To Do Thinking vs. To Date Thinking

The champagne is flowing at the highest echelons of the federal government this week in response to the Office of Personnel Management’s release of the 2015 results from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). What could they be celebrating? You will not believe it. They are rejoicing in the fact that overall federal government employee satisfaction and commitment rose by 1%. Yes. You heard it, 1%. Never mind the fact that satisfaction and commitment scores last year were the lowest since the inception of the FEVS in 2003.

The current euphoria around the latest FEVS rankings by Senior Executive Service leaders who make between 145,000 -175,000 dollars a year is rooted in a deep seeded sickness throughout the federal government called to date thinking.

To date thinking looks something like this:
• Measuring how far we have come.
• Patting ourselves on the back.
• Focusing on what we have achieved.
• Answering the question where have I been.
• Starting something.

These highest paid employees in the federal government should be looking at the 2015 FEVS data through the lens of to do thinking.

To do thinking looks something like this:
• Focusing on what needs to be accomplished.
• Thinking about next steps.
• Focusing on what remains to be done.
• Answering the question where do I need to go next.
• Finishing something.

I hate to say this but this drip, drop, incremental approach to improving federal government employee commitment and satisfaction is fool’s gold. Einstein reminded us of to date thinking when he said the definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

How many of us as parents would be satisfied with our children who brought home a report card which indicated his/her failing grade improved only slightly over the last reporting period. They improved their score but they are still below average.

That is the reality of commitment and satisfaction in the federal government. We improved but we still come up short. Oh well. As they say in my agency, that is pretty good for federal work.

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