Over the past several years, the federal government has been moving toward greater collaboration within and between federal programs, departments and agencies as well as with those outside of government from industry, the private sector, academia and nonprofit organizations.
Budget cuts have led to the creation of policies and practices meant to reduce duplication of efforts. As a result, you’re seeing more consolidation of similar programs within agencies, and more collaboration among different agencies and stakeholders working on similar types of projects or research in order to leverage resources and expertise.
Federal employees spend time trying to find out what programs or research other people are managing or conducting to identify potential opportunities to collaborate, keep up-to-date on the current state of practice, learn about innovative approaches and research, and ensure there is no duplication of efforts. This is definitely a good thing!
However, this spirit of collaboration and partnership can result in – what I call – the “Uninvited Guest Syndrome.” Let me illustrate. I had been working with a federal agency to implement a project in a specific community. After much back-and-forth discussions, it was declared a “go!”, so I organized a teleconference between the federal agency and representatives from the community to get the ball rolling. I sent out a meeting invitation, including a call-in number, to eight people. On the day of the call, nearly 30 people had accepted the invitation.
Well, in the spirit of collaboration, the federal agency requested that the invitation be sent out to a few additional people, and several of those people ended up forwarding the invitation to other people. It’s been happening more and more over the past several years.
Of course, if the purpose of the call is for you to inform someone about the status or success of your research or a project, all those uninvited guests could be a really good thing! More people to learn about you and your work! On the other hand, if you’re trying to keep a close hold on something, your work is still new and you’re trying to figure stuff out, or you’re not ready to shout out your findings to the world, you’re probably not going to want all those uninvited guests showing up!
So, if you’re setting up a call with someone from the federal government and you really just want to talk to that person or people from the same office, make sure you politely ask them, “Please let me know if there are others you would like to have participate on this call,” or something along those lines. If you are organizing the call, one way to reduce the number of potential uninvited guests is to send out the call-in information a day or a couple hours before the call.
And by the way, PowerPoint presentations, reports, face-to-face meetings, and email can also fall prey to the uninvited guest syndrome! If you’re sending someone a copy of a PowerPoint presentation or an article you wrote, you can bet it’ll get forwarded to a bunch of people without your knowledge. So if you don’t want that to happen, make sure you let the person you’re sending it to know and go ahead and put a note in the footer of your presentation, report, etc., “Not for Distribution.”
Hope your weekend is going well