Maybe tomorrow I think I’ll settle down

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?

It’s hard when thinking about the things we do to scratch out a living not to recall Larkin’s words about the manner in which work can dominate our lives.

I’ve been thinking about work a lot in the last few months, to the point where I’m making a change in what I do and how I go about it. This Friday will be my last working at Adur & Worthing, and from the following Monday onwards, I will be shifting up the road to Horsham District Council.

The main reason for the change really is a temperamental one, I guess. I’m moving from a permament job to contracting. At Horsham I’ll be an interim with a defined period of time to work in. Having a go at a permament role has been an interesting experience, but it has become clear to me, and I suspect to one or two colleagues, that I am a sprinter rather than a marathon runner. I do my best work in short bursts, before momentum runs out and boredom sets in.

The other interesting thing to me is the new role itself – Head of Technology Services. That might sound to you like a fancy way of saying IT Manager, and to an extent you’re right. Somehow I’ve pivoted from being someone who knows a little bit about how the web works to being the bloke in charge of the infrastructure, the applications, the data, the security, and yes, the web. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I’m kind of pleased it has.

My role going into Horsham is to put a technology strategy together, get the programme of work lined up, and to ensure the structure of the team and the roles within it are the right ones for the future. You’ll notice that the ‘D’ word, digital, hasn’t been mentioned yet. It might be a semantical thing, but I’m trying to avoid it this time around.

There’s a thing about being able to talk about digital ways of doing things, without people automatically assuming that it is the digital team’s job to do it. It isn’t always, and I think having a team and a strategy that isn’t called digital means that one can talk about digital in a much more open way, without it being seen as a land grab, or a takeover by one particular group in an organisation.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the challenge and getting stuck in at Horsham. And then in six or so month’s time, I’ll be moving on again.

So the answer I’ve found to the conundrum of work, I think, lies in words from another of Larkin’s poems: peculiarly for him (and perhaps for me to choose them) amongst his most uplifting:

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

(Am starting to post interesting links to the blog again, via Google Reader. Presentation leaves a little to be desired, but am working on it…)

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

The networked public servant

** Update – if you want to know how to network well, Mary has a great guide **

One of the most popular books about the social media powered digital revolution is Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. Published in 2008, it took a private sector view of the benefits of listening to customers and engaging with them in online spaces. It’s a worthwhile read.

The two authors have subsequently published new books, though not together. What I find interesting is the fact that the follow ups (Li’s Open Leadership, and Bernoff’s Empowered) both took on the next logical step – how do you fix your organisation’s culture to make the most of the lessons of Groundswell? Again, both are a good read.

Both Li and Bernoff come to similar conclusions: an enlightened form of management is required, one which assumes competence in staff and provides them with access to the tools to do their jobs. More than anything staff need to have confidence that they are trusted by management to do their jobs.

It’s intriguing the way that both authors end up at a similar conclusion via slightly differing routes – Li focuses on leadership while Bernoff really puts staff at the centre of his book. The end result is pretty much the same, but the two books do complement one another quite nicely, and confirms my view that just a top-down or a bottom-up approach isn’t enough to change culture – you need both, in tandem.

This links in nicely with another train of thought I’ve had recently around the changing nature of work and professionalism, particularly in relation to public services. The way people work is definitely changing – both as a result of technology plus wider changes in society.

What effect does this have on the general role of the public servant? Does the traditional skill set still equip people with the abilities they need to both do their jobs well, and enhance their careers?

Two blog posts definitely worth reading around this topic are from Louise and Carl, who write about their careers in local government and how they ended up where they are.

I won’t bore you with my own backstory, but when I worked within local government it involved changing jobs regularly, not being afraid to move from authority to authority in search of promotion and new challenges, and putting a lot of after work hours into building relationships with people and being helpful through my blog.

I started making some notes on what the networked public servant looks like. It’s by no means definitive (or indeed correct!) but is a start and I would value feedback on this stuff – including what use it is and how it might be developed.

  1. Be networked – be comfortable meeting new people and cultivating relationships. Be happy to connect with folk online and off. Concentrate on networking with people outside your organisation as well as inside it. Get to know people, what they are good at, and connect them with others.
  2. Be entrepreneurial – have a strong commercial sense of value and opportunity. Be creative with the budgets you have and find new ways of improving them.
  3. Be inspirational – through your actions and words, be able to enthuse and motivate people to go outside their comfort zones.
  4. Be collaborative – understand the value of involving others in what you are doing. Be aware of your own skills and the gaps, and welcome people who can help fill them for you.
  5. Be creative – don’t just look to what other people have done and replicate it, but come up with your own solutions and ideas – and don’t be afraid to share them with others.
  6. Be risky – understand risk and how to manage it. Don’t see risk as an excuse for inactivity but as a challenge to be met head-on.
  7. Be bold – if you are convinced an approach is the right one to take, do so with confidence and encourage others to support you. Don’t be fearful of what others may think.
  8. Be human – don’t be a corporate drone. What makes you different to everyone else? Emphasise it, and make the most of it. Be someone people outside your organisation don’t mind talking to.
  9. Be studious – always be learning and looking out for new things to understand. Never stop looking round the corner to see what the next new thing is going to be.
  10. Be generous – with your knowledge and your time. Having a reputation for helpfulness is a wonderful asset.
  11. Be open – accept when you’re wrong, or when you aren’t sure about something. If you have half an idea, share it, and let others help out and finish it.
  12. Be innovative – always be on the lookout for new, better ways of doing things. Be open to new ideas, no matter where they emerge from. Develop systems and workflows for testing and implementing new ideas to ensure the best ones succeed.

Bookmarks for March 30th through April 5th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • The Collapse of Complex Business Models « Clay Shirky – Awesome stuff from Shirky.
  •   Reflecting on my MSc research by Michele Ide-Smith – "By researching the attitudes and perceptions of authorities and citizens I hope to gain a better understanding of perceived barriers, threats and opportunities of using social media for community engagement"
  • Cinch – "Cinch is a free and easy way to create and share audio, text and photo updates using your phone or computer. Cinch enables you to capture and report on your experiences in a way that simple text just can't do. Using a simple interface, you can make and broadcast your content creations through Facebook, Twitter, CinchCast.com and more."
  • The State of the Internet Operating System – O’Reilly Radar – "Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?"
  • Penval’s Digital Inclusion Manifesto – Well done Paul Nash. This is what the digital inclusion debate needs – proper, thought through ideas. Genuinely constructive contributions. Not just people bleating about the problems.
  • tecosystems » Forking, The Future of Open Source, and Github – Is the future of open source going to be based on communities such as Apache and Eclipse or will it be based on companies that sell open source? Neither.
  • Dr Dennis Kimbro & his views on recruitment – Really interesting and thought provoking piece on talent management, and attitudes to it, in local government.
  • In quest of simplicty – "We expect IT to be complex and costly, but the lesson of the past 5 years in IT – where we’ve seen the consumerization of enterprise IT (“enterprise” is often a coy way of saying “this has to be complex and expensive – no questions!”) – is that IT can be both simple and cheap."
  • Law and social media – dull but important – "Social media throws up issues of privacy and identity which are far more complex when you have a complete record of someone’s time online and a also a need to balance the personal with the professional roles of an individual. "
  • Powerful petitions with real teeth set to bite – "Local people can now demand their councils take action on underperforming schools and hospitals, drink disorder, anti-social behaviour and other concerns under new rules giving real power to local petitions, announced Communities Secretary John Denham today."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.