Spill the feels

Notes from an aspirational, transformed environment at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Spill the feels.

What’s going on? No limits. If you think, “Ur doing it wrong,” tell me. My job isn’t just to do it “right” the way the Big Dude, aka AOTUS David S. Ferriero, sees it. He’s a good guy, smart, insightful. Awesome capacity. How he sees it matters. Big time. Definitely. But he’s not the only one in the picture. I want to do it “right” in your eyes, too. Your spotlight matters as much as the one @USNatArchives shines on parts of NARA for the public.

If you don’t believe it, I don’t blame you! Working in Fedland means you’ve been fed some baloney over the years. Time to change that. No gourmet meals for me, junk food for you!

I’ve got my apron on, oven mitts nearby. I’m not afraid of the heat in the kitchen. I’m ready to cook tastier, more nutritious fare for all of us. I don’t need to go out of the house, I’ve got the ingredients right here.

Come join me in the kitchen and help me cook.  There are assistants in the kitchen with me, experts in appetizers, entrees, desserts. But we need help. Feel free to pitch in–if you want to.

Not keeping tabs on you, it’s a walk in, walk out, kitchen. Walk in, stay there. Or walk out if you’re uncomfortable. Consider telling me why, if you can.

Maarja in her efficiency apartment kitchen early 1980s

I’m working with in-house designers on building a better, bigger kitchen that will fit in more people. I want to hear as many voices as possible. But I really need to hear from those who never walked in to the kitchen in which I’m standing now. Or walked in and walked out.

I get it. It’s my job to get you to trust my cooking. I can’t tell you to trust me. But I do hope you will join in. Help cook with us. Start by sampling the fare, if you prefer.

Jeanne Schauble and Declass staff A2 August 1995

Use us, that’s what we’re there for. Place your orders. Meat and potatoes. Or Nouvelle Cuisine. (Not your thing? Yeah, I know. But consider giving it a try. Easy to dismiss, perhaps, so much emphasis on “show.”  But it isn’t just about the presentation.) Or start with your favorite comfort food and move on to other items on the menu.

Chocolate and vanilla were the usual choices back in the day. We’re looking to expand the options. What works for you?

NARA AII Declass party Jay & Marvin cutting cake 1995

I don’t always follow the cookbooks. Part of the fun in cooking for me is experimentation. Trial and error. Sure, I’ve messed up in the kitchen. Mostly years ago as a n00b but at times even now. You never stop being a newbie at something!

Maarja in apartment kitchen 1979I’ve made mistakes. Inadvertently. There have been times where I’ve looked at a new recipe hastily and misread something, not getting a measurement right. But at times the mistakes haven’t been inadvertent although I didn’t set out to screw up. Sometimes I’ve been too bold in some of my experimentation.

Getting the balance right means knowing the ingredients. It’s an ongoing process: trying to learn where you can play around with something and where you have to be exact and go by the book.

Something is keeping some of you away from the kitchen. If someone overheard your order and yelled at you about what you said, tell me about it. Or if a spill wasn’t your fault—hey, stuff happens—but you were punished, I want to hear that, too.

If people did that to me, I would stop believing and walk away, too.

The big boss needs to know what is going on throughout the house. And I’m not afraid to spend my capital with him on you. Wrong word. It isn’t a fear situation at all. I’m glad to spend capital with the Big Dude on you. He’s not one to brag, that totally is not his vibe — but he’s edited some cookbooks. That suggests he’s well ahead of me! You know what? I like that.

“Leveraging knowledge throughout the enterprise by capitalizing on our greatest assets, our people.” How many readers just closed the browser tab?

Nah, not gonna go that route. Tell you a story, instead.

I’ve brought cakes in to work at NARA for birthday celebrations. Took the time to bake one once but messed up. Not with the recipe. In how I handled the process. I ran late for work the next morning so I went running down the hill to Metro, cake carrier in hand. You know what’s coming, right? I tripped, dropped the cake, and ended up with nothing to show for my effort.

No blame games, I’m the one who messed up. I knew when I got up that I had to catch the train.  The first part of the trip was going to be easy—headways are frequent on Metrorail during rush hour.  But I knew that after getting off the train, I had to connect with a bus that only runs every half hour. Making those connections requires not just having situational awareness, but acting wisely!

This isn’t a “Message: I care” reading of scripted notes. Don’t read my lips. We all see lots of moving lips in Fedland. I’m as turned off by them as you are.

Read my heart.

You can’t learn if you suppress the voice saying “you dummy, why did you do that?” in your head. Sometimes, you might even have to admit to those who were depending on you why the cake is on a sidewalk rather than on the table at work. And just as hard, to explain how you screwed up to your boss. Yeah, been there. Done that.

You can’t learn if the voice in your head is calling other people dummies. You may think others don’t hear that voice in your head. They may not hear words you are not saying out loud.  But don’t fool yourself.  What you do say out loud reveals what that voice in your head is saying about others.

Telling myself “you dummy” when I screw up means I care about you.

Calling you dummies in my head means that I care about me.

Letting you call me a dummy in public and sharing suggestions for how I can fix, or at least address, what you see as problems means I care about us.

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