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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

If Performance Governs Pay, More Workers Take Antidepressants

Roughly seven out of 10 companies in the United States, if not around the globe, use some form of pay-for-performance compensation system: bonuses, commissions, piece rates, profit sharing, individual and team goal achievements, and so on. But does such an incentivized workplace create a negative effect on the mental-health wellness of those workers?

In the first big-data study combining objective medical and compensation records with demographics, researchers discovered that once a company switches to a pay-for-performance process, the number of employees using anxiety and depression medication increases by 5.7 percent over an existing base rate of 5.2 percent.

The actual number of affected employees is almost certainly much higher, says coauthor Lamar Pierce, professor of organization & strategy and associate dean for the Olin-Brookings Partnership at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

‘Tip of the Iceberg’

“This is the tip of the iceberg, and we don’t know how deep that iceberg goes beneath,” says Pierce. “If you believe that the generation of significant depression and anxiety requiring medication represents a much broader shift in overall mental health, it’s probably a much bigger effect in terms of people.”

While also finding damaging impacts on women...

Creating a 21st Century Federal Workforce

A key element of the president’s management agenda is “Developing a Workforce for the 21st Century.” Clearly, the more than 2 million federal workers can make or break any reforms. The PMA includes proposals for human capital management reforms, strategic workforce management, talent acquisition, continuous learning and agile operations. None of the proposals are unreasonable, nor are they partisan. They are simply sound management practices that are essential for any kind of large-scale government transformation to succeed.

But being reasonable and nonpartisan does not guarantee that the government has the capability to execute the proposals. One essential element that can stand in the way is the federal government’s human capital infrastructure. Does the HR community have the capability to do what the president has proposed? And do laws, regulations and practices provide a framework for success?

The answer is probably no. The federal human capital infrastructure is primarily transaction oriented, and there has been no successful large-scale human capital reform since the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.

Agencies have underfunded their human resources offices, and the Office of Personnel Management has focused on asking agencies to do more rather than updating their own outdated regulations. There are...

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Leader

Learning to lead effectively is one long continuous improvement process. No one comes to this role fully prepared for the rigors, twists, and turns created by people and conditions. It’s a learned process that emphasizes experimentation and adaptation in response to the ample surprises you’ll encounter daily. One great way to prepare yourself for success is to approach each workday with a deliberate commitment to striving to be your best leadership self.

Here are 10 ideas to help you get there:

1. Journal for success.

Maintain a leadership journal and start and end each day with the following entries:

  • Start: What are my top priorities today?
  • End: What did I do today that worked and that I need to do more of tomorrow?
  • Review yesterday’s entries as part of your start-up for the new day.

2. Build challenging conversations into your morning.

It’s human nature to put off things we don’t like to do. Instead of vowing to get to that overdue feedback or coaching conversation “later” lock it into your early a.m. calendar and bring your best self to the session. Focus on creating a dialog and remember to design solutions together.


In Acquisition, Standing Still Is the Biggest Risk

The biggest risk in federal acquisition today is not taking enough risks.

Not reckless risks, but deliberate risks consistent with Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 1 guidance.

The largest chunk of U.S. research and development spending, the most significant technological innovation, and its fastest evolution all reside in the private sector. And the private sector has little interest in slogging through the rule-burdened, prescriptive, intellectual-property-devouring federal procurement process. These facts are driving a tidal wave of change in government buying, especially in Defense organizations. Here’s the January 2018 National Defense Strategy:

“We must not accept cumbersome approval chains, wasteful applications of resources in uncompetitive space, or overly risk-averse thinking that impedes change. Delivering performance means we will shed outdated management practices and structures while integrating insights from business innovation.”

Not only is the Pentagon challenged in attracting the most innovative companies in America’s most vibrant business sectors, but our adversaries—like Russia and China—have little acquisition oversight or regulation so they are beating us to the cutting edge. To serve the nation, government needs to buy better and faster. The pressure’s on to shrink lead times, shorten delivery cycles, and flex to innovators’ needs.

Agencies need...

Automation and the Future of Work

“I’m not like the others,” Pete Buttigieg says of the more than a dozen Democrats he’ll be running for President of the United States against in 2020. He’s a gay millennial. He’s an Afghanistan veteran. And, as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he’s one of the few Midwesterners on the ticket so far, joined by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who announced her candidacy in a snowstorm last week; and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who hasn’t yet declared but is edging closer each day.

Buttigieg’s small-town leadership experience has helped solidify his status as an underdog, a narrative that’s okay for a baseball team but worse for a political ascendant who depends on donations. It’s not that being a city leader is necessarily a liability. Buttigieg is far from the only mayor or former mayor running: New York City mayor Bill de Blasio just got back from Iowa, a sign that he’s considering joining former Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker and former Burlington mayor Bernie Sanders on the trail. Still, South Bend is a small, under-the-radar locale with a population just over 100,000; and unlike Booker and Sanders...