Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hiring Rollercoasters and Waning Enthusiasm, Back in 1990

Amid all the complaints about hollowed-out work forces and drastic budget cuts, let's think back to a previous reordering of the State Department under SecState James Baker, when he brought in management guru Ivan Selin.

Selin dispensed with the listening and the word clouds and the employee-managed whatnot of today's prolonged redesign effort, and went straight to the cutting. And that was before the Clinton administration eliminated 2,000 employees and closed 26 posts.

Here's an excerpt from Selin's 1991 interview with the oral history project of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training:
Q: Did you run into much resistance from the Foreign Service to your concept of linking policy and resources?

SELIN: No. My view is, at least at the conceptual level, the Foreign Service was just waiting for someone to come in to manage the resources, including the personnel system of the Foreign Service itself. The enormous uncertainties, the roller coaster with the many lean years, the continuing indecision which moved personnel policies back and forth, made the Service very discontented. Having said that, I must admit that a lot of the habits of the Foreign Service are inimical to the kind of management that I viewed as required. When faced with the costs of this kind of management, maybe some of its enthusiasm may have waned.

As Selin noted elsewhere in the interview, the Foreign Service in his day consisted of 4,900 generalists and 3,300 specialists, Compare that to 8,000-some generalists and 5,800 specialists in 2017. Which was hollower?

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