Archive for April, 2009

The other day I wrote about working on a doomed project. It’s not a worthless project – it’s about improving services, always a worthy aim – but for various political reasons not able to be mentioned here, its future is already limited. 

But pretend for the sake of argument that it’s not to meet an untimely demise soon, because I think it’s good to improve services. I am the most junior person involved with this project. We hired a contractor for a sum that is just shy of the amount where we would need to get our purchasing unit involved ($100,000.00). This contractor has done the project that THEY wanted, not the one we wanted. They were hired to undertake some internal research for us, and when I received copies of the proposed research in my email, I immediately identified that there were some problems, which I brought up with our divisional director. The director thanked me and wrote back to the contractor to advise some changes. In the meantime, some additions were made to the project, which *should* have required changing the marketing and management of the research to correctly target the new stakeholders. This was not done, so the new stakeholders were being spammed with requests for information appropriate only to the original stakeholders. Quite rightly, the new stakeholders were not that interested! 

To make matters worse, the original stakeholder management was… poor. We did not do the work of getting the support of the higher levels of management of the stakeholders we were asking to help us, and unsurprisingly, these people were anything from unsure if they should co-operate with us to outright hostile at being approached directly. My immediate manager was complicit in this as she sent spam emails to the new stakeholders that did not differentiate in their language from the spam emails sent to the original stakeholders. Did I mention we spammed our stakeholders? 

So, we’ve got a project that no-one from the most senior management down to the most junior shit-shoveller (ie me) believes in, where the groundwork of people management hasn’t been done, and where we’re doing acts I find morally reprehensible (spam). I have mentioned my concerns to my oboemaphone-playing HR person, who said “Did you say something to your manager?” And the answer is no, I did not, because I did not feel that I could do so or that I would be listened to. You wanna know what I did? 

I hid. 

I put off doing my tasks (like calling stakeholders to ask why they haven’t answered our spam… uh, because it’s spam, maybe?), did them in a half-arsed way, avoided them, and just plain didn’t do them. 

That’s probably not the professional approach to take in this situation. One day I will be in a job interview where I am asked “Tell us about a time where you identified a problem, and talk us through the way you solved it”, and I’m going to freeze up because I’ll remember this project and say “I hid”. 

What have you done in this situation? What could I have done to change anything? Anyone about to write “You should have spammed the people just like you were told to do” should keep in mind that one day I’m going to be interviewed by one of the people I’ve spammed, and they’re going to say polite words to the effect of  “I remember you… your project sent us that bullshit survey spam and kicked up a stink when we told you to get stuffed”.


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I Am Public Service

“The mission of “I Am Public Service” is to inform US citizens about the success stories of public sector personnel and to inspire the next generation of public servants. We achieve this mission by highlighting and honoring people who have dedicated their careers to leaving a legacy of effective and efficient government.”

I think describing IT and human resources staff as “nothing short of heroic” is a tad exaggerated, but it’s good to see the pubes taking pride in their work. This is quite new, so there’s not a lot of content – if you’re a US public servant drop by and give you and yours a big-up.

Understanding Government

Subtitled “Better Government through Better Reporting”, or as they say to us at work, “Would you want to see something you’d written on the front page of the Deutscher Scheissekopf?” [insert correct name of daily yellow rag of your choice]

Spaghetti Testing (Canada)

Nifty looking public service blog by a communications specialist in Ottawa examining the possibilities for “web 2.0” (but come on, we’ve gotta be up to at least web 2.8 by now).


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As a government drone employee, what do you do when you’re working on a project that you don’t believe in, your manager doesn’t believe in, your department head doesn’t believe in, and your stakeholders don’t believe in? A project that, to add insult to injury, has been given a ‘fun’ acronym? (Project for Excellence in New Information Services… no, that would be too much fun.)

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I return to my position at the Department of Silly Walks under a minor cloud, having completed graduate rotations at the Department of Knights Who Say Ni! and the Department of The Blessed Cheesemakers. The Knights Who Say Ni! were, how do I put it in HR mumbo-jumbo, unimpressed with my communication skills, personal conduct, hygiene and speculated parentage. Having followed some controversy in my initial rotation, the Department of Silly Walks  punished me by keeping my pay at the Snivelling Shit level, rather than the expected leap to Shuffling Drone. This upset me, not so much because of my limited ability to buy Louboutins as because the Blessed Cheesemakers had viewed me as productive, hardworking and kinda neat, and it was a shock to return to Silly Walks and find that SW regard me as a loose cannon and are effectively charging me $200 a fortnight to demonstrate this.

Having voiced my displeasure to our human resources representative, a multi-talented person who plays the oboemaphone and is not directly employed by Silly Walks, it was suggested that a journal may assist in gathering one’s thoughts, improving one’s outlook and venting one’s spleen. I am not a reflective person – if I was I would be writing poetry in an attic and coughing glamourously rather than project managing internal spam for a provincial government. However, given that one of my problems was and is communication skills – I do not have Asperger Syndrome, but will do if you need someone in a hurry – I felt that a venue to reflect on issues encountered in the workplace would fill the need for truthful monologue, permit self-expression banned in “internal stakeholder relations”, and prevent me from getting bored on the train home.

The title comes from one of the many, many external contractors, of widely varying quality, employed by my government, who suggested that rather than public servants providing “frank and fearless” advice to politicians (an admirable but possibly unrealistic aim), we should instead be “forthright with grace”. One may be frank and fearless if one is utterly charming as one does it. Given that one of my many disabilities is a distinct lack of grace – and comparatively little charm – I feel it advisable to staple a sticky note with this slogan to my eyeballs.

Despite my distinct lack of grace, I did see my former manager of the Knights Who Say Ni! today, and managed not to slap the shit out of the stuck-up little fembot. It’s important to recognise your small victories.

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