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Doing things differently in government

Two weeks ago I managed to seriously fracture my humerus bone. I had to have surgery to put a titanium plate with 8 screws into my arm so that the bone could heal properly over the course of the next 6 months. While the benefit of having surgery after a fracture is not having to wear a cast, the discomfort and limited mobility is quite similar. After 4 days at the hospital I thought I was ready to go back to my regular routine (those that know me also know that inactivity is not exactly my friend).

Very quickly upon coming home I realized that my ability to do things in the same manner I did them before was not possible. This was an external factor (the fracture of my bone) that I had no control over. What I did have control over was and still is to figure out new ways of doing things to achieve the same outcome, or an even better one than before.

A few simple examples of things I have learned to do differently over the last 2 weeks:

  • floss with one hand
  • open med containers with my feet (fyi: we should be using our feet far more often than we do, more on that another day…)
  • put on a shirt with one hand (can’t wait to use this one in a hurry)
  • type even faster on my smartphone (by necessity)
  • finally got around to using voice recognition on my smartphone (via the Dragon Dictation app)
  • created a dedicated ab-only workout routine as a workaround to the fact that I’m not allowed to strain any major limb muscle groups
  • eating less but better as a result of less heavy physical exercise and energy consumption requirements
  • to compensate for the above loss in heavy physical activity, I really focus on breathing, stretching , relaxation and sleep as my health regiment since they usually tend to take a backseat when I’m at 100%
  • I appreciate my wife at a whole new stratospheric level as she took on the role of full time nurse in addition to her full time job

Yes my arm will get better, and yes this really is not that major of a hurdle. The reason I’m blogging about it is since I see a similarity to what is currently going on in government (i.e. fiscal restraint). The cutbacks are coming and everyone is worried about how they are going to get the same things done with less money . What everyone should be thinking about is how they are going to do things differently to achieve the same (or better) results given their handicap (i.e the external factor that cannot be controlled). I give full credit to my colleague and fellow blogger Nick Charney for bringing this to the forefront of my attention at a recent MARCOM committee planning meeting (coincidentally this was a few hours before my arm incident).

Certain technological elements are hopefully already on their way to being addressed as stipulated in my blog post on Shared Services. However the biggest gains are surely going to come from new behaviours, or rather, the “people” side of things. A few examples:

  • Empowerment: The amount of pure “command and control” operations I have seen as a consultant for government in this town (Ottawa) is quite unfortunate. “The times they are a changing folks”. Empower your staff and you’ll be surprised at the results.
  • Untethered offices: If employees were trusted to work from home during morning rush hour alone, that would potentially save millions. Better yet, if employees were allowed to work from wherever they feel they could get the job done in the most efficient and effective manner, that would likely reduce the horrendous job dissatisfaction rate and above average sick-leave.
  • Open-data: Government needs to learn that in certain cases it’s better off acting as a platform and source of valuable info for other organizations instead of trying to do everything on their own. See my blog post on “How using a marketing approach could help Open Data
  • Collaboration: Yes that’s right, getting rid of silos and a culture of secrecy now that we live in an era of transparency and have mass collaboration tools at our disposal.
These kinds of terms are hitting the public service like a ton of bricks (even the politicians have finally caught on).  Are they being implemented? Not nearly as much as they should, however by necessity, they will over time.  On a related note, CEPSM is now an official sponsor of the upcoming PSEngage conference here in Ottawa, which aims to address many of these exact issues.  For those of you that cannot secure funds to attend, be sure to take part in the ticket giveaway contest, which simply asks that you define the word “collaboritious”. More details here.
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