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CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: IM/IT Open Source of Off-the-Shelf?

Friday, October 31, 2008
A couple of days ago, we pointed to this article. The main premise of the article is that economic uncertainties are leading our country into a federal deficit and that Parliament's new budget officer has taken to reviewing one of government's biggest and riskiest capital costs -- large information technology projects.

To be honest I have zero experience with large Information Management / Information Technology (IM/IT) projects on a government-wide scale, so I can't really speak to it with any degree of certainty. However, what I can speak to with greater certainty is the opportunity to reduce costs of IM/IT at a lower – say the program – level. If you want evidence that the sum of small contributions aggregate quickly, I ask you to look into the success of the Barack Obama fundraising campaign.

Perhaps this is a by-product of my own experience with technology (being Gen Y, and all), but my gut reaction is to ask why we aren’t using more open source technologies in government? They are easy to use and do not require licensing. I am told that software licensing costs the Government of Canada approximately $750 per machine, I was also told that that particular network has approximately 65,000 users… and that is a lot of licensing fees.

Conversely, it should be mentioned that procuring new hardware doesn’t mean additional licensing fees for new software if the new hardware replaces the old hardware (e.g. licenses are transferable). The point is that the majority of licensing fees have already been paid and have already been paid over the preceding fiscal years. It should also be mentioned that not all Public Servants are attached to computers, but then again there are usually number of empty workspaces in any given office building with active licenses attached to them.

The only conclusion I can draw here is that determining the potential savings from open source is an extremely daunting task. Therefore, while I am drawn to the idea of moving to open source, I’m unsure as to whether or no it’s the right move.

Lacking the requisite background knowledge, I did what anyone in my shoes would do: turn to the internet. In my search, I stumbled upon a paper out of Bond University entitled Open Source or Off-the-Shelf? Establishing an institutional repository for a small institution. It provides the rationale for the university’s decision to go with an Off-the-Shelf product instead of an open source product and in so doing, lays out a comparative analysis that perhaps we can draw some lessons from.

The paper explains the costs and benefits of the two options, precisely what I’d set out to explore in this column, but what really struck me was a single question in the comparative analysis chart: How does open source sit in the culture of the organization?

Great Question

It is probably the first question that should be asked. Why bother conducting a cost-benefit analysis if the culture doesn’t jive with the change? Sadly, the paper doesn’t explore the issue beyond posing the initial question. This leaves me in the position of simply having to make an experience-based guess. My estimation is that the corporate culture within the GoC has one foot firmly placed in favour of off-the-shelf solutions, while carefully looking for the right place(s) to slowly bring down its other foot on the open source side.

Enter GCPEDIA, the GoC’s new wiki – one of those ‘right places’ that has been carefully being identified as a ‘right place’ to step (Aside: We are planning a more comprehensive response for our next weekly, and to be completely honest, I am quite excited about the opportunity to contribute to GCPEDIA and have already started brainstorming around how exactly to do that in both my official and unofficial duties as a public servant).

At least in the context of GCPEDIA, I think that open source and open culture are poised to be mutually reinforcing. Not only that, but I think that these types of opportunities are set to grow in number, and I hope that those who have advocated for their implementation take full advantage of them. For some reason, the old adage, use it or lose it, comes to mind.

Round-Up: October 29

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
News

The Federal Government's own Wikipedia (GCPEDIA - only available from behind the firewall) has been mentioned in the main stream media.

Check it out - at first glance it looks pretty good, perhaps we will poke around a little more and put together a weekly column on it for next week (I have already started this week's column).

In the meantime, you could flashback and read our very first weekly column, Public-Wiki-Service? How a Simple Wiki Could Change the Way We Work. We published it back in May, 'nuff said.

Blogs

Etienne has another post that addresses the issue of personal initiatives and official languages (read the comments on his post for my take).

Round-Up: October 28

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
A friend of mine forwarded me this paper on Gen Y, entitled What Millennial Workers Want: How to Attract and Retain Gen Y Employees.

The PM announced changes in the senior ranks of the Public Service.

And there are apparently now billions in Federal IT Projects Under Review.

Round-Up

Monday, October 27, 2008
News

PS Faces Money Manager Crisis

Blogs

Etienne has a great post into Values and Ethics.

Peter Smith shows some innovative ways to mashup government data (Part I / Part II).

Don't forget about the Government 2.0 Best Practices Wiki.


CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: My Glass Isn't Half Empty. It's Just Too Full of Other Things I'd Rather Be Drinking

Friday, October 24, 2008
Like I said last week, Mike didn't have a chance to vet the column prior to me posting it, but he did check it after the fact. He found it to be equal parts entertaining and poignant, but did take slight issue with being called “a glass half empty kinda guy.” Here's what he had to say (verbatim):

probably the most honest post yet.

And my glass isn't half empty. It's just too full of other things I'd rather be drinking ;)

I thought Mike's comment was not only insightful, but likely representative of most people. We are all (and I mean everyone, not just public servants) working to fill our glasses with more of what we want to be drinking. But allow me to elaborate in case you might be thinking that this column is going to be about talking down the work we do.

I think what we all want is to maximize the amount of space in our respective cups that is filled with our respective liquids of choice. I mentioned previously that I believe that the majority of new public servants are moving away from the concept of work-life balance. Furthermore, I think it is the very metaphor of 'balance' that people are shying away from. Rapid gains in technology permit us a more blended lifestyle re: work and life – what I previously called work-life integration.


If “Balance” Is Out, What Is In?

Keeping with the glass metaphor (my apologies to non-wine drinkers), what's in yours? Red, white, rosé? Is it dry, earthy, or herbaceous? Heady or neutral? How does it finish? Is it smoky, soft or spicy? Etc.

Whether or not you like wine, the underlying point is that each of us holds a uniquely shaped glass. We have our own preferences in terms of what actually fills that glass and just how full we think it should be (or would like it to be) at any given time.

This includes all aspects of our lives, but the prevalence of the “traditional work week” for public servants (at least in terms of hours) makes that particular portion of our glass increasingly important. Personally, one way in which I strive to achieve my optimum balance is by getting involved in extracurricular activity. By this I mean any creative work (i.e. work that aligns strategically with the organizations mandate and/or seeks to improve its work culture) that I undertake that falls outside my required and substantive work.

(NB: Mike had a much different conception of “extracurricular” when he referred to his glass being full of ‘other things he’d rather be drinking’. We all have outside interests, but I want to stick to how this applies within the confines of the traditional work week, and do so in a manner that we can all relate to).

In my brief time in the public service I have noticed that, generally speaking, junior public servants tend to be the ones more actively engaged in extracurricular activities, or at least they require less arm twisting before they are convinced to get involved. This is understandable given the difference in work loads between junior and senior public officials.

Differences in workloads are often combined with differences in time pressures. Generally speaking, time pressures are more keenly felt by senior public servants. I have heard repeatedly, from both junior and senior public servants that time pressures (i.e. short or unreasonable deadlines) tend to result in junior employees being left out of the loop while senior employees are forced (or choose) to keep the work to themselves simply to ensure that the reputation of their unit is kept intact and that they meet their deadlines. The result is that on-the-job learning opportunities for new employees are often lost to the need for expediency (real or otherwise).

If we bring it back to the metaphor of the wine glass, we see that junior public servants, lacking the opportunity to fill their glass with the substance of work, are likely to turn instead to extracurricular activities to fill it, while senior officials are forced to sacrifice their opportunity to engage themselves in extracurricular activities to the necessity of the day.

What we have here is a negative feedback loop: junior public servants are unable to build the requisite experience base because work is withheld, while senior public servants cannot delegate work because junior public servants lack the experience to complete the tasks. The cycle perpetuates itself as new recruits have time to engage in extracurricular activities while senior officials can't. This problem has some interesting implications for approval processes when junior public servants are trying to get approvals from senior ones to implement some of the creative thinking that they have been able to do in their free time (but that is a column for another time).

From what I can tell, this negative feedback loop has adverse effects on both junior and senior public servants. Among other things, time-pressured senior officials are more likely to be agitated easily, have insufficient time to actively manage their employees’ performance and of course to engage themselves in extracurricular creativity.

While less time-pressured junior officials fall victim to a shallow knowledge base (because they lack the depth of exposure to a varied workload), feel underutilized, or come to the false conclusion that light workloads are the de facto modus operandi of public servants.


Let’s All Raise a Glass

The seemingly obvious solution is to find ways to occupy more of the free time of junior public servants while occupying less of the more senior ones. This is something I have little experience with but feel strongly that it will be an increasingly important part of how the culture needs to shift within the public service. Freeing up some time so that bureaucrats of all groups and levels can engage more efficiently in substantive work and in creative thinking should help all of us move closer to a tastier combination in our respective glasses, now that’s something I can drink to.

Cheers!

(Again, my apologies to non-wine drinkers everywhere!)

Tooting Our Own Horn

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
We got an email the other day from one of our colleagues that we decided to share (in part and with permission) with the rest of you. Here it is:
I have been reading your blog for the past month or so and have wanted to write you since, but I haven't found the time (a common PS complaint) or the words (my own deficiency) to express what could be summed up in two words: Thank you.

More specifically, thank you for openly discussing the issues and challenges that face the PS as both an entity and as a workforce; for providing your colleagues (in the broadest sense of the word) with interesting articles, links, questions, technologies and possibilities; for questioning, explaining, and exploring what it is we do, how we do it, and why we do it; for making a discussion such as this accessible; and for having the courage of your convictions to post some of the more difficult or negative realities while still believing in the PS and the opportunity that exists (just to name a few).

Thanks - we always love hearing that what we are doing resonates with people. Catch you all later.


Round-Up October 20

Monday, October 20, 2008
News

  1. BC Public Service ranks in the Top 50 employeers in BC (ranked # 4)
  2. Here are the top 100 rankings nationally, all we are saying is have a look.
  3. Hard financial times could mean a freeze on public service hiring.

Other Publications

I came across this interesting read from the OECD: Cultural Change in Government: Promoting a High-Performance Culture.

Here is are a couple of excerpts worth sharing:

(Intro): No organization can remain the same without loosing relevancy in a changing society. Governments are now part of a global movement that has been described by many (Barzelay, 2001; Hood, 2000; Kim and Moon, 2002) as an era of new public management (NPM). Public cynicism and frustration with government have led to many policy developments to provide catalysts for high performance organizations. The current challenge is not to determine whether to change but how to change to increase organizational effectiveness and global competitiveness. In order to respond to such challenges, many organizations attempt to carry out various organizational initiatives. Without an alteration of the fundamental values and expectations of organizations of individuals change remains superficial and short-term in duration. Failed attempts to change often produce cynicism, frustration, loss of trust, and deterioration of morale amongst organization members.

(Culture Change): Human organizations build up tremendous inertia over time, and it takes tremendous initiative and determination to budge them. It takes large amounts of energy for people to shift beliefs, habits, thinking, and rationale away from how things have always been done. Such changes require a long-term commitment and sustained application of time and energy from leadership and the organization (Fitzgerald, 1988). It is also critical that the cultural-change processes are viewed as ongoing, not as a project with an end. Senior leaders should be directly supported by a personal executive coach for at least the first few years of the change process so that they can sustain the commitment and effectiveness in role modelling the new cultural behaviors. It is important to point out that if the leaders do not change, culture will not change (Crane, 2002: 205).

(Creating a High Performance Culture): High-performance organizations also recognize that all employees-both those involved directly in the mission and mission support help create organizational value and that job processes, tools, and mission support arrangements must be tailored to support mission accomplishment. A dedication to continuous learning and improvement can not only help an agency respond to change but also to anticipate change, create new opportunities and pursue a shared vision that is ambitious. Incentives that are result-oriented, citizen-based and realistic are particularly important in steering the workforce and subject to balanced measures that reveal the multiple dimensions of performance. Incentives should be part of a performance management system under which employee performance expectations are aligned with the agency missionstatement, and in which personal accountability for performance is reinforced by both rewards and consequences.

(Practical Application): ... those who lead government reform should persuade and/or communicate with ordinary government employees for better understanding and broader participation. Without such efforts, the simple delivery of reform measures from the top would be too naïve to succeed. [Enter our Blog]

(Conclusion): Cultural change could happen at different levels ranging from visible to invisible levels. A change in process or policy does not necessarily lead to cultural change. Therefore, it is fair to say that real cultural change requires that the organization's members accept the changed behaviors, beliefs, or assumptions and that the change is sustained over a relatively long period of time.



CPSRenewal.ca Weekly: We've Got Nothing, AKA This Is Not A Column.

Friday, October 17, 2008
Loyal readers (if you exist) I just want to let you know that this is not a column... in fact you should just stop reading it right now.

Every week we strive to provide you with material that focuses around a single subject matter.

This week is somewhat different.

It is about 10:30 Thursday night and Mike (and his wife) just left my (and my wife's) place. They came over for dinner and instead of generating a column this week (Mike is on vacation, both from his official and unofficial duties), we simply talked shop over dinner.

It was a refreshing change to our normal interactions and, to be honest, it is a skill that all public servants must master. Given the absence of a formal column this weekend, and the context of this (less formal undertaking) I have a couple of things to share.

First, the inside scoop on our blog. While I tend to write the first drafts of our columns, Mike supplements them substantially, acts as a sounding board, provides in depth editing, and keeps my more radical comments in check. However, if you saw the exchanges between us (before we sanitize them for the blog) you would also notice that he is a glass half empty kinda guy, with a sharp wit whose is quick to point out any irony within the Public Service. We work seamlessly together through the 'interweb' without every having worked together in a formal setting. He is an incredibly valuable part of this collaborative undertaking, and this space wouldn't exist without him.

That being said, we are two very different people with completely different goals in government. In this sense I suppose we are fairly representative of the next generation of Public Servants -- tech savvy, educated and diverse. (FYI, among other things, we are currently working on a deck right now that uses our commonalities and differences to explain the complexity of the "renewal message", I haven't run this by Mike yet, but I would like to call it, What the F**k is Public Service Renewal (Regular readers of the blog should understand the inference).

I suppose it goes without saying that given that this is the 11th hour, and Mike, probably to his chagrin, has not seen this or provided his edits and insights, I really only want to share one thing here today.

At one point our dinner conversation's focus turned to development programs. The general consensus around the table was that once you peel back the "opportunity for promotion without competition" facade of development programs, you quickly realize that tackling the getting promoted without a competition can be more time intensive then simply applying for a competition. Furthermore, once you understand the competitive process, it really isn't that complicated. The cruel irony here is that development programs are generally considered under the rubric of retention strategies. Yet, providing a development program that can easily be bypassed (time-wise) by a competition is actually an impediment to retention, essentially making development programs some sort of quagmire.

Our conversation flowed naturally from the subject of development programs to trying to judge the speed at which we should be trying to climb the corporate ladder. FYI - there was no consensus here. We have different goals, come from different backgrounds, and work for different departments. From our conversations with others, we know that this is a concern for many newer public servants. Furthermore, this is not an issue that can easily be addressed in a very general sense (remember, variance of goals, backgrounds and departments).

Given the demographics, the opportunities for new recruits (competent or otherwise) will most likely come fast and furious. Some will take the quick promotions, some wont.

Here is one scenario...

Those that move up quickly are more likely to bottom out more quickly (i.e. they will not be able to deliver on their responsibilities because they lack the requisite experience base). While those that choose to move more slowly will be less susceptible to bottoming out quickly (i.e. their experience base will be larger and they will have more to draw on). Here's the kicker -- those who choose to move more quickly may be managing those who choose to move more slowly.

Talk about issues ... (remember that is just one scenario ...)

I could go on, but it's late, this isn't a column, and I don't have a good sound board.

Round-Up: October 15

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
News

Forecast is for more chilly times in the PS


Comments on Our Blog


Just wanted to say keep them coming (especially on our weekly columns), of particular interest to me was Etienne's comment on our 12 step program.

Round-Up October 13

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I started poking around on BNET Business Network website and found some pretty cool stuff I wanted to point to:

  1. 3 ways to connect with Gen-Y Workers
  2. Kiss your brand goodbye
  3. Gen X is unhappy at work
  4. Are you at war with Generation Y
  5. How to start a mentoring program
  6. The End of Time Based Management
  7. Turbo Charge Meetings
  8. Encourage Excellent Performance

Mike Kujawski has set up a GoC Best Practices Wiki. Mike also has some upcoming armchair discussions at CSPS.

Chamika sent me this timely article that prompted me add another feed to my RSS: Invert the Management Pyramid

Brigitte, in Atlantic Canada pointed our attention to this wiki ... yes, apparently the GoC has a wiki (still a "proof of concept") but there nonetheless.

Event

There is an IABC/Ottawa Speaker Series featuring Mark Blevis and his insights about the return on influence.

Where/When:

The Code Factory at 246 Queen Street from 5 to 7 pm on Thursday, Oct. 16.

Description:

The digital age of communications and public relations has resulted in organizations being able to more easily and more affordably reach and engage with their target audiences -- internal and external.

Mark will examine some real life impacts of social media in action and inaction, discuss the rules of engagement associated with the trust economy, and suggest ways in which digital communications can be used for outreach and relationship building.

More Info/Register.




CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Try Our 12 Step Program

Friday, October 10, 2008
If you know me beyond the blogosphere you may know that my resolve to remain an active player in the renewal puzzle was recently challenged. While this blog provides neither the time nor the place to tackle my personal issues, I thought it would be fun to try to renew my own commitment to renewal by creating the equivalent of a 12-step program.

12 Step Program for (re)engaging in Public Service Renewal (applicable to all groups and levels)

1. Admit you are not powerless over renewal.

2. Believe that working in the Public Service, as something greater than yourself, could help you achieve a meaningful living.

3. Decide to turn your attention and skills over to the Public Service and to the care of your fellow Public Servants.

4. Take stock of your character.

5. Admit to your group, to yourself and to your manager the exact nature of your needs.

6. Be entirely ready to demonstrate your commitment to the Public Service by ameliorating yourself.

7. Humbly ask for help from others whenever required.

8. Distinguish sense from nonsense whenever possible.

9. Keep a list of everything you determine to be nonsense.

10. Work to make sense of the nonsensical, but learn from others and pick your battles.

11. Through hard work and experience, seek to improve your awareness the Public Service and build your knowledge of right and wrong and the strength to follow that knowledge.

12. Renew yourself prior to making demands on others or on the organization to do it for you. Carry this message to Public Servants and practice these principles in all your work endeavours.


Let us know – what do these steps mean to you? Do you have a thirteenth (or fourteenth, fifteenth…step)?

Have a great (long!) Thanksgiving weekend.



Round-Up: October 8

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
News

Here is an article about public servant pressure. [h/t to Chamika]

The EX's column.

Here is some neat info, apparently the Ontario Public Service is recruiting on Second Life.

Blogs

Etienne talks straight about straight talk and points to Gilles Paquet's and Ruth Hubbard's publication Cats Eyes (which if you recall I sat as a panelist with Gilles Paquet at an HRSDC knowledge talk a little while back), I encourage you to read the article and my speaking notes from the panel.


Call to Action

As always we want to hear from you, please feel free to leave a comment on any of our posts (we love reading them) or send us an email (you will always get one back from us).


Round-Up October 6

Monday, October 6, 2008
Here is a small editorial from the Sault Star entitled, No need to clam up.

Jessica McDonald, BC's Premier Gordon Campbell's deputy minister and head of the public service gave an interview to the Vancouver Sun. Here is a great excerpt:

"The new generation of workers is less interested in a career with one organization for their whole career than they have been in the past," she said.

"We need to grab hold of these employees in their first year and let them design their career path, rather than just assuming -- the way it was in the past -- that where they started is where they want to be out into the long term."

To really change, she said, the public service needs to shift its attitude from within.

"We want people to feel like their jobs are rewarding, like they actually have some influence over their own work environment and how they can do their job the best," she said.

Frustrated federal prosecutors across Canada are quitting over poor pay coupled with increased work loads.

The National Post came out in favour of less government regulation citing the recent listeriosis outbreak while referencing the CFIA employee who sent a classified document to his union.

Meanwhile, a bureaucrat fighting the Public Service Commission has won the right to remain anonymous.

... and, PSAC has [an] opportunity to elect '[their] employer says Fitzpatrick (c/o Hill Times so a subscrption is required) [Aside: Given, how the party that assumes power will approach its relationship with the public service matters (to both public servants and Canadians in general) but union involvment in this issue makes me a bit uneasy. Does anyone else see this as a potential conflict of interest issue? I assume their is an official policy somewhere on this, if anyone could provide us with a link on we would be happy to share it.]

Government of Canada Offerings

Armchair discussions at the CSPS have resumed. Click here to see their Calendar.

PCO just released a great page on their website, The Role and Structure of the Privy Council Office 2008 -- one stop shop for understanding everything PCO does.


Finally - thanks for all your comments (on the blog) and your emails. It is great to hear from you, keep it up.




CPSRenewal.ca Weekly: You want acronyms? How about WLB, WLC and WLI?

Friday, October 3, 2008
I have (unsuccessfully) been trying to do some research into generational differences on what exactly constitutes Work-Life Balance (WLB). Well that’s not entirely true, I found this but to be honest it was a tad technical for my purposes.

What I am interested in is how people conceptualize WLB. Despite not being a large proponent of “generational issues” in the workplace, my interest in WLB stems mostly from what could be considered generational understandings of it. That being said, if we surveyed public servants on the subject I would hazard to guess that the responses would be consistent among tenures (i.e. lengths of service inside the federal government / exposure to the work culture), which is why they may masquerade as generational views. Vapid speculation perhaps, but lets start from there and move outwards.

Officially I found two GoC websites that have information on WLB:

1. Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC)
2. Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (which is a federal agency)

[Related: TBS’s Telework Policy]

From HRSDC’s website:

Work-Life Balance (WLB) is a term that refers to the desire on the part of both employees and employers to achieve a balance between workplace obligations and personal responsibilities. Work-Life Conflict (WLC) occurs when the cumulative demands of work and non-work roles are incompatible in some respect so that participation in one role is made more difficult by participation in the other.


Interesting definition: a desire to achieve balance. However, what I find even more interesting is that the focus shifts abruptly to Work-Life Conflict (WLC). I can only assume that WLC is the antithesis of WLB.

HRSDC’s website continues:

Sometimes described as having too much to do and too little time to do it, role overload is a term that is sometimes used as a means of examining the conditions that give rise to WLC. WLC has three components:

1. Role overload;
2. Work to family interference (i.e. long work hours limit an employee’s ability to participate in family roles); and
3. Family interferes with work (i.e. family demands prevent attendance at work).

Considering all of the above at its most basic level, WLB really only has to do with two things: (1) too much work, and (2) family.

Given, we have families, but many new recruits don’t in the typical “2.5 kids and a white picket fence” kind of way. I suppose one could make an argument in favour of a more liberal application of the word family given that people generally consider their family life to be their “not at work” life.

That, or the new recruits is actually one of those 2.5 kids, still living in their parents house with the white picket fence. Invoking the term ‘family’ carries a great deal of assumptions about the status and age of public servants.

Further – it risks marginalizing people who don’t have families. Like taking your kids to play hockey is legit. Whereas going to play hockey (say as part of the GCWCC) is not so legit.

In my travels through the Internet on the Google train I came across this little gem, which turned me on to the term Work-Life Integration (WLI) (reproduced from above link, follow it there is more to the article then the snippet below):

Work-life integration

Rather than work-life balance, Reynolds says she seeks "work-life integration".

"I don't see any issues communicating with friends during work, or multi-tasking, as long as I get the job done," she adds.

So what does Generation Y do for HR? Aren't they just sitting around e-mailing, texting, Facebook-ing and MSN-ing their mates about the latest cyber party when they should be getting on with some real work?

Not according to Russell Prue, IT expert at technology specialist Anderton Tiger. He believes that Generation Y is ready to solve many employers' problems, if organisations would let them.

"Young people are incredibly creative when they are allowed to be," he says. "They are driving this technological revolution their expertise could be invaluable to their employers."

Prue argues that organisations should be grasping the opportunity to harness the communication and technology skills of a new breed of worker.

"Properly implemented technologies often produce cost savings, and at a time when the focus on economical and efficient methods of communication is in the minds of employers, why not use Web 2.0 tools?" he asks.

"Companies need to make sure they have a meaningful presence in the virtual world: a shop in Second Life a profile on Facebook a company promotional video on Youtube. Tools like Twitter can also be hugely effective at improving in company communication."

There is currently a void waiting to be filled, Prue believes.

Generation Y has come to accept a dual existence with a much richer home life than work life. Young people are used to finding that the technology they rely on outside work either does not exist in the office or - worse still - is there but banned.

"They think it's madness that the organisations they work for don't make better use of the technology that's part of their everyday lives," he says.

Reynolds agrees that workplaces are woefully set up to encourage Generation Y-ers to use their best talents.

"The processes and structures in organisations generally disable the characteristics of Generation Y, rather than capitalising on them," she laments. "Encouraging informal networks, open collaboration and open communication is a must.

"We grew up communicating, contributing, collaborating and commenting, then we arrive in the workplace and there are closed networks, closed communication channels and technology from the dark ages."

Mills adds that young workers often have quicker ways of doing things than their more mature colleagues. "It is about the ease at which we can get things done," she says. "For example, finding information on the internet, organising group work and communicating with peers."

Cool – but it doesn’t actually explain (in a concise way), exactly what WLI means. So, I did some more Googling and came across two organizations who have dedicated pages on their approach to WLI, you may or may not have heard of:

1. Cisco Systems
2. Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Both of which expand the different types of programs (Cisco) and concepts (SFU) that should be included under the rubric of WLI, but again, I am looking to capture the essence of WLI.

What I am tempted to do is draw a parallel between WLI and open source. Here is the first paragraph from Wikipedia’s Open Source article:

Open source is a development methodology, which offers practical accessibility to a product's source (goods and knowledge). Some consider open source as one of various possible design approaches, while others consider it a critical strategic element of their operations. Before open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; the term open source gained popularity with the rise of the Internet, which provided access to diverse production models, communication paths, and interactive communities.

Here is my attempt to craft that into my vision of WLI:

Open source Work-Life Integration (WLI) is a development management methodology, which offers practical accessibility to a product's source an employee’s goods ability to provide services and knowledge. Some consider open source WLI as one of various possible design management approaches, while others consider it a critical strategic element of their operations. Before open source WLI became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases were used to describe the concept; the term open source Work-Life Integration gained popularity with the rise of the Internet and the proliferation of social media, which provided access to diverse production models, communication paths, and interactive communities.

Not perfect, but at least this is closer to what I think of when I hear someone say that they support work-life balance (or flexible work arrangements, etc). Unfortunately, I get the feeling that new hires and not so new hires have a pretty different view on this?