Friday, October 8, 2010

Where's the closest tire shop?

So much has happened in the past two weeks, that it is nearly impossible to publish a faithful report, though I will endeavor to create something of a fillet.

As part of our assignments, we've been given the task of reading, and commenting on posts of our choice from the Harvard Business Review Blog, and that said, I've made a range of comments, here (as J. Valjean), and also here (as the title of this blog.) As time passes, and I acquire more information on the management aspects of public administration, it is indeed interesting to see the collection of thoughts on HBR blog. Written almost uniquely from the perspective of the private business industry, rather, as far as I've seen anyway, even as pertains to the field of Education, I'm repeatedly surprised by how - despite undeniably parallel organizational structuring, and practically mirror imaged management philosophies, - that the business world seems to inherently lag behind the public sector in terms of the more internal development type of evolution. Ed Sermier would ask: "What does that mean?"

What I mean is this: I read the "Leadership Lessons of Ants" and I'm still pondering the comments of several of the posters who seemed incredulous as to the validity of a parable to teach any sort of modern world utilizable theory. But then, coming from a teaching background, and having specifically set up learning experiences centered around parables to teach specific life lessons, perhaps I have a different perspective. Of course we use parables to teach life lessons, why do you suppose the Bible is still a best seller? Aesop lived and died centuries ago, but the inherent applicability of creative solutions (as in the crow who filled a jug with stones to be able to raise the level of water and in so doing, drink from what would have otherwise lay at the bottom of the jug, out of reach.) The Lion and the Mouse, another story not from Aesop, but a classic of Spanish literature, and an excellent lesson about how rumors quickly become something other than what we might like them to be: Los Tres Cuervos. And, let us not forget that amazingly talented inventor of moral infused children's literature: Horacio Quiroga, and his 'Las Medias de los Flamencos'. In each of these, lessons from the animal kingdom bear striking resemblance to how we might conduct ourselves amongst friends, family, and even professionals.

In terms of that, our agency is guaranteed to be in flux shortly, as there is an impending mayoral shift, and everyone at executive level has, as a matter of protocol, had to tender their resignation. This puts all of the Fellows at the agency in a difficult spot, because we've only just arrived, and the potential for significant organizational change in a very short amount of time is very real. The one Fellow placed at OCA reported a climate change so dramatic once it was announced that an administrative overhaul would be taking place, that the 6th degree would have been easier to deal with in the Six Degrees of Climate Change. I have personal feelings on the matter, perhaps I will share them as time goes on.

In the meantime, I've taken to inserting myself into as many leadership oriented activities as possible during my time at the site. I've found that it has become necessary for me to specifically seek opportunities for myself to be involved in the leadership process. At the same time, I'm participating in the rewriting of legislation, creating new contract templates, and it's a good thing that I have a background in language and linguistics, otherwise it would be a great deal more difficult for me to handle the tasks I've been handed. Also, in terms of that, I'm still not sure I'm entirely clear on the following that my mentor told me as I was trying to nail down the specifics of piece of the template with him: "Procurement is solely a commercial exercise, whereas Public-Private Partnerships are more development or investment." I'm foreseeing a conversation with Professor Savas in the future...

Last week, our Program Director came down for the Idealist career fair, and several of us in the DC area made it down to staff the table with him. During the couple of hours we were there, we were successful in attracting quite a bit of attention, and at the very least handing out quite a few information packets. I think we caused quite a stir. And speaking of a stir, having to finally articulate the Initial Capstone Proposal this week was even more difficult than the writing tasks I've been handed for the mentorship. I spent the better part of an afternoon scribbling notes and pacing back and forth by my desk muttering to myself (from the example of Booth, et al.) "Where's the closest tire shop?" But, in the end, it got done, and shipped out several hours before the deadline. Now that I have a focus, I can set about streamlining my data collection.

And now, what you've all been waiting for: El Gran Combo

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