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April 23, 2007
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 The H.R. Doctor Is In

Always Recalculating

It should be a foregone conclusion that the HR Doctor’s tech toys include several Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Two are strategically placed in different cars, and one is worn on my wrist to ensure that I always know where I am when people tell me to “go take a hike.”

My two GPS navigation systems in the cars speak. In one case I had a choice between a British-English voice and an American-English one. After careful consideration, I chose the British lady’s voice, primarily since she reminded me of Angelina Jolie.

What the GPS voice says regularly when I fail to obey its commands to turn right, turn left or make a U-turn, is to announce rather scornfully that it is “recalculating.” By recalculating, it means that it is matching my current position based on available data from as many as 12 of 24 geosynchronous orbiting GPS satellites against its database of streets, businesses and other marked points.

By recalculating, it is trying to keep up with my driving and to identify the most efficient route based upon the shortest distance or the shortest time.

“Recalculating,” therefore, means that the voice of my lovely British navigator, whom I have named Gwendolyn, is trying to help me keep on a steady path toward my chosen destination. Gwendolyn is telling me that I have strayed away from my original path and target. I should, therefore, either change targets or destinations, or I should accept new data and a new direction.

The metaphor by this time should be obvious for those of us in executive governmental service. When we set out on an administrative journey to create or implement a new policy or to manage some new project, we get an awful lot of input. This includes the opinions of others, written research, perhaps interviews and perhaps phone calls to colleagues.

Sometimes the most valuable input we get lives inside our own database of experience. This includes very valuable input we receive from past failures and what we have learned as a result. This latter type of failure-driven corrective action may later become known as “wisdom.” Failure can be the greatest programmer inside our brain to teach us how to learn from and actually profit by failure. In that sense, the lovely Gwendolyn is my teacher as well as my guide.

All of us in leadership positions, including those in our families and our local communities, are looked to by others to provide direction, vision and hope. They trust and expect that we will not get lost ourselves, nor get them lost. They trust that we will not lead them by error into some strange, uncharted and perhaps dangerous territory. In effect, we as elected and appointed officials become their human GPS devices.

The HR Doctor fully expects that within a decade, GPS devices will become much more universal and be integrated into all of our laptops and cell phones. They will also become interactive robots. I will be able to conduct a conversation with Gwendolyn. I will be able to ask questions and receive feedback. “Where is the nearest art museum?” The answer will be expressed visually and verbally. “By the way, what is the current exhibit?” “What are the hours?” “Where is the nearest Thai restaurant?” “Please reserve a parking space in advance of arriving.”

Some day I look forward to actually meeting Gwendolyn and thanking her for keeping my path efficient and productive. I will also thank her for helping my work as a public administrator be more focused.

I hope never to make a particularly serious mistake that I know many people make. I have been among them in the past, and I hope I have learned from that experience. Even when you are absolutely convinced, ethically and morally, based on your religious philosophy, political affiliation or sense of right and wrong that a particular direction or a particular policy is an absolute, be receptive to feedback from your own versions of Gwendolyn. Your direction may be wrong, and you may be headed for a serious crash. Be willing to adjust your direction and to listen carefully to valuable and valued feedback.

Go safely and with accurate directions!

Phil Rosenberg

The HR Doctor •


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