John Klossner

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How insourcing would work as a New Year's resolution

I take our dog for early morning walks in the woods behind our home, before the world in our neighborhood has woken up. Sometimes we rouse deer that bed in these woods. This past summer there was a doe and yearling bedding in a small field surrounded by brush. I know this not because I ever saw them in their beds but, as the leaves fell last fall, I could watch them run away from us through the bare trees. Usually my dog didn't notice them until they were in motion and had gained some distance from us, at which point she would take off in pursuit, never really coming close.

One day the deer's alarms hadn't worked, and we came across them in their beds. I watched our dog take off after them, running alongside them through the trees. As she neared the doe's haunches, she had a look on her face that said "Now what do I do?" She then pulled up and let the deer run off.

For some reason this image comes to mind when I read accounts of the administration's desires to "insource" -- that is, return work to agencies that had been contracted to the private sector. The administration wants to get agencies back to doing work that only agencies should be doing -- what’s known as "inherently governmental." A worry is that during the years in which so much work was contracted out, agencies have lost the skills -- not to mention the personnel -- needed for projects essential to the agencies' missions.

In the eternal debate between the federal workforce and the private sectors, each side is convinced that they can do a better job, given the proper numbers. Sometimes the quest to replenish the workforce becomes larger than figuring out what that workforce will do. The administration is advising agencies to avoid this problem. Kind of like knowing what you're going to do with the deer you're chasing, should you actually catch it.

Fortunately for agencies, it's a new year. It is the time when many of us may want to catch up on some reading, get into shape or take up a new hobby. What if the agencies treated insourcing like New Year's resolutions? Imagine what could be accomplished.

For example, given an additional 100 employees, an agency could do the following:

    •Lose 90 pounds (99 people losing one pound with the 100th person gaining nine).
    •Clean 99 desks.
    •Help the 100th person "focus on cleaning their desk."
    •Repaint the meeting room.
    •Learn 99 new yoga positions.
    •Help the 100th person get untangled from the new yoga position.
    •Come up with 100 projects that are "inherently governmental."
    •Find two people who agree with the "inherently governmental" list. 
    •Give up snacks between meals.
    •Deal with the 100th person when he is caught at his cubicle with a secret stash of Snickers bars.
    •Read 100 white papers -- okay, maybe ten.
    •Run a marathon (one person running, 99 people congratulating them the following Monday).
    •Come up with some projects to do after everyone stops following the resolutions.

Posted by John Klossner on Jan 14, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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