All’s quiet on the work front

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the day job.  The reason: I’m burnt.

Crispy critters.  Toasty-oats.  Done like the proverbial dinner.

I’ve been burned out since April or thereabouts.  It was about the same time that two things occurred to me:

  1. Regardless how well I plan and how hard I work, someone will inevitably ask me to throw everything out the window and do something completely different.
  2. Regardless how well I do, I will never be a regional consultant on a permanent basis.

I was just coming down off the high of achieving my training certification and eager to begin the next phase of my development as a certified trainer.  First, I’d have to assess a few other candidates, and then I could begin to coach.

In the next breath, I was told that the certification program was on hold.  Our internal college was in transition and it was unknown when the program would resume.  To date, I have heard nothing.

Though my performance and learning agreement (PLA) was fairly glowing, I knew I would not remain with the team.

I knew this to begin with.  My assignment was part of a deal and was never intended to be permanent.  It was difficult to hang onto this reality when everyone on my old team was telling me that I wouldn’t be returning.  My star was ascending.

Everyone on my new team was eager to keep me.  To his credit, my  new manager never so much as implied there was a possibility.  Fair enough.

I applied for two other positions, both of which I was screened out of because I lacked the requisite experience.  The only way to gain said experience?  At-level assignments, staffed through unofficial expressions of interest.

By the time summer arrived, I didn’t really want to remain a consultant, at least not in the position of regional training coordinator.  The landscape of the program I administered was ever-changing, and, as I mentioned above, all my hard work was largely disregarded.

Then I had to work even harder, and those efforts, too, ended up going to waste.

I began to hope that I would return to my substantive position, despite the reduction in salary.

Unexpectedly, the consultant pool I was in was extended to the end of August, incidentally the end of my acting assignment.  A couple of consultants had retired, and I felt that I might obtain one of those positions.

Until I learned that regionally, consultants were being centralized.  Now, if I wanted to be a consultant, I’d have to move, disrupting Phil and his job, and leaving both of our mothers (still independent, but aging) without a significant part of their support systems.

I’d already made it clear when I made the pool that I would not be moving.

So now, due to geography (ridiculous because most of our work is virtual) I am out of the running, even though my pool has been extended again, to the end of September.  It’s sad, because I have skills that are in demand.

Despite fishing my wish and getting back on the training team, it’s not the same.  I can’t help but feel that it’s a kind of failure.  I know that this is not the case, but my feelings are what they are.  I also feel bitter.

There was a time when I thought I would never be able to rise very far in the ranks.  Though my office is a hub, there weren’t very many opportunities for advancement.

That changed and I moved up two pay grades in as many years.  Now I feel that again, I’m “stuck.”

Don’t get me wrong, the training team is great and our manager is awesome.  The phrase “force of nature” comes to mind when I think of her.  I used to be so happy.  I thought I’d found my work “home” and was content to stay there.

It’s hard to go back when you’ve had your world expanded, though.

I’m just totally burnt out.  Most days I wake up asking myself if I can, in fact, go to work.  I’m so disappointed when I can’t find a reason to stay home.

So I’m going to be taking some time away from work starting October 15.  I’m hoping that the time off will allow me to address some of the negative feelings I have and return to work in a positive and productive frame of mind.

Priorities.  While I have debt, I need to keep them straight.

Does your day job get you down?  Do you have any options that can help you to recapture your love for your job?

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How does chaos become complexity?

Yesterday, I came across this wonderful post by Harold Jarche: Complex is the new normal.

In it, he posits that complexity is the new “normal” state of business and that those who exist in chaotic, or disordered business environments need to shift into complexity to be truly innovative.

For definitions of complex, complicated, and chaotic systems, please refer to another of his posts: It’s not complicated, you see?

The bottom line is that we function in a constant state of change these days, and depending on the specific pattern your business adopts, or falls into, you may have to take a different approach to personal and professional development.

Change and change management

My employer has just hit its stride in the business transformation game and right now, it’s utter chaos.  Add to that budget cuts that are resulting in further staff reductions.  Still business has to be done, training has to be delivered and we all have to find some way to deal.  The environment is hostile, reactionary, protectionist, and uncommunicative.

It’s difficult to remain positive in such an environment.  I must admit, I’m not doing well in this department.

We’re facing one of the biggest and most prolonged processing backlogs ever and employees are getting letters.  No one is safe, I’ve learned.  Even those who were assured that their jobs were not in jeopardy are learning otherwise.

What concerns me is that once the main thrust of the transformation process is completed, and the dust begins to settle, the chain reaction continues.  Several positions are staffed at a ratio of processing staff, including mine.  If insufficient numbers have been culled by attrition (those in a position to are seriously considering retirement) or promotion, further reorganization will be necessary.

Fortunately, I’ll have some time to wait for that nether shoe to fall.

My boss and team are a clever bunch, and they’ve decided to wade into the fray by offering Change Management training to affected staff.  Because I think it’s an important and valuable service offering, I’ve thrown my hat into that ring and will be part of the implementation team.  In other words, I’ll be training again 🙂  My wee trainer’s heart rejoices.

But change management is only part of the puzzle.  In order to pull out of this chaotic nose-dive we’re in, we have to strive for a more ordered, but still deadly flat spin, a more complex state from which we might have a chance of recovering.  If we’re clever.

Failing that, we could always eject.

But how do we achieve a complex state?

In an associated post, In an increasingly complex world, Harold Jarche shares Robert Warwicks’s seven essential criteria to consider in an increasingly complex world:

  • Go out of your way to make new connections.
  • Adopt an open, enquiring mind-set, refusing to be constrained by current horizons.
  • Embrace uncertainty and be positive about change – adopt an entrepreneurial attitude.
  • Draw on as many different perspectives as possible; diversity is non-optional.
  • Ensure leadership and decision-making are distributed throughout all levels and functions.
  • Establish a compelling vision which is shared by all partners in the whole system.
  • Promote the importance of values – invest as much energy into relationships and behaviours as into delivering tasks.

Jarche states that these criteria are a good place to start when trying to align one’s business environment to high-functioning complex from less efficient chaos, something he says he doesn’t see in most businesses these days.

I’m trying.  Sweet googly-moogly, I’m trying.  No “but” face here.  I’m seriously givin’ ‘er.

Will let you know how this all pans out.

Is your workplace in a state of flux?  Is there any strategy in place to help staff adapt and grow?  How are you dealing with change personally?  Let me know.  Seriously … commiserate!

My first “real” working group

It was an education, that’s for sure.

Ostensibly, I was brought in to advise the group regarding training and supports for a new unit that the working group was to establish.  They’d already been meeting for some time and I had a fair bit of catching up to do.  A further complication was that while there were several members of the group in my office, it was a virtual group.  We met by teleconference.

I got the notification while I was out of town, training.  At first, I thought it must have been a mistake, but I was soon set straight.

I’d never done anything of this nature before, and I was flattered that my manager and director had recommended me for the group, but I was completely out of my depth.

With the responsibility came the looming possibility of a needs analysis.  I didn’t think I knew how to do that.  I started searching the Intranet, found a few ideas, canvassed my colleagues, and got a few more.  Then I started Googling and that’s when things got really interesting.

Here are a few samples of the kinds of things I found:

Of all the resources I’d gathered, many were vague, some differing, and a few in outright opposition.  Most weren’t recent.

I even discussed the topic with my husband Phil, who was going through something similar at work.  What he recommended was a process analysis.  Essentially, the work to be done is broken down into its component steps, and then each step analyzed and potentially broken down further.  With a process analysis, task competencies could be easily identified, and from that, training specific to those competencies determined.  It could also be the basis for procedure and/or policy, or even a screening tool for candidates.  I liked the efficiency of the concept, and found it a reasonable proposal.

The unit had yet to be approved though, and so the people working in it couldn’t be officially identified, nor could the new unit or its potential requirements be discussed withanyone outside the working group.

How was I supposed to determine what training and supports might be necessary for a group of people who had yet to be named?  The process analysis still stood out for me as a solution.  The suggestion was not received with enthusiasm, however.

I had no experience.  I didn’t know how these things worked.  The project lead took my under her wing.  Another member of the group who’d had more experience in working groups than I, was also generous with her time and helped me to understand how things were supposed to go.

We were to cast our net wide, and think of all the possible courses that might be required by the unknown members of the proposed unit.  I researched, obtained estimates for training costs, and started to work on a self-study course for one of the applications that the staff would be using.  I also suggested a SharePoint site, which the group did set up and begin using.

Then we discovered that there was no budget, and most of my work had to be abandoned, the arragnements I’d tentatively made cancelled, and apologies and gratitude distributed tactfully.

About that time, things started getting hectic in my personal life.  My father “took a turn,” as they say, and passed away a week later.  After the family time I’d taken to stay with him during his illness, and my bereavement leave, I was approved for a number of additional weeks of annual and self-funded leave.

When I finally returned, the project and the nature of the unit had changed completely.  The necessary training was accomplished in my absence, my training course was not used, and the working group ceased to meet shortly thereafter.

It felt … anticlimactic.

It was an interesting experience and I certainly learned a lot (mostly about myself).

  • I will dive into a new project, even if I have no idea what it is about.
  • I’m a good researcher, so long as I have a defined goal.
  • I’m not confident in proposing my own ideas.
  • I will defer to the current authority.
  • I’ll adopt current procedures, even if I don’t see the value in them.
  • I’ll pursue my own goals and projects on the side (subversive me).
  • I’ll totally forgive myself when life happens.
  • I know my real priorities.

I still think the process analysis would have worked 🙂

Have you ever been thrown into the deep end?  Did you sink or swim?  Did something else happen?  I like to think I dog-paddled my way to the shallows where other priorities arose and by the time I was ready to dive back in, everyone else left the pool.  Special projects and working groups can be great learning experiences, but they can also be trials.

An idea that didn’t go anywhere …

"Here Lies a Good Idea. Don't Let Your Id...

“Here Lies a Good Idea. Don’t Let Your Idea Die. Put it in the Suggestion Box Today” – NARA – 514482 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So last year I had this idea for a way to evolve training for both our clients and our staff.

Essentially, the idea was to have online, self-study, or asynchronous, courses for our client groups, to teach them about our business, what we could do for them, and how to make the most of our service offerings.

A secondary tier, or phase, of the training would have introduced clients to the way we do our work, a kind of insider’s guide, which I termed a certification program.  Taking some of these more advanced courses could have been an asset for our hiring group, so that when jobs were posted, the links to these courses could be included, and completing them could give applicants an advantage, because they would have some knowledge of our business and the work that we do.

Internally, our training products could be converted to online, self-study materials as well, designed to harmonize with the public ones, and in conjunction with informal learning strategies like coaching and mentoring, replace the costly and time-consuming, in-class training we now provide.

I contacted a colleague to get her opinion, and she graciously offered to give me a venue to discuss the concept and get some feedback.  I had never written a proposal in our business before, nor did I know how to go about gaining approval for my idea.

While the session was great and I got some serious validation for the idea, I didn’t get much with respect to next steps.  There was a plan in the works for a kind of online suggestion box for employee ideas, but that wouldn’t be up and running until sometime in the next fiscal year.  Aside from that, I really didn’t have any kind of internal platform to promote the idea, gain support, and move forward with it.

I did follow up with some key management figures from other departments, and tried to escalate the idea through my own management team, but didn’t get much response with respect to who I could approach next, or support with respect to how I could present the idea.

I had to be set it aside for the time being.

Though the suggestion box was eventually launched in September of 2011, and I submitted my idea in early October, I haven’t heard anything since.

Maybe my employer isn’t ready to enact my idea yet.

Still, I think it was pretty good, and even if it doesn’t go anywhere, I consider it to be one of my accomplishments.

Have you had an idea that you weren’t sure how to promote or what to do with?  Who did you approach and where did it go from there?