Some Suggestions

Social media is where we can meet, greet, and see what other people are doing and saying. But many people experience it more like a formof torture, unfortunately, and use it to hurt themselves. Instead, you can choose to use it wisely, and in so doing, you may construct a better world.

Much of our anxiety around social media has to do with questions of how to present ourselves online and who to find interesting. From a scientific and philosophical perspective, however, there is no fundamental self—just a story called consciousness created by our brains to make meaning from experiences.

We experience ourselves as real, participating in what neuroscientists call the “common hallucination” of reality, so we construct personalities which we project to the world, in person and online. But if there is no self, no one is really tweeting anyway, at least on some level. And with this added perspective, social media need not be so stressful.

Few of us deliberately show our whole selves online or elsewhere, even when we’re trying to seem like we’re authentic and honest. That’s a good thing. In our lives, we all play various roles and wear different...

Google Is Expanding Its List of What It Takes To Be a Great Manager

A decade ago, Google began Project Oxygen, an attempt to identify the characteristics of great managers. The tech giant used its findings to train employees, and then shared the information with the outside world. That included listing the eight behaviors of Google’s best managers:

1. Is a good coach

2. Empowers team and does not micromanage

3. Express interest in employee concern for success and well-being

4. Is productive and results-oriented

5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information

6. Help with career development

7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team

8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team

Google now says it has added two more behaviors, and amended two others. The additions, noted in a Feb. 27 post on re:Work, Google’s management blog:

9. Collaborates across Google

10. Is a strong decision maker

Making decisions and working well with others may seem like obvious traits for good managers, but Google only considered adding them to its list after hearing from employees that those skills were needed in greater supply. After receiving the feedback, Project Oxygen incorporated questions about collaboration and decision making in a survey designed to evaluate managers, to...

Agencies Reveal New Priority Goals

As required by the GPRA Modernization Act, the Trump administration earlier this month posted its first set of agency strategic plans and priority goals. But the goals, which were described on the website, haven’t received the same attention as the White House’s 2019 budget proposal released the same day.

It doesn’t help that the website isn’t very user-friendly, something the Government Accountability Office noted in a report in 2013 and again in 2016. When Trump took office, the administration suspended quarterly updates on the priority goals it inherited from the Obama administration. Then, led by a team from 18F, the administration began redesigning the site, an effort that won’t be completed for months.

Nevertheless, the documents on the website offer a blueprint of the Trump administration’s priorities. There are links to agencies’ four-year strategic plans and objectives for 2018 through 2022, and two-year agency priority goals for 2018 through 2019. There’s also a summary table of agency strategic plans (of the 23 major agencies, six are missing plans); and a summary table of agency priority goals (minus those of the Energy and Health and Human Services departments).

There are 74 priority...