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Survey: Feds Beat Private Sector on Vision, Lag on Management

Survey: Feds Beat Private Sector on Vision, Lag on Management

Elizabeth Newell | Government Executive Magazine

October 05, 2009

Federal managers tend to be more enthusiastic about their work and more committed to their organizations’ missions than their counterparts in the private sector, a new survey shows.

The survey, conducted by McKinsey & Co. in partnership with Government Executive, found that the federal government earns higher marks than the private sector on questions relating to what McKinsey calls the “heart of an organization.” Federal managers say they understand and embrace the direction and vision set by senior leaders and are motivated to perform their work.

Using a list of Government Executive subscribers, McKinsey surveyed 513 federal managers across 52 departments. Respondents were about evenly split between those in the Senior Executive Service and in the GS 12-15 ranks. The responses were then compared to the results of a similar McKinsey survey previously deployed at about 400 private sector organizations worldwide. While the nonfederal surveys included employees from all levels of organizations, McKinsey estimated that all but about 15 percent of the respondents to those surveys were in the managerial and executive ranks.

Almost 70 percent of federal respondents said their agency’s vision was meaningful to its employees. More than half said people join the agency because of its culture and values, compared to only 37 percent in the private sector.

But the government fell short on operational elements, such as fostering accountability and ensuring coordination and control. Only 55 percent of federal respondents said they received explanations of what they must achieve in their jobs, compared to 68 percent in the private sector. While 56 percent of private sector respondents said their agency “holds challenging reviews to evaluate business performance against plans,” only 38 percent of federal respondents agreed.


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