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 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

A quick thought in too many characters.

Talk about utility.

@mjmclean gcconnex is a tbs lead initiative that is now in the testing phase. I think it has loads of potential. Can discuss at pint20
– @peterdcown 19:28

Trying to navigate OGD org charts, GEDS,  or some bizarre, jagged information chain to get that concise, informative and actionable a response could, in most cases, be taxing.

Coming next: And I work on the inside, or do I?

M.



Ironically my division at work used to have the acronym RSS.   Confusing for a web management division.  A change of acronyms later, and I am still holding onto my own RSS principle.  Real.  Simple.  Social.

More and more often I am being called upon to provide small groups in the policy and advocacy streams with the how, why and who of Twitter.  (Full disclosure, I am by no means near being a social media expert.  I am, however, passionate and a believer in ‘utility sells.’  It’s working.)  Steam is gathering and my ongoing push for our one-way, boxed in websites to bust open to and with the public is beginning to bleed into other worlds in my department.

Org charts are the bureaucracy.  What box do I work in?  Report to?  Engage with to engage others?  Fortunately, social media is bringing the public back to the public service.  Nick Charney has a great presentation and piece on social media for public servants.

In my world, one of managing and setting the course for a public online presence,  it continues to be challenging to take advantage of the richness of opportunity social media provides.   Simple.  Audience rich.  Measurable.  Should be music to many ears.  The push for internal collaboration and connection behind the firewall needs to be equaled in the public online domain.

And so, I take up this charge and spread the good word – showing officers how they can easily, from the comfort of their own desk chair, home, mobile device, extend beyond their traditional networks and annual conferences and leverage social networks to find those with the voices, the ears of others, the new thinking or proven approaches.

Among my current arsenal?

  • RSS feeds and readers.  (It’s shocking how many political news junkies manage – likely barely – to visit 30+ news sites each day.)  This alone has earned me cape-wearing status.
  • Technorati
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

It’s a basic and short list but addresses the most common identified issues and concerns (too much news, too much ‘noise.’)

Should there be internal evangelists doing this daily?  In the government, yes, until such time as mainstream meets government stream.  Should there be a balance between the push for all wiki all the time and officers stretching beyond their comfort zones.  Definitely.  Until then, I will continue this quest in an effort to gain champions in program areas who will begin to expect and demand more of our online presence and interactions.

By spreading the word of the connected outside world to my inside world, the sides of those org boxes and website boxes will continue to crumble.

From my lips…..

M.