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

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...

Your Hotshot Coworker Would Be a Terrible Boss, And Research Proves It

In the classic 1969 business book parody The Peter Principle, the Canadian educator Laurence J. Peter took aim at an “ever-present, pestiferous nuisance” found in industries of all sorts: managerial incompetence. The explanation for it, Peter wrote, was his titular principle—that any employee in a hierarchy will rise to the level of his or her own incompetence. (“This Means You!” the book noted cheerily in a subhead.)

Organizations, Peter and his co-author Raymond Hull argued, tend to reward good performance at the rank-and-file level with promotion to management, even when the roles demand utterly different skills. Great teachers don’t necessarily make great principals. Star athletes often flop as team executives. A person good at selling widgets may be hopeless at managing a team of widget salespersons.

The observation about sales organizations is the basis for a new research paper (not yet peer reviewed) from the US National Bureau of Economic Research. Researchers Alan Benson from the Carlson School of Management, Danielle Li of MIT Sloan, and Kelly Shue from the Yale School of Management looked at the career paths of more than 53,000 salespeople at 214 US companies between 2005 and 2011.

They found that the best...

A Single Question Can Cut Useless Meetings From Your Schedule Forever

Meetings are a serious drain on an organization’s time and resources, consuming up to 17% of the workweek and an estimated $37 billion per year.

Some confabs are inarguably essential to business operations, and others . . . aren’t. Vague or nonexistent agendas, rooms full of people who aren’t sure why they’re there, and participant grandstanding can all consume precious time and energy without delivering much value.

Ron Carucci, a founder of the organizational consulting firm Navalent, recently shared the key question he asks clients who need to cull their meetings calendar. “In my experience, meetings being ineffective is often an indicator that they shouldn’t be occurring,” Carucci wrote in the Harvard Business Review (paywall). “To test this, I ask groups, ‘If you stopped meeting, who besides you would care?’ If they struggle to respond, I have my answer.”

Think about it: Do you need to hold that meeting? Does everyone involved in the project already know what needs to be done, and now actually needs to go do it? Can you wrap up points over email? If the project is still in the idea stage, will a group talk move you forward, or is that time better...

Trump’s Proposed Military Parade Already Needs an Audit

President Trump has proposed organizing a special military parade to honor members of the armed forces. It would be the first such parade since the 1991 National Victory Celebration marking the end of the Gulf War. With the deficit ballooning, the idea has raised concerns about it costs. The 1991 parade had a reported price tag of $12 million, equal to $22 million in 2018 dollars. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told a congressional panel that the costs would be between $20 million and 30 million. While that range is in line with an extrapolation of the 1991 event, current defense costs and security requirements could push the price tag much higher. 

Decades have passed since the last parade, and it’s difficult to find a detailed breakdown of the costs that went into that $12 million figure. According the Washington Post at the time: “Most of the public money will be spent flying the troops here from military bases around the country and Europe and housing them in college dormitories, military barracks and hotels. Tanks, missiles, a 50-bed military hospital and other pieces of heavy equipment used in the war also are being shipped by rail...