Let’s see…right fit (10), environment (09), the people (08), strategic (07), value-added (06) and special projects (05). The next area is one of the ones I mentioned before that perhaps could be simply merged with others, but it produced such a bad experience previously when it was lacking, I am keeping it separate.
I want to do something that someone wants done.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? If I get something assigned to it, that must mean someone wants it done, right?
Not really. I spent 18 months of my life working on two files — an Integrated Policy Framework and a policy-based Centre of Excellence model for the department — and it was like pushing string. Outside of my own shop, nobody really wanted it. And without some sort of carrot or stick, I have no interest in taking on tasks that I have to “sell” to someone. I’m more of a “if you build it” believer, rather than an “always be closing” salesman.
It’s related to right fit too, of course, and the environment. Under people, it would also require buy-in and support from my bosses. And it is one of the reasons I like special projects — usually each of them has come with that “demand” model built into the request…we either had to do it because it was imposed or the Department had decided to do something. Either way, it wasn’t me trying to sell someone on it, the demand was already there.
As part of my job search, I mentioned to a former DG now ADM that I wanted to do something that was value-added…kind of “fixing” something that needed fixing, possibly on the enabling side. His response was a question — did I know any enabling area anywhere in the department that didn’t need fixing, that was already working well? It was cynical, but also accurate…the question didn’t narrow the field. I said instead that I also wanted to work on something that had support/demand/buy-in/commitment from the relevant players that not only did they recognize it needed fixing, but they actually wanted to fix it. He agreed that was a much smaller list.
When I was doing the IPF, lots of people thought it was a “nice to have”, maybe even something that would benefit the department. But no one really “wanted” it. There were no demand clients. Similarly for the CoE, at least not at the time, and not the way our ADM was pushing.
So I pushed string for 18 months and I never want to do that again. There was just no take-up. While I own some of that failure, some of it was pure structural and some of it was organizational. There are other parts in there too, but for the part that was organizational, there was no demand.
In our department, there is one area that I think is clearly broken — our IT security policy. I have some insights, would love to work on it. But there’s no appetite from the Deputy down to the DG in charge to fix it — they don’t even think it is broken, even though most people in the Department do. The linkages to privacy are huge, as well as I/M practices, evidence-based policy work in the Department, etc. A huge constraint facing our Department, but nobody wants to treat it as broken. No recognition by the powers that be, no demand by anyone in power. Pushing string would be a generous description.
One of our branches is undergoing massive transformation — with no clear vision or workplan. Massive demand, but chaos. Again, going in there could be another pushing string moment as they figure out what they actually want to do. Some would argue “Get in on the ground floor, influence the direction”, but the boxes are too wide open right now to know where the demand will take us. If it goes in one direction, could be a great area; if it goes in the other, it would be a nightmare scenario for me on the “right fit” front.
I had one area that I was willing to consider pushing string on, and not surprisingly, it was related to HR. But I met with the Director in charge and they have everything handled apparently. Not necessarily the way I think it could or even should be done, but a viable conservative model. I could make it awesome, and there’s some demand, but not throughout the hierarchy. Sigh.
Yet, in the end, I’m not picking a job right now, I’m talking about what I’m looking for in a job. For the right position, I might be willing to give this aspect up, but for now, it’s a key ingredient. And based on how badly it affected my job, career and confidence previously, it is pretty high on my list.
#04 Demand-based — not pushing string, nor lack of vision/direction, control
Now we’re getting somewhere.