Well, the end of the year is here which always brings about a time for reflection.  I expect many focus on their home and personal life.  But how many of you take the time to look at your career and work environment in the government and look at the changes you hope to bring about in the new year?
A colleague of mine has written a very timely and truthful piece about the collective wear and tear those of us working in the government web world are experiencing.  In particular:

“In an environment defined by tapered resource growth and increased demand for expertise we risk stretching our champions too far.”

I share those thoughts and agree with the challenges that risk poses.  I am battle tested and at times, battle weary.  Being a champion means being an ardent defender of your activities; to continually fight for what you know is right, or needed; and to lift those around us up, even if we ourselves feel down.

If we are in this for rewards, many are sure to exit early, become disenchanted or end up as casualties.  With tongue in cheek I often say I’m a glutton for punishment for sticking with the government web scene as long as I have.  The truth is, I love the challenge and the possibilities.   It takes people willing to be those champions and to share those burdens who will help us all emerge relatively unscathed.

As one who appreciates my chats with Nick (above mentioned author,)  his insights and commitment, and as one who has also felt at times that I’m being pulled and stretched, I offer up a year-end suggestion to all who have been toiling away in our government web world – it’s  holiday  time!

Power chord

Fatigue should not give way to frustration.  We are online longer, chatting more often, and constantlythinking and exploring.  It’s time to preflect on the many successes and advances of the past year;  re-evaluate;  re-examine and recharge!

To my Canadian government colleagues – doesn’t it seem fitting for us to look forward to 2010 as our year as the champions?

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

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.

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.