Ideas in Action

June 1, 2016 | Posted by: Laura Mahoney

5 things to do during an election caretaker period

This is a re-post of an article that first appeared in November 2014 for the Victorian State Government election. Given the impending Federal election, we thought it was timely to dust this off and re-share it!

Not sure what to do during a state election caretaker period? Here are 5 things that will benefit you and your team.

We all know that an election year can be one of the busiest times a public servant will experience, with four years (or more) of work often culminating in a rush of activity that pushes everything else aside. There are briefings to write, policies to finalise, correspondence to respond to and a myriad of other things that can mean the less urgent aspects of your job, like team building, professional development, networking or collaboration, can fall by the wayside.

From this week, the Victorian public service enters caretaker period, where new business stops and business as usual slows down. This time provides a once every four years opportunity for public servants to spend some time on those aspects of the job that are less time critical but just as important to the ongoing satisfaction and happiness of you and your team. Through our work at Cube Group we regularly see the benefits derived by teams that spend time focusing on the non-tangible aspects of their jobs, as they understand the outcomes they are trying to achieve and work together to achieve them in the most effective ways they can.

Here are 5 things you can do during caretaker to make sure that you and your team are in the best possible position to assist the incoming or returning government deliver on their commitments and achieve better public value outcomes for the community:

1. Work with your team to make it stronger and more collaborative

Healthy, functioning teams are an essential part of any workplace. Caretaker period provides an opportunity to undertake formal and informal team building activities. These can take many forms – you can have a morning tea with a guest speaker discussing team dynamics, hold a brown bag lunch to discuss how the team is going and what you could do to improve it in future or run formal team building sessions to develop team skills and capabilities.

2. Conduct a lessons learned exercise covering the last four years

Mid and post project reviews are often the first things that go missing when people are busy. Taking the time to objectively review the whole project process from inception, through to design and implementation is a really valuable exercise for the whole team and can lead to improvements for all future projects. Asking questions like:

  • Did we spend enough time scoping the project?
  • Were the right people on the project team?
  • Did we consult with the appropriate people throughout the project?
  • How effective and efficient was the transition from project planning to project implementation?
  • What would we do again and what would we change in future?

These types of reflective questions will help ensure that future projects benefit from your experiences in the past.

3. Build your own professional networks

As a professional public servant you need to continually grow your networks so you can keep up to date with new approaches, innovative practices and have a broad understanding of what is happening in your part of the world. If you have spent the last 12 months with your head down, buried in work, the caretaker period provides a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues within and outside your department or that person in your industry whose work or articles you have been following but never had the time to actually meet.

Expanding your networks will improve your understanding of your industry, help you make connections across sectors and broaden your knowledge base. It’s also a good time to get to know your department – take the organisation chart and identify any teams or divisions where you’re not really sure what they do. Make it your mission to find out as much as you can about those areas through speaking to people and creating relationships across the department. Doing any of these things will help you develop and implement better policies, programs and projects in the future.

4. Take the time to understand the implications of election commitments to your work

Your next twelve months of work is likely to be heavily influenced by commitments made during the election period. Making sure you are aware of the commitments that relate to your area of work, and having preliminary responses ready for when questions come through after the election will help you during the post-election rush.

It can be useful to create a simple spreadsheet of major policy announcements from all parties, prior to the end of the campaign period (Election Day) and then use this to connect the dots and see how they might connect with existing program funding or policy development areas.

5. Finally, those administrative tasks that you have been putting off for the past four years…

Yep, it’s a good time to get on top of all the administration you never have time for. Sorting through the reams of paper that have somehow accumulated on your desk, cleaning, completing paperwork, and don’t forget about electronic filing!

Use the list above to start thinking about what you wanted to achieve over the past year but haven’t had a chance to do yet, then take the opportunity that the caretaker period provides and put your ideas into action.

5 things to do during an election caretaker

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