Working in a governmental agency: a year in review

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Image courtesy: Dilbert.com

This post is a location-focused blog post and a result of personal reflections. If you think Moroccan governmental agencies are any different than the one I work in, please drop me a line, I’d be glad to push the discussion further.

 It’s been a year since I started working at a governmental agency. To be frank, the thought of working there has never crossed my mind. But with my PHD taking over my time, I had to switch from the hectic-private-sector lifestyle into a more measured environment where I can get more control over my time. It turned out to be a good compromise –considering my constraints. 

Most people think governmental jobs aren’t as challenging as the ones from the private sectors. The thing is, they are, just on different levels.  Working in a +6000 employees organization is definitely not a piece of cake, addressing the traditional paradigms and dealing with bureaucracies and office politics isn’t either… and the list can go on and on. 

As this year went by I have come to confirm some thoughts I had about public sector, refute others. But I believe a profound national discussion should be triggered in order to bring efficiency into the public workspace.

What I have learned since last year:

On collaboration: Collaboration is very scale-sensitive. The bigger the team, the more time it takes to collaborate. The more cross departmental the team is, the harder it is to work together… and expecting work to go faster while using rudimentary platforms is obviously delusional. 

On planning: There is nothing as frustrating as the fire-fighting phenomenon. Fire-fighters can go on days without having much to do, but once a fire breaks, urgency is the main trigger. In the workplace, I think this happen for 2 reasons:  Inaccurate planning and the illusion of urgency. And productivity is the number one victim. Working under constant stress can get things done faster but are they done well?

On Rationalizing spending: There are alternatives to proprietary software, there is proprietary software that can replace expensive proprietary software, and there are local consulting firms that would do a better job responding to your needs than the well-pronounced international consulting firms. Thinking about rationalizing the expenses of everyday choices has to become part of the process. And as the saying goes: you can find in a river what you can’t find in the sea.

 On sustainability: You cannot expect your employees to innovate if they’re worrying about fulfilling more basic needs. Harnessing employees’ engagement can only be a result of an effective HR strategy. Training your workforce isn’t an option anymore; it’s the only driver to better performance. Offering a less bureaucratic, less politically charged atmosphere is the basis of the organization’s sustainability. 

How I would love to see all this changing: (Pic: tweet about time travel and Intranet)

Collaboration platforms and Intranet 2.0: The traditional Intranet used solely to announce the organization’s latest press releases or the reorganization of some entity in a far away region is so Outdated! There is a solid business case for Intranet 2.0 and I can’t do a better job describing it than Oscar berg on his blog post : The business case for social Intranets

 Transparency: Beyond office politics, shady strategies etc., transparency has to be harnessed for it is what builds trust. And trust is a major ingredient for collaboration to succeed.  Better collaboration can only mean better performance.

 A more People – centric environment: Employees are not supposed to be cogs in a giant machine; they’re independent spirits, with ideas and insights that can greatly benefit the organization. Treating them as such is the only way to tap into the hidden and unbelievable power of collective knowledge. Breaking down silos (not all of them, at least some) between management and knowledge workers is essential to nurture innovation, and God knows how we desperately need that in public sectors.

As I’m writing these lines, I came across a very interesting article on HBR by Saul Kaplan: Confessions of an Accidental Bureaucrat. Saul brings out an interesting point: “I think there is much that the public and private sectors can learn from each other.”

 

Do you work in Private sector? What lessons do you think public sector can learn from you?

Lamia Ben