I love new co-op students. They come in with fresh ideas, inquisitive minds and interesting perspectives on the public service.                               Roadblock signs

After only two weeks on the job, our most recent student remarked that he is starting to understand the “pace you folks need to work at” in order to get things done.

Clearly diplomacy is already something he has learned. After some prodding it became clear he has already met one of the government’s more familiar entities, the roadblock!

That’s life in the government, get used to it.  Sadly that is ‘advice’ given to freely and without thought of the possible effects that will have, especially on those just starting out or considering a career in the public service. 

Don’t sell them folks.  I have a little more faith in what we can do for it is not the ‘government’ that puts these roadblocks in place, it is us, the public servants.

And so, over coffee, my simple comments to him – if there’s a road being blocked, find a way:

  • Can you move it on your own? Take a bit of time and energy and do it.
  • Will it take more than you have? Find someone to help you – maybe work is already underway that will make it easier.
  • A little more substantial? Get a group willing and make it happen.
  • And the kicker – no matter how many people have try, is it going to require more?   Find the person(s) responsible for putting, or keeping it there and work it out. Perhaps it is no longer needed or does not need to be as obstructive? Can the size be downgraded from a roadblock to a speedbump?

A simple breakdown but does it really need to be more complex?   I was happy our discussion then led to the importance and value of collaboration, community and tools that can always help.   

But, at the heart of it is the recognition that each of us can and should do what we can to make the road ahead smooth and better for those yet to come.

Of course a smart question followed, wouldn’t it be easier to build a new road?  Perhaps, but it that always better?

Onward.

M.

TED came to Ottawa this weekend and in honour of thought-provoking talks, I’m sharing one of my all-time TED favourites by Barry Schwartz.

Mr. Schwartz demonstrates, via a story of unfortunate events, how society is run wild by bureaucracy.

As a public servant guided by common-sense, witnessing bureaucracy running wild in bureaucracy can often be confounding. Processes, rules and hierarchy have existed long enough that most neither question them, nor try to change them if they do.

For those of us working in online communications and social media in the Government – this is where our “practical wisdom” needs to shine. Many of us are the first or second generation Web leaders in Government. We are creating a new working order within the bureaucracy – where processes and rules don’t yet exist. It is in our experience and knowledge that we must have confidence and and rely on as we make decisions and set new directions every day.

Most of us don’t have senior managements to whom we look for guidance on Web 1.0 and 2.0 communications.  In the absence of direction, or in the presence of misguided or misinformed direction, it is our judgement that should stand firm.

My rallying cry to you – use your judgement, regularly!  And don’t forget, judgement is a section in your job description (for Canadian public servants.)  Exercise it.

Onward.

Martha

I recall with great fondness show-and-tell Fridays in kindergarten and grade 1.   Fuzzy new slippers, a bunny, a kid sister and a bag of coconut are among those that stand out in my memory.  Listening to my classmates only talk about their precious treasures would surely have instilled in me an early disdain for lectures or monologues.

In recent months, I’ve been called upon on numerous occasions to sell, show, define and defend social media, its worth and usage within and for our department.  In doing so, I’m no longer armed with paper or a USB stick loaded with various powerpoint presentations or paper copies people can bury their noses in while I try to point out new and exciting ideas.

Presentations have moved away from the bullet lists and ‘catch alls’ for messaging to more succinct, albeit longer, visually appealing models.   Any of you attending any 2.0 conferences, reading this or any other blog know the ones.  What remains missing from these, however, is the excitement that generates from the good ‘ole show-and-tell.

The web is dynamic.  Twitter streams are active.  Video needs to be seen, not screen captured.  Flash shouldn’t be seen in static form.  The work I manage is online.  Those features and new approaches we’re exploring are best showcased, not defined.  Sadly, I can’t count on only one hand the number of  “web” meetings I’ve participated in where the computer hasn’t been turned on.

The Web is dynamic and engaging – those of us charged with its development, management and evolution are  enthusiastic and informed people.

Show it, talk about it and sell it.

Onward.

M.

I have long subscribed to the belief that our initiatives in the online communication world will eventually change the way the government functions.  From our internal capacity to support a robust online environment to providing public servants with the general understanding and toolkit of web tools that can make them more effective,  more than any time over the last decade I see the Gov2.0 movement starting to shape the new bureaucracy.

How does an organization this size manage this shift?  As someone who manages an online communications team, I’ve seen numerous attempts to address this over the last years – major restructuring, semblances of web governance,   decentralized management and ad hoc committees among them.

For my part, it means this; recognizing the landscape is shifting and that new skillsets have to be ushered in order to effectively, and professionally manage this facet of communications.   This recognition and transformation takes time at an enterprise level.   As those of us working in the 2.0 world well know,  time is a precious commodity and months wasted can lead to missed opportunities.

And so,  I recommend taking advantage of the lack of  formal governance and work to shape it.  If you’re in a position to influence a “2.0’ing” of the bureaucracy – do it!  Those of us responsible for the advancement of the government’s online efforts are the ones best positioned to steer the course.

Create the positions you need, fill them with those ready and able to take on the challenges of an exciting and evolving environment and demonstrate your results, successes and opportunities for growth.

Over the last two years, my focus has been on building a team based not on traditional communication functions or by reshuffling personnel files.  It has been a process of auditing positions, researching and rewriting  job descriptions and having them reclassified to not only reflect the current tasks, but to also anticipate and support an unknown future in new media.

Structure/functions of an ideal web team

Structure/functions of an ideal web team

While I don’t have the number of positions available to me to build that ideal web team (at left)  I remain hopeful that as the 2.o movement spreads, all communication positions will come under a microscope and go through similar exercises.

The web, in just over a decade of real existence in the government, is already at the 2.0 stage with 3.0 already seeping in.  As a result, gone are the communication ‘generalists’ on my team.  I’m extremely proud to now have a “community manager” on my team.  While I won’t pretend to be the first to create such a position, it’s more than likely it’s still a rarity in an organization that should be ripe with them.

Web 2.0 government folk have long championed the need for senior leadership in order to create the foundations and make the advances necessary.  While I don’t disagree with that, I think it will require leaders from all levels stepping up and affecting the change they are able to at their level.  In this case, if senior managers want something new and dynamic, which they will, make sure your team is ready to stand and deliver.

Onward,

Martha

Giraffe Forum today notes the future of Web management is evidence based. There is a reason why McDonad’s, Wal-Mart and Amazon’s of the world continue to succeed – decisions are made based on what clients want. What a profound concept.

Managing the Web in a political organization seems to fly in the face of this wisdom. Perhaps because we are not a Wal-Mart of Amazon and it’s perceived, because no financial transactions exist, that we don’t have real customers. In the world of social media, Web managers must help others recognize the relations based on loyalty, trust, transparency and engagement mean as much, if not more than those based on a shopping cart check out.

How much evidence is needed before it becomes clear our internal governance is presenting us from delivering on that evidence? Usability testing, traffic analysis, focus group testing, online survey, content inventory, we’ve done it all. Now, it ultimately boils down to who manages the Web presence and ensuring decisions are made by those closest to the evidence.

Fortunately, I’ve attended Web governance conferences with Lisa Welchman and have spent a week at the Web 2.0 Expo and have gathered my own evidence. I met with U.S Government Web managers who have been making tremendous strides in the last years and are now looking to continue, energized by a web-savy administration.

These conferences and my drive for decision making based on those we should serve has once again armed me with a desire to usher in a new era of Web management in an organization seeped in political culture. Without adopting the proper decision-making for the management of our online presence, we will be forever cemented in a non-transparent Web 1.0 world, a risky place for the Government to be.

Action plan to come.

M.