Friday, July 18, 2014

I Need to Vent

A long while ago (nearly 10 years now), when I joined the provincial government, I had found a pocket where there was a cohesive team. A team focussed on producing quality work, to provide evidence and to help shape and inform policy. A team that leveraged the talents of each of its members. A team where there was a high level of communication and trust. A team that ultimately produced reports that could be read - that brought meaning to the data. Work everyone could be proud and was proud of - a lot has happened since then, a lot that has ultimately changed the culture of where I work, and ultimately has resulted in a depreciation of the quality of work that is produced.

There's been a few scandals - first in 2009, and then again in 2012. To say the least - the damage that has been done is significant.

There is now a very wide gap between "organizational capacity" and output. Whatever, passion, curiosity, teamwork, innovation, etc. there once was - has been stamped out. It is every man and woman for themselves, doing exactly what they are told, no more and no less. There is a culture where, whenever possible, point to somewhere else and someone else - do not produce a number or a piece of work that you can be held responsible for.

A few days ago, I was given a very draft policy paper - a paper that was intended to eventually be used to engage stakeholders to develop policy and implementation strategy to improve care for specific segments of the population. My assignment was to provide the data components to the paper. I read what was written. Or rather, I should say, I tried to read what was written - and was dismayed. There was a lot I could do to make the paper an engaging document, a lot I could do to bring data into to it to start the dialogue. I could help to transform it from a piece that struggled to communicate its goals, into one that would be a quality piece of work, one that would engage those who read it. I consulted with the person who sent up the document to get a clear idea of what the paper was meant to communicate - and set about doing the work. I indicated to my boss that I would like to give in to the urge to rewrite the document. I won't lie, the idea of shaping the paper into something more was exciting. I was looking forward to sending back the revised draft. The work that I had done on it, was promising.

Then my immediate boss, and her boss - came to me (one after the other) and without even looking at any of the proposed revisions, told me very explicitly, that while they thought the paper was very poor that under no circumstances was I not revise the writing. I was only to provide the data. In part because if revisions were undertaken, that then ownership of the document could be placed at my feet. The person who wrote it, should have to "wear it" in their view. Message received.

What about the people who will have to live with the policy that is developed? What about doing quality work and contributing to the efforts of others? What about doing work that you can be proud of?

I'm saddened, I've done the task that was asked of me (no more, no less)- after all what else can you do in the circumstance? The partially revised draft stashed, never to be used - but feel as though by remaining here, I am simply failing and being failed.


  1. Saddened indeed.

    All too familiar in many organizations.

    Have you given thought on whether to approach the original writer directly?

  2. The short answer is: I've given it thought and think there is a valid fear that doing so would directly be contrary to the wishes of both my immediate supervisor and her supervisor.

    1. Saddened indeed ... x2.

      Hopefully things change for you, and the culture you're struggling with. I suspect there are many more like you.

  3. Dan - they are absolutely unsustainable, and as a result are certain to change, one way or another.