Friday, July 29, 2011

We Lease Our Talents

Apologies for the short (and late) post today, I'm in DC at NextGen and what I planned on running today wasn't up to snuff. That being said I wanted to share something that was said yesterday in one of the sessions that I thought was incredibly pertinent:

We are knowledge workers who lease our talents to others for as long as we are challenged.


Originally published by Nick Charney at
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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Return of the Round-Up

If you've been following this blog for a while you will remember that I used to post weekly round ups. The round up was a mash up of interesting stories, videos, books, and other links that I thought were worth sharing. Over time I started to (and still do) share the majority of those links on Twitter. The simplicity of sharing links on Twitter and constraints on my time meant eventually phasing out the weekly round up post in favour of focusing in on Friday's weekly column.

That being said, traffic to this site comes from primarily two sources: Twitter and people punching in the URL directly. The latter of which may be missing out on some of the great links circulating on Twitter, with this in mind, I've enlisted some help in order to reintroduce the round up.

Allow me to e-troduce you to Lee-Anne [LA], a self-identified "writer, editor and relative newbie to government".

[NC] Lee-Anne why don't you tell people a bit about yourself?

[LA] I've been working as a federal public servant for about 2 and a 1/2 years; I started as a communications advisor working on an external stakeholder engagement, and recently moved into a non-stop corporate role as a digital strategist.

[NC] I've worked in corporate service environments too, caffeine is your friend. Tell me, how did you happen upon

[LA] Well, during the writ period, my branch reorganized, and I got this new job. I decided that the best way to figure it out would be to: listen first, try out the tools, participate in the conversations, then see what happens. You were on Peter Smith's blog roll. He thought I might want to include a work-focused blog on my learning plan and he encouraged me to read broadly and take my time. I wound up reading your blog, then starting my own. I love the idea of virtuously scheming.

[NC] Tell me a bit about your own blog.

[LA] It's just a baby; ask me again in a few months. I'm sure things will change. I’ll find my voice over time.

[NC] What do you hope people take away from the round ups?

[LA] I hope it makes it easy for folks catch up on good reading. I hope to bring my own flavour to it -- you and I are interested in some of the same things, but also some different things. I hope to share ideas, collaborate, and to grow my community in Ottawa.

[NC] Well, let's get to it then, shall we...?

[LA] Round-Up For the week of July 18 - 22

Bwah. Out sick yesterday, so the round-up is a day late … but here’s the usual collection of good reads, courtesy of the #w2p community.

More talk on QR codes:


Tools of the trade:

Open up!

Random thought:

Someday the machines will sound an alarm whenever we even think about typing a cliché. Blah blah blah. Until then, we’ll always have Damn You Auto Correct to insert clichés and the wrong word at just the wrong time.

This post has been a collaborative effort from Lee-Ann Peluk and Nicholas Charney

[image credit dolmansaxlil]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Doing more with less is dead, this is about doing things differently

The old adage of doing more with less is the final vestige of those who fail to understand just how profoundly our society is changing. Someone should put a bullet in it, because quite frankly it needs to die.

Look at what is happening across the pond, the reality is that we can't even afford to do more with less, we have to do things fundamentally differently; and that means re-imagining things from the ground up, and breaking out of old mental models.

Let's start right now

We live and work in a knowledge economy, so let's start acting like it. People entering the workforce today already own enabling technology, they already know how to collaborate with others, and use the social web to their advantage.

So why do we force them into cubicles, Windows 2000, and a heavily filtered internet connection (or worse no internet connection at all) when they've spent the last 4 years honing their skills in coffee shops, with Macbooks and wifi?

I can't possibly be the only person out there who thinks that we are imposing structures on employees that fundamentally undermine their ability to perform; and as any management book will tell you under-performing employees are a burden.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg

Let's stop to consider the money we spend on building the structure that undermines their performance in the first place. We hire ill equipped managers, force staff into cubicles they despise, give them hardline phones they don't use, strap them with mobiles that are contrary to their tastes, and handcuff them to old PCs that take five minutes to boot up in the morning. Wait there's more, consider all the the people we employ to run the processes that hire the terrible managers or configure the cubicles or procure the offensive and outdated technology in the first place.

The overhead of agony alone is incredible

... and the fact that we continue to pay for it when we can no longer afford it tells me that we aren't all that serious about doing things differently.

Someone prove me wrong, please.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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[image credit: rob_moody]

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Office Space / NIN Mashup

I'm really not sure where to put this but I figured I'd blog it. I mashed up scenes from the movie Office Space and the NIN song Everyday is Exactly the Same.

It's something I've been meaning to do for a while now, and as a fan of both the works I'd encourage you to spend your time/money consuming them both in their entirety.

Happy Tuesday


Office Space / NIN Remix (Everyday is Exactly the Same) from Nick Charney on Vimeo.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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Friday, July 15, 2011

5 Tips For Public Servants Using Social Media

Here are five quick tips on how to manage your social graph as a public servant:

1. Pro-actively disclose

Generally speaking it is good practice to tell your employer (or prospective employer) of any activity that is at the periphery of but related to your official activities. For public servants I think that runs the gamut from blogging about related issues on sites like this one, to sharing links with colleagues on Twitter, or participating in discussion groups on Govloop or LinkedIn.

I am of the opinion that proactive disclosure of online activities is less important when those activities are far removed from your professional life. I doubt the powers that oversee the machinery of government care if in addition to your day job you happen to run a local food, exercise, lolcat blog.

Finally, don't go running to the very top of the organization to disclose your activities, simply disclose them to the closest logical individual up the food chain from yourself.

2. Be careful what you link to

This is where I see the most confusion. I've seen a number of people on Twitter link to their department or agency right under a bio that reads "all views my own".

My advice is to not link to any official government website on any of your social media unless you are acting as an official spokesperson for the organization.

Also, and this one is overlooked often, don't provide a link to your social media (e.g. your Twitter) in your official organizational email footer. The implication is that your use of the service is as official as the position you occupy, your phone number and mailing address, when in fact you cannot conduct official business in that channel (especially with external stakeholders).

The same goes for your avatar, don't use anything with government logos in it (like a photo of your ID badge) it conflates you with the department or agency for whom you work.

3. Have a disclaimer, but don't hide behind it

There was a number of blog posts and Twitter chatter in the last few weeks about the subject of disclaimers. Here's my take: a disclaimer doesn't absolve you from being an idiot. Much like you can't claim ignorance if you break the law an online disclaimer isn't a shield. It doesn't protect you or your employer, it only creates a small modicum of distance between the two by telling people that you are not authorized to act as an official spokesperson for your organization.

4. Excuse yourself from conversations that you feel uncomfortable about

During the last election one of the federal political parties responded to one of my tweets about open data. The conversation quickly turned partisan. My reaction was to simply tweet that given my role and responsibilities as a professional and non-partisan public servant I was unwilling to engage any further; an explanation that was readily accepted by the party in question.

If you are pressed even after you excuse yourself, just stay silent, let anyone watching it play out draw their own conclusions. I

5. Don't bitch about work

Venting may feel good now, and a status update is so easy that its often we get caught up in the moment, but there aren't any private places online where you can complain about your employer.

Good rule of thumb: don't say anything online that you don't have the wherewithal to say in person because you will be held accountable by someone somewhere down the line.

Like mom said, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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[image credit fisserman]

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Fallacy of 100% Engagement

We tend to talk about employee engagement in absolute terms, as if it was wholly achievable, but nothing could be further from the truth.

100% engagement is a complete and utter myth

It is simply unattainable.

Not everyone is going to love what they do all the time; telling them otherwise is irresponsible and a downright lie. It does little more than build an unrealistic expectation of what is attainable.

Even Batman has to be Bruce Wayne

The harsh reality of the working world is that some of what we all do sucks. Case in point, I love traveling and meeting new people, but I hate having to fill out expense reports.

But, overall am I satisfied?


And that, my friends, is perhaps what we should all be striving for. Yes, it may lose some of its luster but being “engaged on average” is most likely the honest and logical endpoint of engagement efforts. At the very least it is a step forward from where the majority of public servants find themselves today.

And that's okay

Because employee expectations shift over time. They are based on the zeitgeist, comparable (employment) market conditions, past experiences, and personal preferences.
That's simply called progress, and I don't know about you but I'll take progress over complacency any day.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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Friday, July 1, 2011

On Vacation (and Happy Canada Day)!

Hi All -

No column this week, I've been on vacation. My wife and I took possession of a new house this week and we've been up to our eyeballs in unpacking and cleaning.

I just wanted to wish you all a safe and happy Canada Day.


Originally published by Nick Charney at
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