Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some "Must-Read" Posts

A short selection of the finest posts I ran into in the past week:
  1. Quiz: Does Your Work Matter to You?
  2. The System Is Broken. Will B-Schools Help Fix it?
  3. Ducks In A Row: Teams Rule (Staffing)
  4. Leaders: Frame Your Messages for Maximum Impact
  5. How To Have "Beautiful" PLC and Team Meetings: 12 Ways To Disagree
  6. 6 Networking Mistakes And How to Avoid Them
  7. How Group Decisions Go Wrong
  8. Management skills must include ‘translation’
  9. Some irrational thoughts on training and change management
  10. Culture Matters
  11. The times they are a-changin'
  12. 10 Principles of Change Management
Also, I couldn't help to read over and over this quote from the New Zealand public service's Principles for interaction with social media:
"As an agency representative: The protocols that apply when you are acting as an official representative of your agency are the same whether you are talking to the media, speaking at a conference or using social media. Good practice is to disclose your position and that you are representing your agency. You should only disclose information, make commitments or engage in activities when you are authorised to do so. You should remember that your comments will often be permanently available and able to be reproduced in other media."
Hum... where do I fit in this?

Have a good week!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The "Digital Water Cooler"

If you haven't already done so, go to CSPSRenewal to read their latest column where they comment on the work of Andrew Keen and draw parallels with GCPEDIA. I believe it is one of their finest posts (at least on par with this other favourite of mine)... and I really liked the "digital water cooler" analogy!

I often laugh at some of the discussion that goes around the water cooler, because the people engaging in them seem to believe that they can solve the world's problems (or at least all the organization's problems!). Of course, rarely any action results from these chats. But what I find fascinating about the "digital water cooler" is that many conversations have actually turned into concrete actions!

That being said, there is some truth to Andrew Keen's controversial quote reported in the post:
“... we use the Web to confirm our own partisan views and link to others with the same ideologies. Bloggers today are forming aggregated communities of like-minded amateur journalists … where they congregate in self-congratulatory clusters. They are the digital equivalent of online gated communities where all the people have identical views and the whole conversation is mirrored in a way that is reassuringly familiar. It's a dangerous form of digital narcissism; the only conversations we want to hear are those with ourselves and those like us.”
Although I don’t like his statement, I must admit that I am guilty of "congregating in self-congratulatory clusters" (i.e. with my friends from CPSRenewal, GC20, etc.). Indeed, it can be construed in part as a form of narcissism. But it must be contrasted with its opposite (i.e. the absence of congregation) in order to be fully appreciated.

Novel ideas are seldom popular, especially if they challenge:
  • The status quo;
  • What has worked well for people in the past;
  • What brought these people success;
  • What characterized the environment that enabled them to succeed.
(For more on this, allow me to indulge in some "self-congratulatory behaviour" and refer you to this post.)

There’s no denying that the vocal minority of individuals upholding new ideas do enjoy sharing with like-minded people and actually need the interaction. But it is much more than simply navel-gazing, or merely a form of support group. I believe it is a necessary step to refine these novel ideas, give them strength, and craft the messaging around them so that they become accessible to and understood by the majority of people who don’t share them yet.

I am one of those individuals who is always looking for great “pieces of writing that will bolster my position”. This is exactly my intent with most of the links I share on this blog. For every great article I come across written by a like-minded blogger, I have reviewed at least 10 to 20 other posts that did not support my position, and I’m not even talking about all the articles that support exact opposite position. In other words, I’m 100% biased, and that is why I have a blog.

As David Eaves suggests, the beauty of blogs is that "they sift through the information that is out there and tease out what is important and what is relevant and write it up in a readable and accessible fashion." If you accept the inherent bias of blogs (and I am definitely not suggesting that blogs are more biased than newspapers or other media), blogs can be a goldmine of information and insight.

Blogging, like so many other editorial forms, filters the information to make it relevant for readers. Furthermore, blogs - just like books or any other media - offer something that readers are looking for: perspective. That's where bloggers offer a unique value: they provide a storyline, a rationale, a logical argument that articulates what people are feeling, a framework for thinking about complex issues. Most people don't run short of opinions; what they sometime lack though are the arguments that would give weight to their opinions and a narrative to tie these arguments together. The purpose of a blog is not to be objective, but to offer a point-of-view.

In that regard, there's no question that Web 2.0 levels the playing field between "amateurs" and "professionals". But no matter in which camp you fall, credibility remains a key currency. The democratizing power of the Web closes the credibility gap between professionals and amateurs. This can be worrisome for professionals whose status is at risk of losing ground. Let's now consider the federal public service and GCPEDIA.

The public service’s highly professional workforce is composed in large part of specialists: experts in their respective domain. Traditionally, it takes years before one can establish him or herself as an expert - approximately 10,000 hours as Malcom Gladwell and Geoff Colvin suggest. But while historically, one would get these 10,000 hours from their day job, the rules have changed and people can now develop their expertise on the corner of their desk or after-hours.

Enters GCPEDIA, and more broadly, the democratization of the Web. All of a sudden, the old rules no longer applied. The accomplished experts and specialists who, up until this point, pretty much decided what information and ideas would get filtered in or filtered out, no longer have a monopoly on knowledge and now face some competition of their own in the form of “amateur” experts and specialists, thanks to GCPEDIA and social networking websites in general. Anyone with a brain and a perspective can now have meaningful influence and develop and expertise.

Personally, GCPEDIA has been hugely beneficial in allowing me to share information, knowledge and perspectives that would otherwise (and in fact has been) filtered through the chain of command or by process gate-keepers. Now it is made accessible to anyone and everyone. Scary thought? You decide ;-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Tweet Therefore I Am

After much consideration, I finally took the plunge and joined Twitter. You will find me here.

Also, a few reminders:
  1. Please vote for your favourite posts on ContrarianThinking (poll is at the top of the side-bar)
  2. If you are a manager and have an hour to spare for what promises to be a very interesting thesis, please contact Jen Ferris by April 30, 2009.
  3. Check out the full deck (Powerpoint) of my presentation on managing the performance of employees (available on GCPEDIA only, summary available here).
Thanks again!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Case for Managing Employee Performance

One of the recurring themes in my presentations (“Bottom-Up Renewal”, “Living Renewal”) as well as in my writings (“An Inconvenient Renewal”, this blog) has been performance management, more specifically: managing the performance of employees.

Today I made a presentation to my department’s PS Renewal Committee on this topic. I have uploaded the PowerPoint on GCPEDIA. For those of you who don’t have access to GCPEDIA, here’s the gist of it:

Firstly, it is important to distinguish between performance management as in “organization performance” vs. “employee performance”. The two concepts are interrelated, but have very different implications for supervisors.

Secondly, despite all the criticism against bureaucracy, the “public service of Canada employee performance management framework” (i.e. legislation, TBS policies and guidelines, collective agreements, etc.) is simple and straightforward. One of the most compelling quotes I came across actually comes from this overview of the Financial Administration Act:
“Performance management is a key enabler of effective human resources management and the achievement of organizational effectiveness and results. Effective performance management fosters integration of employee performance with organizational goals and results; engagement, responsibility and accountability for on-the-job performance and organizational results; and, fairness, consistency and transparency in the treatment, recognition and promotion of people. Integral to performance management are leadership, communication, coaching, mentoring, learning, development and recognition. Performance management results in a work culture in which excellence in performance is encouraged and recognized, and unsatisfactory performance effectively managed.”
Many tools and resources are available to supervisors to manage employee performance and hone their skills. Nevertheless, employee performance management is not valued and practiced as much as other management activities (i.e. financial management). There is currently a strong push for employee performance management in the public service. However for some reason people management in general is still not something that is commonly measured.

But if:
  • the management of employee performance and organizational performance are interdependent...
  • the management of employee performance is the responsibility of every supervisors...
  • the prescriptions and instruments for the management of employee performance are built into legislation, collective agreements, TBS guidelines, policies and directives, and departmental policies...
  • and the tools and resources for the management of employee performance are widely available to all public servants...
...Why is the management of employee performance a major weakness throughout most of the public service?

Is it because:
  • Organizational performance is possible without employees?
  • Employee performance management is less important than organizational performance management?
  • We tolerate poor employee performance management where we would never allow poor financial management?
  • Employee performance management is just optional?
Managing employee performance management is simple. The hard part is actually doing it, because most: s
  • Most supervisors are not appointed in their role based on their ability to manage employee performance;
  • Supervisors must manage employee performance every single day (as opposed to once a year);
  • Supervisors must be willing to have difficult conversations with employees;
  • Supervisors must practice truth-telling;
  • Supervisors must make unpopular decisions;
  • Supervisors must face their greatest fears.
With this in mind, the rest of my presentation focuses on the steps my organization has taken to make the management of employee performance a priority and “raise the bar”.

As potential solutions, I also offer the following:
  • Give employee performance management as much importance as we give to organizational performance management.
  • Be as diligent and rigorous with people management as we are with financial management (both of which, ironically, derive their authorities from the FAA).
  • Increase focus on day-to-day management of employee performance (not just on the annual performance appraisals).
  • Appoint people in supervisory roles based on their people management skills, their ability to manage employee performance, and their willingness to have difficult conversations with employees.
  • If supervisors are able to do the single most difficult aspect of their job well (i.e. managing performance of employees), the rest should follow naturally.
I'm considering turning this presentation into a "talk"... Does it make sense? Is the PS ready for this?

Your feedback is always appreciated.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Last Week's Best

I came across lots of interesting blog posts and links in the past week:
  1. One 'Bad Apple' Really Can Kill the Company
  2. Detoxing Your Team
  3. The Burden of Dealing with Poor Performers: Wear and Tear on the Supervisory Efficacy and Job Satisfaction
  4. Top ten reasons managers become great
  5. How about giving your Boss a Performance Review?
  6. Bully boss or victim?
  7. New research sheds light on bullying in the workplace
  8. Five Sources of Interpersonal Conflict in the Workplace – Part V – Mindset
  9. Leadership’s Future: Education And American Idol
  10. Is Your Team Diverse Or Just Look It?
  11. Pressure, panic and productivity
  12. Pay for Performance and the Business Week 50
  13. From Strategic Planning to Strategic Conversations
  14. What should I do with my life now?
  15. 10 Lessons For Life
  16. Can You Finish This Sentence: "...Teach a Man to Fish, He..."? I Betcha Can't...
  17. Four Ways To Spot Reduced Trust
  18. 3 Key Questions for HR
  19. Are Goals Evil? Here's my favourite insight from the post:
"My company previously used performance reviews that looked at “soft” skills only. We found through analysis that we could basically determine what an employee’s score would be by knowing who their supervisor was. The score was a reflection of the supervisor, not the employee."
You may also check out the original study. Here's the gist of it:
"In this article, we argue that the beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored. We identify specific side effects associated with goal setting, including a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation."
I am waiting impatiently for the released of the 2008 Public Service Employee Survey results. More than four months have elapsed since the survey was administered and it appears it will take another month to get the results. Hum... If you want to know how I feel about this, check out this video.

Please vote for your three favourite posts on if you haven't already done so! The poll is in the side-bar, at the top.

Monday, April 13, 2009

With a Little Help from My Friends

I don't know if I would have ever completed my Masters' thesis in Project Management if it hadn't been for the help of my friends.

Many years have past since, and somehow the opportunities to do the same for other people have been rather limited. But last week I received an email from Jen Ferris (pictured below), a federal public servant from Victoria who's doing her Masters Degree in Public Administration, who was asking me if I could have a look at her thesis project. I instantly liked it, as it is closely linked to much of the stuff I discuss in "An Inconvenient Renewal", more specifically the public service organizational culture and people management.

Jen, who has partnered with the National Managers' Community for this project, is currently looking for federal public service managers with at least 5 years of experience and 20 employees to do a 60 minute interview over the phone.

If you meet the criteria laid out here, I would strongly encourage you to contact Jen by April 30, 2009, at the coordinates indicated in the letter and make this thesis project a reality. If you don't meet the criteria, please forward the request to your colleagues and bosses.

Personally, I can't wait to see the final product!

On her behalf, thank you in advance for your support,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Vote for Your Top 3 Posts!

If I take into account the posts I have deleted from this blog, I have just published my 100th article on Contrarian Thinking!!!

While the visits and page views on the site are counted well in the thousands, the feedback I have received from readers has been relatively limited: precisely 67 comments (excluding my own) left on 25 posts – hence the picture accompanying this post and its double meaning ;-)

I currently have about a dozen posts in draft form, and before doing any more work on them, I would like to get a better sense of what readers like and are looking for: topics, perspectives, style, etc.

I have therefore selected ten of the most popular posts on the blog, and I am asking you to VOTE FOR YOUR 3 FAVOURITE POSTS, using the polling tool in the side bar. The nominees are (in chronological order):

  1. Why Work for the Public Service (June 20, 2008)
  2. On Values and Ethics (June 27, 2008)
  3. My “Personal” PS Renewal Vision (August 26, 2008)
  4. Blogging @ (September 5, 2008)
  5. Values and Ethics in the Public Service of Canada: Tautology or Missed Opportunity? (October 21, 2008)
  6. On-the-Spot Job Offers: Real Solution or Quick Fix? (November 21, 2008)
  7. Facing Facebook (January 13, 2009)
  8. Performance Management and Measurement (February 2, 2009)
  9. Staffing in Three Weeks and Missed Opportunities (February 6, 2009)
  10. Leadership in a Culture of Compliance (February 15, 2009)

I haven’t included the following posts in the list for various reasons, despite their popularity:

So please go ahead and vote and feel free to comment below:
  • Why did you vote for your top 3 posts?
  • Is there any other post you think should have made the top 10 list?
  • What topics would you like to see discussed on this blog in the future?
  • Any idea of polls I could run?
  • What do you like about

On a somewhat related note, I recently came across a neat blog post that spelled out many of the same reasons why I run my blog. Here’s a quote:
“I have long had a contrarian nature whereby I consider the opposing argument / idea / assumptions as I have often found this a useful way of getting a balanced appraisal of a situation and, more importantly, of finding alternative (and often better) solutions. I don’t indulge in contrarian thinking out of bloody-minded stubbornness, ego or a ‘desire to be different’. I do so to find better solutions.”

Thanks again to all of you for your support!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

If you are new to this site... (Updated)

If you are a new to this site, here's what may get your attention:

PS Renewal:
  1. Why Work for the Public Service
  2. My “Personal” PS Renewal Vision
  3. Poll Results
  4. Straight Talk
  5. More Straight Talk
  6. A Glimmer of Hope
  7. Random Thoughts on Talent Management
  8. Leadership in a Culture of Compliance
  9. On Rules and Thoughtlessness
  10. Performance management and measurement

  1. All we are saying is give PSEA a chance!
  2. Staffing Under the New PSEA
  3. Three reasons why managers don't do people management
  4. On-the-Spot Job Offers: Real Solution or Quick Fix?
  5. The State of HR
  6. Staffing and Job Fit
  7. The challenge is on!
  8. Staffing in Three Weeks and Missed Opportunities

Values and ethics:
  1. On Values and Ethics
  2. Blogging @
  3. Values and Ethics in the Public Service of Canada: Tautology or Missed Opportunity?

Web 2.0:
  1. Blogosphere Finally Reaching Federal Public Service...
  2. The Best Access to 66,000 Public Servants $17,21 Can buy!
  3. New Year’s Resolution
  4. Facing Facebook
  5. Should Public Servants Even Be Allowed to Use Web 2.0 at Work?
  6. GCPEDIA postings #1, #2 and # 3
  7. The results of my poll on PS Renewal and Web 2.0: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6
  8. I Tweet Therefore I Am
  9. The "Digital Water Cooler"

The follow-up to "An Inconvenient Renewal" ("In Hindsight...")

Blog recommendations, by themes:

Other themes:

My presentations:

Also don't forget to check out the features in the side bar.