I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague the
other day who works in a position nearly identical to mine and for an
organization that is very much like the one I work for. We spoke for nearly an
hour and after hanging up, I realized that although we shared very similar
hopes, expectations, goals and objectives, our strategies for achieving them weregoing to be very different. Why? Because of our "parents."
Not our biological parents, in this case, but the often
dysfunctional branches of government that we lovingly refer to as the
legislative and executive branches of government. You can call one dad and the other mom (it doesn't matter which), but no matter what size your governmental
organization, you are a product of momand dad.
When mom and dad get along, and we happen to be one of their
favorite offspring, we can be showered with goodness, whether it's free-flowing
funding or loose oversight. To be one of the favored children is to be inheaven!
However, when they don't get along, heaven help us. We can
get caught in a tug-of-war between the two branches in which the children have
to fend for themselves. Woe to you if you are one of the unfavored, left to
scramble for the crumbs available after the preferred children have receivedtheir blessings.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how good you are or how
hard you try, much of what you can or can't do is a byproduct of the
interaction of these branches of government and the political winds that areblowing at the time.
I know that many of the things that my colleague has
accomplished would be nothing short of a miracle if I could pull them off in my
environment, just because the political climates in which we operate are sovery different.
I say this not to be negative, but rather to remind you to
put your situation in perspective when making comparisons with similargovernment organizations in other cities, counties, or states.
People like to make comparisons of cities or counties that
are "comparable". But comparable is a relative term. The fact of the
matter is, you might be part of the best darned IT shop in the nation for your
agencies relative size, except for the small matter that you have a staff of
only three and your funding is nearly non-existent. You can't compare your
situation with a "comparable" agency that has twice the employees andplenty of funding for new initiatives.
Despite this reality, there are those (possibly including
yourself) who won't look at the particular circumstances and will fail to give
you the credit you deserve for your efforts. Therefore, we must be careful when
judging ourselves and looking at benchmarks. It can be too easy to criticize
yourself and jump to the wrong conclusions. The important thing to remember is
to do the best that you can with what you've got and try to effect the changenecessary to make things better.
Fortunately for us, our system of government ensures that
change does come every so often (sometimes too often), and the situation that we
find ourselves in now may not be the same situation months or years down the
road. If you become the favored child for awhile, be ready to step up and makethe most of the opportunity—for those times can be short lived.
So although I can't effect the same kinds of change my
colleague can at the moment, I can do my best to move my organization in the
right direction and plan for the time when the winds of political change aremore favorable—then, I will be ready.