Monthly Archives: April 2010

When one small step equals one giant leap

The ideas in David Allen’s book on productivity, Getting Things Done, struck a chord with many readers who had struggled with other methods of organization, myself included.

A big “aha moment” for me occurred when he suggested that instead of listing entire projects on one’s to-do list, instead list the next action steps to be taken. Thus, “plan banquet” might be replaced with “call to check on room availability.” Where “plan banquet” can seem somewhat overwhelming and thus hard to handle, making a phone call is a contained step that can be taken care of and checked off the list. And, importantly, small steps are far less daunting and we’re more likely to act on them.

This recent post on the Magic Words blog
is a great reminder that taking a first small step on a big project can propel us forward in a way that changes everything. What big challenge on your plate could benefit from a first small step?

Below the Surface

Sometimes it can be beneficial to turn a blind eye to what’s going on around us in order to filter out distractions and keep ourselves on task.

But it can also mean missing what’s going on just below the surface, whether remaining unaware of resources that could help us in our endeavors or ignoring that which needs our attention.

Is there anything roiling below the surface that could benefit from your focus?

3 Things to Understand About Social Media as a “Communication Channel” for Governments

Many experienced public sector managers recognize that there’s something important in all the hype about Facebook and Twitter and the need for agencies and governments to embrace their use. But, for those who are not users of social media themselves, it can be a struggle to understand exactly why it matters as much as it seems to.

Fortunately, The Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania recently published a fabulously thoughtful and interesting report on social media and local government that offers as good an explanation as I’ve ever seen about what social media do that’s different that might help you or others in your agency truly get your brain around the value of Facebook and Twitter.

A very useful suggestion is that we should stop worrying about making sense of terms like “web 2.0” and instead think of social media as communications channels that have “a different set of rules and habits than traditional types of news and broadcast media.” From here the report outlines three points that are at the heart of these different rules and habits.

1) Social media are typically interactive rather than authoritative. Social media like Facebook and Twitter facilitate conversations rather than one-way announcements. Much of the value is provided by users who respond and recommend them, often in near real-time. A city’s Facebook post about bad potholes after a winter storm, for example, might be enhanced by user comments that detail where, exactly, the worst ones are so that other drivers can watch out and so that the city knows to fix them.

2) Social media are personal rather than institutional. Users exercise great discretion over their personal “channel”,
subscribing to only the information they want and ignoring the rest.

3) Social media tend to “narrowcast” through networks rather than broadcast. The Fel Report notes that even a large government social media audience is small by the standards of radio or television broadcasts (the City of Topeka, for example, has 120,000 residents and only 550 followers on Twitter). But, importantly, “social media facilitate a more voluntary, interactive, and symmetrical relationship between an agency and its audience, and the right message can travel extremely quickly through these networks to the general public.”

Far more quickly, it should be noted, than an announcement posted on a city’s website. A “tweet” or a Facebook update is pushed out to interested users who, if they find it relevant or worthwhile, will “share” it with their friends or followers on these sites, some of whom may then share it with theirs. This is in stark contrast with an announcement to an agency website that will only be found by those who happen to visit the website while the announcement is posted.

This also contrasts with “e-government” portal sites for the same reason: users are required to visit the portal in order for it to be useful. With social media sites, however, I get updates from my city as I catch up on new photos posted by my sister and what’s happening with my friends from college.

For professionals used to drawing a pretty thick line between their personal, professional, and public lives, this can be a new and peculiar concept. For many of the citizens you’re hoping to engage, however, nothing could be more natural. And it’s this fact that makes social media so important as a communication channel.

What benefits has your organization seen from using social media?

Succession Planning in High Performance Organizations: ASTD complimentary webinar tomorrow

We just came across this notice for a free webinar tomorrow from noon to 1pm (central time) offered by the American Society for Training and Development. Sorry for the late notice, but here’s the info:

Tony Bingham, President and CEO of ASTD, and Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp, will reveal findings from the study, Improving Succession Plans: Harnessing the Power of Learning and Development, and discuss the critical trends that will help your organization align learning strategies and practices to long-term goals and organizational success.

Click here for more information or to register.

One Simple Change Could Lead to More Productive Meetings

There are many issues that benefit from the collective discussion that takes place during meetings. But if you’ve ever walked out of a meeting unclear about what, exactly, was accomplished by the discussion, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s Business Writing Blog recently suggested that the problem may be in the agenda.

The solution? Add a second point under each discussion item that starts with “outcome:” or “results:”

She offers this example from a planning meeting. Rather than just “Discuss plans for trade show,” the agenda item becomes:

* Discuss plans for trade show.
* Outcomes: (1) Confirm list of activities. (2) Identify who will coordinate each activity. (3) Decide on essential action items for this month.

With this change to each meeting item, it is clear to all attendees not only what needs to happen at the meeting but also what will need to be done and by whom afterward. Now that’s a worthwhile meeting.

A How-to Guide for Working Effectively Across Boundaries

Public sector employees have been trained to deliver results within the boundaries of hierarchy, but what new skills are necessary to work effectively through networks, partnerships, and collaborations?

Dr. Heather Getha-Taylor, who will be joining the faculty of the KU Public Administration Department in the fall, will present a roundtable session at the City & County Management conference next week intended to help attendees collaborate more effectively.

The “Identifying and Developing Boundary-Spanning Skills” session will offer insights on the competencies that are linked to boundary-spanning success. Dr. Getha-Taylor will also present evidence of collaborative competencies among government, private sector, and nonprofit managers who together are working to address complex public problems. The discussion will conclude by considering the ways in which public organizations can foster collaborative skill building to support effective partnerships.

Click here for the complete conference schedule and registration information.

A Win-Win? Wellness Programs and Employee Productivity

A report on the Business Wire indicates that, according to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, 68% of employees said that over the last 12 months they were affected by increased feelings of job insecurity, a decrease in the quality of their work, an increase in their workload or being distracted at work because of financial worries.

The challenge, of course, is that managers are asking more from their employees because of the very conditions that are causing these stresses.

What would help? The MetLife report suggests that providing access to health and wellness programs, work/life balance programs, and financial advice and guidance in the workplace could be a win-win as approximately eight out of ten employees say that they believe their productivity would be favorably impacted by these programs:

* 77% of employees said financial advice and guidance programs would improve their productivity.
* 81% said that health and wellness programs would improve their productivity.
* 82% stated that work/life balance programs would improve their productivity.

Many employers have yet to act on this information, however, even when they recognize the value of such wellness programs. Read more.

Economic Update Panel on the City & County Management Conference Agenda

Last year’s City & County Management Conference focused on tools and information to help local government officials through the current troubled economic times. This year we’re looking ahead with the theme, “Governance, Collaboration and Leadership: Working Together in the Next Decade.”

But with local governments still dealing with the fallout of this historic recession, we’ve scheduled an “Economic Update Panel” for the conference that will take place next week in Lawrence on April 22-23. The panelists include:

Dr. George Kahn, Vice President, Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy, U.S. Federal Reserve, Kansas City
Dr. John Wong, Interim Director, Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, Wichita State University
Dr. Stuart J. Little, Little Government Relations

We hope you can join us for the panel and the other practitioner-oriented sessions that make up the 62nd City & County Management Conference. Click here for complete agenda and registration information.

Next ASPA KC luncheon to feature Matt Meyer, CEO, American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City

The next Greater Kansas City ASPA chapter luncheon is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28th and will feature Matt Meyer of the Greater KC American Red Cross.

The luncheon will run from 11:45 to 1:00pm at the Hereford House Hollywood Room, 20th and Walnut Streets, Kansas City, MO.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, Matt Meyer serves as both the chapter executive for the Greater Kansas City Chapter and the regional chapter executive for the Greater Kansas City Regional Grouping. At the Greater Kansas City Chapter, Matt works with a 30 member board of directors, 35 full-time staff and more than 700 volunteers to ensure the effective delivery of Red Cross services throughout a 16 county area in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

To register for the luncheon, visit the website of the Kansas City ASPA.