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

Let Us Now Celebrate America's Incredibly Low Productivity

Put your feet up, America.

Just released numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows U.S. worker productivity declining during the first three months of the year at a 0.6 percent pace, as measured by GDP per hour worked. That’s not as steep as the 1 percent drop that was the initial estimate reported for the quarter. But still.

It was the second straight negative reading, and in keeping with the post-Great Recession weakness that has caused certain economic observers to wring their hands raw. They should take a page from their proletarian compatriots, and chill.

Why? Well, because there was also a load of good news included in today’s productivity update. Hours and wages both climbed, with inflation-adjusted U.S. hourly compensation rising at a 4.2 percent rate in the first quarter. That’s the latest in a string of solid readings on pay after a long spate of flat wages.

Indications of rising hours worked along with peppy wages are worth celebrating, even if they’re partially to blame for the ongoing weakness in U.S. productivity. Productivity is conventionally described, as it was by the Wall Street Journal (paywall) today, as...

Here’s the Best Day and Time to Hold a Meeting

Meetings are a ubiquitous feature of office life, much disparaged yet still indispensable for most organizations. But given how much time we spend in meetings—17% of the work week, according to one survey—we rarely consider the best time to schedule them.

If you want to make sure everyone can be there, the best time to meet is Tuesday afternoon, according to a study from YouCanBookMe, a UK company that makes scheduling apps for businesses. The firm crunched data from more than 2 million responses to 530,000 invitations and concluded that 2:30pm Tuesday is the time most people are free.

While Monday mornings are popular for team meetings, it’s also one of the worst times, with only one in three invitees accepting invitations to meet. (The most likely days for people to be out of the office are Monday and Friday.) Attendance rises in the afternoon, when the day’s work load has eased and people feel they’re better prepared.

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Bridget Harris, co-founder of YouCanBookMe, said the company holds an all-hands meeting at 3pm Wednesdays. The afternoon slot means participants...

Why Top Executives Keep Employees in The Dark

Have you ever noticed that most organizations don't spend a lot of time telling you how they get things done?

Typically, very little information is available explicitly:

  • Our management guru of choice: Is it Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Tom Peters, Peter Drucker, or someone else? What books do we read, what discipline do we follow?
  • The history, mission and current challenges facing the organization: When did it get started? What were the meaningful moments? Who do we revere here? What difference did they make? What do we need to do now, and why?
  • The little things: When people go to lunch. How to address superiors (first name only or more formally?), send emails (short or long, or maybe we usually talk in person), and so on?
  • The brass tacks: What are our standard operating procedures? How do we define each job? Your job? When we sit down together at the end of the year and talk about a bonus, will you have known all this time what you could have done to earn it?

No matter how sophisticated your operation, only human beings can get the work done. Only people can make the decisions, pull the levers, and leverage...

We Should All Emulate the Leadership Skills of This 10-Year-Old Boss on 'Game of Thrones'

Sunday on Game of Thrones, we found out who should truly win the Iron Throne, and it’s not Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, or any of the other major characters on the HBO show.

Rather, it’s a 10-year-old girl named Lyanna Mormont, who displayed more toughness and intellect in one short scene than most of the show’s adult characters have shown across six seasons.

In last night’s episode, a recently resurrected Jon Snow travels alongside his half-sister Sansa Stark to ask other northern houses that were once loyal to the Stark banner to join their army for the upcoming war against the Boltons (and, at some point, to present a united front of alive-people against the White Walkers). They visit Bear Island, the home to House Mormont, which is under the leadership of the young Lyanna.

If none of that means anything to you—no matter. What’s important is that Lyanna is a wunderkind and a badass who exudes leadership. She’s the boss we all want to work for.

Lyanna understands and appreciates the history of her house, while also trying to determine what’s best for her kin in the...

Plan to Improve Government Performance Would Actually Undercut Progress

Because they lack a profit-based bottom line, we often assume that federal agencies also lack a natural spur to innovate. But that misses one key source of change, which is that Congress and presidents tend to hold strong beliefs about the need to reform government. A permanent sense of dissatisfaction with government has resulted in the perpetual search for new performance systems: PPBS, MBO, ZBB, CSRA, GPRA, and PART. If you don’t know these acronyms, don’t worry; all you need to know is that they took a lot of time and effort and failed to achieve their goals, justifying a replacement that in turn proved to be no more successful. A new bill, the Taxpayer Right to Know, would not only continue this cycle of failure, but might also undercut existing practices that are actually doing some good. This bill has passed the House and is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor, having been passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.

The current performance system in place is the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010. The Modernization Act addresses some of the weak points in the original 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Research...

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