Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some things you might want to start with

Things you may or may not know if we haven’t been in regular contact recently.

Source: from soneone's blog

have informally given notice of leaving the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office where I work.  I call myself an analyst of public administration systems (public transport) - my title is ‘analyst’.

Am looking to pivot my experience towards something more focused on innovation and understanding how to manage systems, particularly systems of public administration (e.g. regulation, social services), to deal with what the future will be throwing at us.  Particularly interested in design-focused innovation types like TACSI.  So yes, I’m looking for work!

Have been inspired by some of my recent experiences like the global sustainability jam, and a few others that I’ll look to post about over the next couple of months...

Am trained in literature and mathematics, and have a particularly analytical approach to understanding systems.  I’d be suited to economics, if only economic theory wasn’t so void of accuracy or moral value - soapbox posts to come on this no doubt (though I’m thinking of a separate blog along the lines of Economic Philosopher - how’s the ring?)

Currently live in Melbourne, but I'm not wedded to any location.

John Baxter

Pathway ID


I had a bit of a moment the other day.

I have previously been stumped when talking to people about what I do, for lack of any sort of position or identifier that combined my experience (and current employment) with my interest (and my future).  I had also struggled to reconcile my vision for where I was going with the experience that I have, as if I was looking to start completely anew.  That didn’t quite sit comfortably - surely I’ve picked up more than a few generic transferable skills.

I’ve been impressed by how well some people - like RowanKunz - have branded their expertise in a clear, simple and compelling way, without necessarily falling into a professional category.  I’ve wondered - is possible for me to have that sort of clarity?

Source: fd2s, on some random webpage

Then I hit upon a thread that draws my experience and thoughts together

systems of public administration

Now I know that might seem dull to normal people, but jargon aside I promise it’s interesting.  It encapsulates so much of what I have engaged with in the last couple of years, and it also helps describe the particular focus with which I engage the social and community sector.  I'll write some posts in the coming months about what it is and means.

I think it will be a very useful way to identify my professional interest, and brand my experience.

It will also be a guiding star for me to develop career pathways around - while I’ve had a sense of building on my skills by diversification, I haven’t been able to grapple actually making progress.  But now, I can work to a vision of being bloody good at public admin systems, making a contribution in an area central to addressing social challenges, yet not need to be boxed into the expectations of a profession.

The idea is yet to be road tested (feel free to comment!) so I can’t exactly proclaim it a successful strategy, but simply having some clarity of thought for me to understand where I am is immensely comforting so far, and I can see this eureka moment being very valuable.  How does everybody else approach what they do?  Have others found clarity amongst a mess of motivation, experience, and professional labels that just don’t fit?  Are people still struggling?

And does anybody out there have work for a public administration systems specialist?

John Baxter

Newer beginnings

I often end up back to the Global Sustainability Jam weekend when talking to people about what I’m up to.

The Jam is a weekend developing a concept for a service, and a pitch for it, following an abridged service design methodology.  It was a great fun weekend, meeting a lot of interesting new people.

More than that, personally, it was an eye opener.  We may not have reinvented the wheel, but we did do things so far beyond what I’m used to that we may well have reinvented me.  It may not have happened overnight - but it has certainly catalysed a process akin to some pretty magnificent shampoo.

This process may speak more to my experience and employment than anything else.  My current employer, the state audit office, has offered great experience, but I don’t think it’s a very conducive environment to further growth or - at this stage at least - effectively creating value.  It is a deathly quiet environment, extremely product-focussed and in my experience largely anti-collaborative - not conducive to the sorts of skills I need to work on.  It is hierarchical and bureaucratic despite its size, and while at the local level there is lots of freedom with the work, it is difficult to generate value more freely.    It is also driven according to processes made to maximise vertical accountability and minimise risk, which don't necessarily deliver on value.

As someone relatively intellectual, analytical and mathematically trained, who prefers to work independently, it could almost be a perfect fit.  Indeed, if I hadn’t had a few Jam-like experiences over the last couple of years it would seem natural to me, and I might never have seen the light of day.

There were a few components of the Jam that made me sit up and ask whether the world really needs to be like that - almost in shock...

We worked together - collaborative working.  You know, a group of people working together towards a somewhat common idea, making decisions based on discussion and agreement, sharing and testing ideas, contributing where we could.  No signoffs or boundaries around our roles!
We just did it - we worked with things for long enough to be able to give them a crack, prototyped, and refined.  It didn’t matter if they weren’t perfect the first time round, or we didn’t elaborate plans to mitigate the risks of uncertainty.  We did it, and learnt more by trialling than we would have by analysing it all to death
I could do it - the biggest surprise was not so much that it was possible to work differently, but that I was able to!

And I liked it!

John Baxter