This blog is all about the public sector and my thoughts and viewpoints as a public servant. It's my way of venting and interpreting things through my reality. So, rather than sit quiet and let it hit the fan, I decided its time to put people and departments on blast. It's my therapy. Its unabashed, unabridged and uncensored. It's all real. Read and find out. You may be enlightened, disgusted, impressed or indifferent. You decide...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The 200

Just want to say that you are all a courageous group. You continue to come to work and work at 100% to the best of your ability. You are all the perfect public servants. You are the subject matter experts, the ones that are willing to challenge the status quo and demand change. Its a shame that its all about the last one in is the first one out.

This is a time when I wish we incorportated the private sector model of keeping the best and getting rid of dead weight.

The countdown begins...

Transparency and the Rose Colored Glasses

Transparency. It's pure and simple. Either you honestly and proactively let us know about your intentions, strategic plans, reorganizaion and restructuring, etc. or never say that you are being transparent. Transparency is the state or quality of being transparent. What that should mean is that government leaders and officials should disclose their finances, strategic plans, etc. and stick to it. The goal should be to work towards that plan. If you hide things, like..hmmm.. say "extra funding / money" then it isnt really transparent, is it? And then, now that you have this money you are going to back track and try to rehire or recall jobs that were already lost or jobs that were told they were lost. Sounds rather suspicious from the bottom looking up.

My humble advice:
1. Let your true intentions be known. Do you know that it is harder to rebuild trust and credibility than it is to rebuild a team? You can easily get new players in these open positions but establising trust will be tough. Remember you cant easily fire us and an unhappy public sector worker is a liability. You must know that. We can make or break you .. but we choose to come to work, do our job despite the criticisms and make it work. Keeping us in the dark is never a good thing. We huddle together for ideas. We gather these ideas and spiral them out of control. We conspire, we fixate on the unknown and then the place suffer. You must know that? Transparency should be part of the game plan in the public sector. Public organization do not make money and we provide services to the community. You cant go anywhere else to get you drivers license or to get a court order to have someone stop harrassing you. Why not let everyone and everything be exposed so that the public knows our true intentions -- that of public service. If you hide things, we find out. When we find out, we get angry. Angry public servant is not good.

2. If you want to attract the best people then you must pay competitively. This is a sore spot for me. The general public thinks that we should get paid a meager salary because it is a public job. Ok, lets embrace that theory for a second or two. A meager salary should then only attract people who are not interested in top dollars but instead interested in maybe a pension and possibly job stability (once true, now a fallacy). Stanford and Cal graduates usually apply to public jobs because of pay but a City College or high school dipolma'd person would apply because all you need is a high school diploma and pass the civil service test. I know I know there are exceptions but for the most part most of the line jobs are filled with non-skilled workers, transitional workers or post-grads (usually not from top tier schools). Public Servants sacrifice pay in order to reap the benefits of a good pension and job stability. But... if you want top quality people, you need education. You need experience. You need risk takers, people with balls--big balls--who will challenge the status quo, work towards change and maybe make a difference. You think youll get that from a complacent city worker who moved up the ranks because of years of service ---and not necessarily the BEST/ Qualified candidate-- has no formal education or even a itty bitty sense of management theory or style? Dont think so... Ive seen it. I've lived it.

3. And with that.. I come to #3. If you are are to treat a public organization like a private organization then start holding people accountable and chop off their heads when they dont perform. You really cant adopt that model without really doing a SWOT Analysis, reorg, bring in Six Sigma specialists, Change Managers, etc., AND skilled---truly skilled---people to work here. Yup I am throwing the business trends out there but dont treat us like a private company while upholding different public sector standards. Sometimes, you really do have to look within to see if in-house is capable of mentoring someone into a higher position. Little do you know that there are many of us here with degrees, advanced degrees and experiences. Why arent we shining, you ask? Maybe because you already pre-judged us and placed us into your own mental category of "cannots" instead of "can-dos". Its sad really. I had an administrator once ask me, "Can you tell me who the shining stars are of this department?". I was floored. He asked as a newbie to the division and wanted to "mentor" or elevate someone. I was guessing that that was a stretegy to gain trust and acceptance. My answer: "Everyone is a star here with untapped potential". I know that that is a sappy answer but I honestly believe its true. I work with amazing skilled, degreed and non-degreed workers. Give them the opportunity and chance and they will shine. They become complacent only because they are quiet or focused on mastering their job and the problems around you.

When you do have the "best" people aligned, you have to remember my advice #1 --work towards transparency. In a private company if there are layoffs, I understand that middle managers have to go. In my organizaion, that is front line supervisors. I get it. What I dont get is how the whole Training Department is still intact?! How are people "saved" from their jobs when their job is not considered crucial to the operations of the organization. Like staff train newbies. Its been done in organizaiton around the world in both public and private. And, then you retain a DIRECTOR that gets paid top dollars? Oh ...but wait... this Director has been reclassified to accommodate the organization. So much for transparency....

Last humble words of advice #4: Never underestimae the power and knowledge of the workforce. I think that you underestimate the knowledge, resources and determination that we have to obtain the truth. When you lay off 100's of my colleagues, I have to re-evaluate my place in your organization. The organization has become despondent, sad, depressed. Its time for us to rethink and regroup. We cannot take this sitting down. The public and our leaders must know that we have a voice, we are strong and that we, and we alone, determine the success of this public agency.

One last thing use another damn "buzz" word. If you are going to decieve whether "unintentional" or not, then dont make promises and dont say you are "transparent". Its easier to absorb the blow of a kick in the balls when you see that foot heading your way. No one likes to be blindsided and then told a lie. Maybe you are emulating a private sector model?

You at the top may see your public agency / organization / division through rose colored glasses. How could you not? You are making a good six figures and have an outstanding package. You probably dont know what we do but decided that its not important. Your glasses are rosy. They shade you from the guilt ..well maybe not. Many of you at the top now have come from the "outside" so, yes indeed, you have no emotional ties and that is how you did it in the private sector. You cover your own up there and make poor decisions. We see it from down here and often times fix it, still making you look good. You continue to make decisions without consulting the true subject matter experts. Me, I am the perfect public servant. I shall remain at my desk, doing the job of 3 people while taking a hefty pay cut. I am the perfect public servant. I too wear rose colored glasses.. however my world view paints quite a differnt picture.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Reflecting back on life in the public sector...

Its been a while since I last posted anything and reading some of my past blog entries, its good to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nothing has really changed. I think that issues within the public sector are continuous and resurface usually at the most opportune moment. Why not bring up a problem or an issue just to stir the pot? Afterall, this problem has always been here. It has just remained untouched, dormant and invisible. Bring it up when there are new change agents in the house. Bring it up when there are other problems to deflect the impact of todays emergency.

Back to change....

Change in the public sector is particularly difficult. There is such emotional attachment and ownership to processes and procedures. Most people do not like to learn something new and go out of their comfort zone or workplace bliss. Most of the employees do not see outside of the confines of their cubicle or workspace to really know that there are issues affecting the whole. Why should they? If the problems do not affect them (note I said them and not the public) then why bother? And---since there is no accountability for work progress, accuracy, etc. then why should they even care? Its not like a public servant can be readily fired, can they?

Rather then bring in change agents / change leaders, let's educate the management on change. Let's brainstorm on workplace issues and focus on the most urgent problems affecting the process. Let's involve the staff and rally them, empower them to problem solve. Maybe that would help the morale? Wouldn't it be great if we can just solve one itty bitty problem without going through so many obstacles? Thats the public sector way of doing it. But, focusing on gathering the right people to champion for the cause would be a brilliant move. Make friends and allies not enemies. Apparently, public sector leaders tend to think with their ego, positional power and political support and not with the general public in mind.

As the perfect public servant, I would like to see the command and control culture abolished. I would like to see a more lateral way of management rather than top down. Why not involve the staff in the decision making? Isn't that the way it is done with most successful companies, private and public? No one should be afraid to ask questions or answer I dont know--that includes leaders too. By establishing an empowered workplace where communication and trust is sacred, the public sector may be able to make headwaves but until then it is a slow uphill battle.

Leaders should be knowledgeable. Period. Knowledgeable in basic management concepts and hopefully in the sector or unit where he/she works. A good leader knows when to listen and knows how to ask questions to obtain the right answers.

As my division goes through a massive culture change, I sit back and cringe. The change agents should know the culture before changing it right? Im trying to be hopeful but I see that there is a lot of discontent and confusion in the environment.

As a leader, I can address these issues. I can suggest different strategies and provide my unabashed opinion. But will this be enough? Thats my concern. I dont have enough ammunition to fight the political battles that are coming this way. Hopefully, it will all work out.

If all else fails, we'll just put another band-aid on the problem and wait for it to disappear...and eventually resurface.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Im back...

Ok, no more playing games. I am back in full force. Just want to let y'all know.

It really is all about extracting all this good stuff from my brain and filtering it out to the masses. It's about speaking up and being heard. It's about addressing injustice and nepotism and exposing those who are not with us but against us...."against us" where they are looking out for their best interest and not for the good of community or organization.

The perfect public servant will always put the citizens first. Citizens NOT customers (for the hundredth time!). The citizens of the community have no other options and can NOT get a refund if they do not like what we did. Wonder why the administrators can't see that ??

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Planning for the future

Is it better to solve small problems and applaud these successes along the way...or
is it better to work toward solving the big problems and work towards a new vision?

Interesting, huh? I think the answer depends on where you work and the kinds of problems that you have. Other factors to take into consideration is whether or not the vision is embraced or supported.

I personally think that change should be gradual. Big changes can be made if thought out correctly but in the public sector where I work, I think it is best to applaud and reward the small successes that are made. Its tough being pummeled by the general public. Morale may be low so why not work toward solving the small, do-able stuff first? Applaud and recognize the small successes, they will get you far.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Changing of the guards

Where to begin?....
I guess I talk a lot about change and probably consider myself a wannabe "change agent". I do a lot of analysis and self reflection and when it comes to change I ask myself if I can do a better job and what would I do differently.

Now, this is where it gets tricky.... in order to have change, you need vision. In order to have vision, you need knowledge, support, knowledge, determination, knowledge, take risks, knowledge, lead by example, knowledge, energy, knowledge, creativity..and, of course, knowledge.

Get where Im going with this?

If you don't have knowledge, you cannot facilitate change. There will be a lot of obstacles along the way and only knowledge will help you overcome them. You could read about every book on change, leadership and management, but you cant learn about experience, political and personal savvy, or KNOWLEDGE about your environment without doing the job or immersing yourself in the culture of the organization.

I am amazed at how many leaders fail or dont reach their true potential because they think that they can succeed just because they are good leaders or smart. Many times the best way to do something is just by watching, learning it and then reinterpreting it...or NOT.

The best way of leading is by doing. The best way by becoming a leader is by practicing. The best way of facilitating change is by believing in your vision and having others believe in it with you. You need supporters. You need allies. You need to know and understand your limits and accept that you may fail. You should applaud your successes even when failing.... if you are too arrogant to think that you can learn it on the job without practicing it or getting support for it, then be afraid. Be very afraid.

There will be a change...but not for the better. (think dark clouds and grey skies hovering over the organization).

Guess I am frustrated that the "change agents" who indirectly claim to be "change agents" are not fulfilling their promise of making things better.

Changing of the guards isn't always good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cleaning up house

What is the liklihood of implementing change if you have no knowledge of the environment or culture? Do you think that you can come in blind and make changes without stirring up the pot?

I think it's possible believe it or not. It is ---IF--- you are proactive and take an active role in figuring out what is what, how it affects the whole, and whether or not there is buy in. PLUS, you have to be a dynamic leader---I'll even take charismatic (not bullshit but true charisma) leader.

If you don't have this, then what do you have? You'll have change without understanding the "why" of it. Why change for the sake of change? Let them understand the importance of the change.

You can fool some of the people some of the time...but you can't fool the experts in the field....

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Essence of a Public Servant

I have been thinking long and hard about this and have figured out what keeps me tied to my job in the public sector. It's not the many layers of bureaucracy or the political games that we play that tie me to my desk. Yeah, I know I love to thrive on chaos (which is my favorite topic to write about) but I think that it is even more elementary than that. What makes me the perfect public servant is that I love to help people and I love to work to make things (work, community, society) right.

I love to enable those around me to succeed. Sounds a bit sappy but its true.

Rather than compete in corporate America for the corner office, parking spot and quarterly bonuses, I thrive on solving the chaos around me. It's a bit more challenging to work with a turbulent environment. It keeps me on my toes and really tests my leadership abilities. It would be boring if everything was perfect. Throw in employee issues, budgetary constraints, political appointments and unions into the mix and see what you come up with. Everyday is a different day with new challenges. I like to throw away the "band aids" and all the "quick-fix" solutions and problem solve for today, tomorrow and the future.

A good public servant should be there because they want to help. You shouldn't be working as a public servant if this is the "best" that you can do or you just want the "security". Working with the public and the community is not an easy task. Patience, empathy, and listening skills will get you far. Knowing you job duties and understanding your environment and organization will get you even farther.

A good public servant should also be a good follower. Good followers turn into good leaders. Good followers work within the guidelines and set the examples. They have the power to make or break the leaders.

I think a good public servant should have vision. A good leader in the public sector will constantly ask him/herself: What can I do to make this better? Always think outside of the box. Never feel threatened by your opinion or if your viewpoints stray from the norm. Don't always agree just to fit in. Have your own voice and be heard. Use your knowledge and skills to make your point not your self-interested motives.

And above all, appreciate your fellow public servants.
Remember, we are all in the same boat and we all are working for the same cause.