The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 


The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one’s country. 


Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 


While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 


Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 


But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:


– From Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  


– With each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 


– Just recently, we’ve seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time. 


– We have also seen many years of pay freezes–with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!


– The pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 


– Employees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 


– There have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 


– Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of “conduct” issues that may or may not be true, and may at times be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.


– The system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 


While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 


For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 


Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country–from the front lines to the back offices–we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Struggling With Some Decisions

So I’ve been helping some family members with some really big decisions lately. 


As we all know, there are pros and cons to every alternative. 


I remember how you can diagram decisions out like the branches of a tree with probabilities for each branch to try and get to the highest value decision. 


The problem is we don’t know everything that may happen down the road or even know the probabilities for each possibility–or as they say:

We don’t know what we don’t know.  


So it’s hard to make a great decision and not second guess yourself.

Well, what if…


You can “what if” yourself to sleepless nights and death and never decide or do anything meaningful. 


We have to make the best decisions we can usually with limited information. 


Using gut or intuition is not a solution either–those can end up being very wrong especially when we let our raw emotions dictate. 


So I do not take decision-making for myself or helping others lightly, especially my family. 


I want to protect them and help them make good decisions that will bear fruit and joy down the road. 


I definitely don’t want to waste everyones time and efforts and lead them or myself down a dead end or worse off of a cliff.


In the end, we have to turn to G-d and whisper:

Oh G-d, please help us to make the right decisions, because only you know what the results will be from it. 


And so, I am definitely whispering!


At the same time, we need to move forward and not let fear and doubt get in our way of living. 


Yes, we have to be prudent and take calculated risks (everything worthwhile is a risk), but also, we have to look at the potential rewards and the costs for these (every decision is an investment of time and resources) and then just try our best. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Life Is Like A Sailboat

Planning is a critical aspect of making progress toward your goals.


As they say;

If you fail to plan, plan to fail. 


However, planning is subject to life–and life happens!


One colleague of mine compared it to a sailboat, and our dialogue went something like this:

You set out on a course. But the wind and ocean current takes you here and there. Even as you try to steer the boat with the sails and rudder, sometimes you land on Gilligan’s Island!


Hence, life is like a sailboat.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

All Aboard!

So when the train is pulling out it’s a loud call by the conductor of:

“All Aboard that’s going abroard.”


With project management, it can be the same too. 


Once an organization has decided to move out on a project and make the investment of time, resources, and reputation:


– Either you get on the train and help feed the engine of progress


OR


– You get left behind.


– You get thrown off the train.


– You get run over by the train.


There really are no other alternatives. 


My advice is get with the program. 


The train is moving out.


The organization is going to deliver on its promise. 


Get the h*ll on!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Chief Critic

So we all know these type of people that love to criticize and bully.  


They are the critics in chief. 


You have to wonder what their own value-add is.


While other people are doing the work, the chief critic is saying everything is terrible, horrible, tragic, almost the end of the universe as we all know it. 


Yes, there is nothing wrong with well-intentioned and constructive criticism, especially by a supervisor or people sincerely trying to help.


But then there are just those who just look to find something–anything–to fault others, almost as if they are bigger if others are smaller!


This is no good. 


That is no good. 


I would do it this way. 


You need to do it that way. 


It’s almost like a hobby, but it comes with plenty of nastygrams and miserable monologues. 


If only you would do X!


How come you didn’t do Y?


Next time make sure you do Z!!!


OMG, yes we are not perfect angels, but most of us try to work smart, do good, contribute, and get positive results!


Even failure is acceptable if everyone gave it their best effort and it leads to learning and growth. 


Maybe the people on the sidelines who are yelling at the players need to get off the bench and actually worry about what they need to be doing, and doing it, instead of criticizing those in the trenches. 


Teamwork means we succeed or fail together!


Non-attribution is about not getting personal and blaming others, especially when they are working their butts off. 


Rather, roll up your sleeves everyone and get in the trenches and start pulling your own weight instead of putting down and making fun of the others. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Worth The Squeeze

I like this saying that I heard.

“The juice has to be worth the squeeze.”


It’s a little like the corollary to “If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.”


Spending time and effort has to show commensurate results or why the heck are you doing it?


Probably always good to reevaluate where you’re getting the “most bang for the buck,” so you’re not “just spinning your wheels.”


With all the sayings about what we do and whether it’s really worth it, there is probably some good reason to be concerned about whether or not you spending your time productively or just acting insane, because: 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


Results matter–so make sure your achieving them or go do something else you enjoy and that’s ultimately worth the squeeze! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Anything Is Possible

So you’re all aware of the 3 legs of project management:


– Cost


– Schedule


– Scope


I remember learning the adage that if you change any one of these then there is an impact on the others. 


For example, if you “crash” the timeline on a project to finish more quickly, then you either need more money or you need to reduce the scope. 


Similarly, if you want to cut costs on the project then you may have to extend the timeline or scale back on the requirements. 


Recently, I heard someone says the following:

“We can do anything with enough time and resources.”


And when I thought about this, it’s true enough.


If you provide more money and time for a project then, of course, you can do more in terms of the scope of the project.


Pour enough bucks and time into something and conceptually, we really can do anything. 


Technically, we can do the proverbial “anything,” but that’s only if the politics and infighting don’t get in the way of  progress. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)