Pause and Learn

So you may be wondering, “what is all the fuss about the Pause and Learn (PAL) sessions we are conducting?”

The principle is very simple; on a routine basis, we need to take some time to look back at what we are doing, discuss it with the people that are involved, and then have us (the larger “us” meaning our organization and the people that we work with) figure out what needs improvement so that we can perform our jobs better and to get along better. Make sense?

I consider the IPAO an operational organization. By that I mean, we have set of products we deliver on timelines that are part of the tempo by which the Agency delivers its products. Because the tempo of the Agency, and thus IPAO’s tempo, is so high, it is easy to get immersed in the day-to-day activities necessary to get these products out; and as all of you can attest this hardly leaves time for anything else. We need to be careful that we don’t fall in the self-fulfilling prophecy that we are so busy doing our day-to-day jobs that we don’t have time to improve our processes so we continue falling further and further behind. Breaking that cycle is the driver behind the PAL sessions.

The PAL provides a structured way to look back, assess, discuss, formulate areas of improvement, and set out to implement these improvements…and doing all of this jointly with the people we work with outside the organization and in an environment that is less stressful. So, we are performing PALs. We conducted the first one a few weeks ago with SMD and it went very well. A follow-on PAL is now planned with a few of the SMD divisions in early December; and an ESMD PAL is planned for the first week of December. So we are learning how to do this and we’ll improve as we go along, but I am very encouraged about the great planning our organizations POCs are doing, about the engagement we are getting from the organizations that work with us, and about the preliminary results that we (the larger “we”) are achieving

As always, please let me know your thoughts.

James Ortiz,
Deputy Director IPAO

On Communication

This is the first entry on the IPAO Director’ Blog. This blog will be updated periodically and I will use it as an avenue to improve communications in the Office. In the Blog, I will share information that is relevant to the whole Office and that involves items that are not “the news of the day” but items that need some discussion or consideration in the IPAO community. The information in the Blog is intended to share views and ideas and to stimulate discussion not to provide direction.Following that line of reasoning; it is pertinent that this first Blog entry be devoted to communication. When I joined IPAO a month ago, Mark gave me the action to improve internal communications in the Office. Since then, I have gathered some of your ideas and started taking small steps to improve the flow of information such as providing a standard template for the staff meeting agendas, distributing the agendas before the staff meetings, and the creation of this Blog. I have also started to look at other communication means such as the IPAO web site (which I think needs a major face lift!) and the PBMA web pages. Also, there are other tools available that we could utilize to our advantage such as wikis.

So, we have several communication tools and repositories at our disposal such as staff meetings, one-on-ones, e-mail, weekly reports, web pages, wikis, blogs, share drives, etc…but the secret is, I believe, to avoid duplication and to select the tool that is better suited for each job while considering not only our internal needs but the needs of our stake-holders. “Easier said that done” you say and I agree! The overall goal is to provide clear, concise, accessible, and timely information. If we get this right, we should be able to make a dent in the number of redundant e-mails that clog our inbox while improving the level of situational awareness of activities and information that affect and are affected by our work. We will be working on cataloging types of information and matching those to communications means and repositories… more to come as special topics in the staff meeting.

Communication is the blood flow of every organization and the majority of organizations struggle with it. The ones that succeed have to work hard on it. Let’s work together to improve ours. Let me hear your ideas!

James Ortiz
Deputy Director IPAO