Excerpt for Compleat Administration: A Year in Public Service by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



By Christopher Grandy

Copyright 2017 Christopher Grandy

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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


To Dick Pratt

Table of Contents



List of Characters

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

About Christopher Grandy

Other Books by Christopher Grandy

Connect with Christopher Grandy


This book is an unusual offering in the field of public administration. It was conceived as a presentation of the substance and orientation of the first year of the Masters program in Public Administration at the University of Hawaii (Manoa) from 1984 through 2015. I initially thought of it as a textbook to be used in our (and perhaps other programs’) classes. Time passed, and work on the book waxed and waned. Events overtook the initial conception, and the Public Administration Program (PUBA) revised its curriculum, making the original structure of the book no longer representative of what the Program offers. And yet, there remained much of value in the original orientation.

These, and other considerations, led me to experiment with re-casting the book as a fictional narrative. I have always found learning material easier when I can see it in context. How might the ideas, and suggestions, work in a plausible “real world” situation? I started by drafting short “vignettes” to be used in tandem with a more usual textbook treatment. At some point, I wondered what would happen if I simply presented all of the material within a fictional narrative. It might not work as a standard textbook, but it could be an interesting, perhaps even compelling, supplement. And who knows? Maybe some people would find it interesting as a stand-alone volume.

So, that is the book in your hands (or, more accurately, the book on your e-reader).

I was hired as an Associate Professor in the UH-Manoa Public Administration Program in 2001. I am an economist by training, and I was coming to the end of a six-year stint as an economic analyst with the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. I had been a visiting faculty member with the Department of Economics at UH-Manoa in the past, and over the years I had taught occasional classes for the Public Administration Program’s masters students.

The structure of the first year of PUBA’s masters program at the time was unusual (at least to me). I had gone through a standard Ph.D. program in Economics, and I had several years of experience teaching semester-long Econ courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. In contrast, the first year of PUBA’s masters program was called the Core Year, and all students took the same two courses over the year. But each course was huge in terms of content—7 credits (rather than the usual 3)—meeting two evenings per week for three hours each evening (plus some Saturday mornings).

Because the students came from a variety of backgrounds, including many with years of working experience in the public sector, the Program sought to make sure that there was a minimum common base. The Core Year provided that base, along with an intensive, relationship-building experience. Material for the Core Year was organized into twelve modules, six modules per semester, and was chosen with the idea of providing public service professionals the knowledge and skills they needed to be effective in their work. The modules covered a wide range of material: From critical thinking to economics to politics to legislative process to administrative law to ethics. And more. Students would get a sense of some of the important ideas and issues in an area, and then they could explore some more deeply in the second year of the program.

As a new, full-time faculty member in PUBA, I was floored. There was so much material, and all of it seemed interesting and relevant (at least from my perspective, having just completed six years with the economic development agency of the state government). Of course, no individual could be an expert in all these areas, so the Program hired lecturers and practitioners with subject-matter expertise to teach in selected modules. The result was a rich, smorgasbord of public service ideas, tools, and topics. By the end of my first year as a PUBA faculty member, I shared the students’ sense of having been through something amazing, exhilarating, and exhausting.

Years later, for many reasons, the Program moved away from this model for its masters degree. But there is a special place in my heart for the Core Year. Thus, this book offers an application of many of the Core Year concepts in a fictional narrative. There are eleven chapters (I’ve combined material from two of the Core Year modules). My hope is that those attracted to public service work will find the material compelling and valuable. This is not a textbook; I do not treat the concepts in depth. However I hope to provide a plausible context for the ideas in a manner that readers will find interesting and useful.

An early commentator on the manuscript for this book suggested that readers particularly interested in the public administration (PA) content would find it helpful to have a conceptual guide. What follows is an indication of concepts I touch upon in each chapter. I list these without elaboration, relying on the context of the chapters to supply explanations.

The PA material in the Core Year (and, hence, in this book) was selected, as suggested above, in response to the question: What do public service professionals need to know to be more effective in their work? Initially (in the mid-1980s), the designers of the PUBA program surveyed and interviewed public service educators, practitioners, and potential students, seeking input on answering this question. Both the module topics, and their content, were constructed in this way. In the years that followed, with the accumulation of experience, the modules and content changed as the demands on public service professionals, and the academic field of public administration, changed. That is, the material developed organically and dynamically.

I envision those engaged in education about public administration to use this book as a supplement to more standard presentations of the material. The fictional context of this work is meant to resonate with practitioners, providing an opportunity to reflect upon, and share, similar themes in your own experience. I hope students new to public administration will get a sense of what “public administration looks like”—at least from one former practitioner’s perspective.

Note: The following guide to the concepts is organized largely, though not exclusively, in the order the concepts appear in each chapter.

A note on the title. I hope to give the reader a sense of the variety of issues that arise for a mid-level professional over a year in a state (or other) government. My experience was that there are many. In a bewildering variety. The Core Year conveyed this sense of full, interconnected, and multi-perspective experience, resulting in a “compleat administrator,”—that is, one well-skilled and broadly trained. This is not all that an administrator needs to know, so I am reluctant to use “complete.” To me, the somewhat archaic “compleat” suggests broad training and experience, as in “holistic;” leaving open the possibility of there being more to learn.

This work would not have been possible without the opportunity to teach (and, so, learn) full-time in the Program, largely afforded by my former colleague and friend, Dick Pratt. Dick (and others) founded PUBA, and Dick shepherded the Program through the rough-and-tumble environment of a university for three decades. It was Dick’s creativity, insight, and persistence that made the Core Year possible.

Colleagues and students also contributed to my evolving education over the years. I especially appreciate the contributions of Tom Brislin, Jim Dator, Jerry Guben, Bob Klein, Melody MacKenzie, Roy Takumi, Bob Toyofuku, and Chuck Totto. Especially in a book such as this, none of these are responsible for the way in which I’ve used their ideas, but I hope some will recognize their contributions and smile approvingly. Taehyon Choi, Dick Pratt, and Roy Takumi carefully reviewed the book and improved it with their insights and suggestions. I am very grateful for their time and attention. Finally, my wife, Dew Kaneshiro, made several useful suggestions, which I usually rejected, only to later realize that she was right. Again.

Institutionally, I thank the University of Hawaii for both the opportunity, and the resources, utilized in the making of this book. I also thank the economics departments at the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand) and the University of Verona (Verona, Italy) for hosting me as a sabbatical visitor during this work.

List of Characters

In order of appearance:

Judy: Mid-level state employee in a department of economic development.

Denise: Judy’s immediate supervisor. Head of the Division in which Judy works.

Troy: Colleague of Judy; also reports to Denise.

Sam: Colleague of Troy’s who had taken emergency family leave.

Derek: Former colleague of Troy’s.

Curt: Colleague of Denise’s from another division.

Alexander Fielding: Governor’s Chief of Staff.

Mark Roberts: Deputy Director of the Department and Denise’s immediate supervisor.

George: Colleague of Judy; older and more experienced. Also reports to Denise.

John Peebles: Executive Director of Forward, a technology association.

Cheryl: Deputy Director of Department of Taxation. Member of economic incentives subcommittee of task force on technology regulatory issues.

Bob: Member of Troy’s college senior project.

Rebecca: Member of Troy’s college senior project.

Sarah: Member of economic incentives subcommittee of task force on technology regulatory issues.

Tom Fowler: Director of Communications for Governor’s office.

Linda Cottrell: Reporter for local newspaper.

Peter Sable: Deputy Chief of Staff in Governor’s office.

Joe Stanton: Spokesperson for Department of Agriculture.

Jeff Daniels: Local farmer and leader of farm association.

Jane Hathaway: Executive Director of environmental non-profit organization.

Marie Applebaum: State superintendent, and Director, of education.

Deborah Marshall: Director of Social Services.

John Hall: Executive Director of Kids First, non-profit organization.

Franklin J. Thomas: Governor.

James Shapiro: Director of Department of Economic Development; Judy’s department.

Shawn Collins: Young state representative.

Greg: Number two in economic development department’s Administrative Services branch.

Elaine Schubert: State senator.

Dan Lipido: CEO of Coronado Airlines.

Deborah Chandler: Head of airline pilot’s union.

Dave Greenberg: Professor in university’s Economics department.

Senator Thompson: State senator.

Senator Jones: State senator.

Dave Swanson: Chair of economics department at university.

Alisa: Employee in Curt’s division.

Bill Lang: Manager in Department of Social Services, covering low-income and homelessness issues.

Jill: Head of a division in the economic development department.

Hank Canfield: Previous manager of division now headed by Jill.

Fred: Disgruntled employee in Jill’s division.

Barney: Disgruntled employee in Jill’s division.

Harlan Copeland: State senator.

Ralph Moirer: Office manager for Representative Emily Sturgess.

Joe Cardena: State senator.

Senator Simpson: State senator.

Carl (Small Bear): Law school student and intern.

Dave: Classmate of Carl’s and intern.

Karen: Legislative intern.

Sam Colburn: Older employee of department of Budget and Operations.

Joel White: Experienced employee in Department of Social Services.

Rich: Intern at Department of Social Services.

Elaine Wyndom: Host of television public policy discussion show.

Henry Butler: Analyst from right-leaning American Growth Initiative.

Sarah Rogers: Analyst from left-leaning Bolton Foundation.

Nan: Secretary to Alexander Fielding.

Marcus Willoughby: Director of Budget and Operations.

Sharon Koster: City council member. Chair of budget committee.

Susan: Secretary to Denise.

Bill Ferguson: Seasoned employee of county bureau of land management.

Marcia Stanton: Director of county bureau of land management.

Casey: Temporary assistant to Bill Ferguson.

Jack Harbaugh: Employee of Department of Education.

Sharon Johnson: Deputy Director of Department of Education.

Chapter I

Judy kept her eyes down as she crossed the street. The flap of the tent that had been in front of her until she crossed moved as though someone was emerging. Judy wasn’t ready to start her day, a large Starbuck’s in one hand and a smart briefcase in the other, jockeying with a homeless person over sidewalk space. If truth be known, this early in the morning she also did not want to face the frequent dilemma of responding to the near-certain request for “spare change.”

The homeless problem had gotten noticeably worse in the months after the financial crisis. While there had always been one or two people on the streets earlier, there were more now, sometimes whole families.

Judy looked back over her shoulder as she reached the other side of the street. A girl, perhaps 10 years old, had emerged from the tent flap. She was bent over, apparently trying to zipper the flap closed as quietly as possible. As the girl finished and stood, red-faced from the effort, she looked at Judy. Judy saw a sequence of surprise, defensiveness, and bravado flash across the girl’s face. Judy started to smile, but the girl had looked away.

Judy frowned. She always cringed when she saw young children around the tents in the park, thinking of the contrast between her own comfortable childhood and the lives of these kids. At age ten, Judy would no doubt have thought living in a tent would be fun—as long as she could go back to her bedroom after a couple of days. The girl headed in the opposite direction, toward a gas station and its bathrooms.

The homeless situation, and affordable housing generally, was something Judy was also struggling with professionally. She had been working for the Department of Economic Development since she finished her Masters degree eight years ago. The work had been fun and interesting, and Judy felt good about being able to use her training to do policy analysis on a variety of issues. She especially liked the energy of the legislative sessions, the arguments over policy options, the jockeying for position, and the development of some, always imperfect, response to the issues.

But the homeless problem seemed in a different league from the relatively small, well-defined matters she had dealt with in the past. The Governor—and so the Director of her department—had come under increasing pressure in the last 18 months to do something more substantial about the homeless, as the number of people on the streets and parks rose. At the same time, the economy was still struggling to recover from the recession that had followed the financial crisis, and the state budget already had been under pressure.

Judy was working on a background paper for the Director on homeless policy responses across the country. She had been given the luxury of a long deadline—two weeks—which was a treat compared to the usual deadlines, sometimes measured in hours.

And yet the project had gone slowly. It was not just that it took time to assemble information from other jurisdictions on homeless policy responses. Judy had hoped that, as she gathered this information, she would generate ideas to make recommendations to the Director. Yet other jurisdictions’ policies were quite diverse, and there was relatively little by way of objective assessment of the outcomes of different approaches. Judy found herself at sea in the possibilities. And the two weeks were coming to a close.

Judy nodded to the guard at the large reception desk in her building’s foyer. He smiled at her in recognition and wished her a nice day. Riding up the elevator, Judy began thinking about the memo and its as-yet-nonexistent recommendations. She knew that Denise, her immediate supervisor, wanted to know what direction Judy was going in. There was a decent chance that this interest was relayed from the Director in response to a question from the Governor. Judy tried not to think about that; better to focus just on Denise.

Judy couldn’t get the young girl’s face and eyes out of her mind. The girl’s bravery impressed her most. That first exchange of looks seemed to acknowledge the girl’s vulnerability stemming from her circumstances. Yet the vulnerability disappeared as the girl confidently marched down the sidewalk toward the gas station. Judy liked that. Could we at least do something about the kids? she thought to herself.

Judy froze. The elevator door had opened on her floor, but Judy stared into space, thinking furiously. The kids. Could there be a policy response that focused on homeless children? The elevator doors had closed and the car rose. In rapid succession Judy’s brain presented child-focused responses, followed by fragments of objections and obstacles. Yet Judy was excited in a way that she hadn’t been for more than a week. Maybe this is a direction we could go.

The elevators slid open smoothly, and Judy walked out, thinking she was on her own floor. She nearly walked into Denise, who was coming into the elevator. Judy looked at Denise in confusion, then realized that they were on the director’s floor. She backed into the elevator to allow Denise to enter.

“Are you getting out here?” Denise asked. Still confused, Judy just shook her head.

Denise pushed the button for their floor and the elevator started to descend.

“Are you OK?” Denise asked.

“Yes. Sorry. I was just thinking of something and missed my floor.”

“OK.” Denise looked amused.

The elevator glided to a stop and the doors opened. Judy followed Denise out. Denise started walking toward her office, paused and turned.

“I’d like to talk with you about the homeless paper later today.”

“Sure. In fact, that’s what I was thinking about. I may have some ideas. After lunch?”

Denise smiled. “See you then.”

Judy walked into her office, put her briefcase in its usual place near her desk, and turned on the computer. She was eager to get some ideas down. She sipped her Starbucks and watched the computer boot up, thinking about what might be done with a child-focused homeless policy. She wasn’t sure there was really anything there, but the general idea was the sort of thing that could attract attention and support from across the political spectrum. It might be an opportunity for the Governor.

Once her word processor was running, Judy stared at the blank screen, thinking. Since her first year with the Department, Judy had worked with a method of writing that helped generate ideas, flesh them out, and eventually put them together in a coherent package for others. This process was one of the reasons Denise and others relied on Judy for conceptual work.

Judy stared at the screen and typed: “We must eliminate homelessness among children, because:” She then took a deep breath and started typing very quickly. She listed as many reasons as she could think of in explanation of the statement. This was her usual first step. Take a position on an issue, then quickly list as many points as possible in support of the position. As she typed, Judy didn’t worry about redundancies or statements she might later reject. She simply tried to get down the ideas that came to her.

Pausing, Judy picked up her coffee cup and took a sip without letting her eyes leave the screen. She had eight items listed after the “because” statement. As she read through them, another couple of thoughts came to her, and she typed those in as well. After a few minutes she couldn’t think of anything else. Looking at the list, Judy knew that if she was forced to offer arguments to support the initial position, they would most likely be found within this list.

Judy took another sip. OK. Let’s embellish, she said to herself as she put down the cup. Judy placed the cursor behind the first of her eight items: “It’s unfair—the children are not at fault for their economic circumstances.” She started typing, adding two sentences to expand on the idea, filling out what she had meant by that statement. Then she moved to the next item and did the same thing.

Judy liked this part of the process because, in a strange way, she was actually discovering what she thought by writing. It seemed the essence of the title of a book she had seen in college: Writing IS Thinking. I learn what I really think about an issue by writing about it, Judy thought.

A few minutes later, Judy finished embellishing each of her original points. But now there were only six. The process of embellishing had revealed redundancies in some of her points; she was saying some things more than one way. So she eliminated the repetitions.

But there was also a problem. As she fleshed out one of the points, she realized that there would be strong counter-arguments. In particular, the fourth point read “Homeless policy should give priority to housing children.” Judy vaguely had in mind that children deserved to be housed first, regardless of the circumstances of their parents or the adults caring for them. Yet, she could immediately see the difficulties of giving special status to children, imagining adults using children to address their own needs. Whether this would work would very much depend on the specifics of the policies that gave children priority.

Judy knew that she needed to resist the temptation to ignore this issue. Ignoring the difficulties would not make them go away and would make her proposal look poorly thought through. She needed to find a way to acknowledge, and deal with, the potential unintended consequences of giving children housing priority. Judy made a side note to herself about the problem. Much better to deal with a strong concern directly rather than to ignore it and thereby undermine one’s effectiveness.

As Judy re-arranged the order of the six points, putting them in a sequence that made more sense, she realized that this was the easy part. Making a case for doing something about homeless children was not likely to be a hard sell. The trick would lie in the policy, or policies, to achieve that. Judy knew that the specific policies would be much harder to develop and to get buy-in on. But one step at a time. At least now she felt she had an orientation that Denise and others could get interested in.

It was only 10:00. Judy knew that if Denise liked where she was going, Judy would have to either revise parts of the memo she’d been working on, or she would have to draft a separate memo, focusing on child homelessness. Judy decided to start working on both before lunch. When she met with Denise at 1p, Judy would have something in writing with her, but she intended simply to talk to Denise about her suggested approach. If Denise liked it, and wanted to see something in writing, Judy could show her what she had.

Troy couldn't believe it. Denise, had come by his cubicle to talk to him about a new assignment—writing a background memo for the Governor's initiative on education as an economic development tool. Sam had been working on this for a couple of weeks when he had to take emergency leave to care of his elderly mother.

Denise wanted Troy to pick up where Sam had left off in the research and to produce the memo. The good news was that Sam had collected much of the material on education and economic development. The bad news was that there were stacks of it. Troy had to somehow assimilate this information and then produce something that would be useful to the Governor. In ten days.

Troy knew deep down that he could do this. But he also knew that it would take some intense effort. He had just completed a similar background memo on alternative energy proposals that also required assimilating a large amount of material. Both alternative energy and education were likely to be prominent pieces of the Governor's legislative agenda in three months.

Troy had a good idea of what he had to do to go through the stacks of material. Years ago he had made the mistake of trying to approach a similar project by reading every word of every document. By the time he was near his deadline, he had only gotten through ten percent of the material, and he was burned out. It was a frustrating and humiliating experience.

Since then, Troy had acquired skills in what one of his professors had called “strategic reading.” The professor had suggested that Troy look at an old volume called How to Read a Book. Initially, Troy thought that stupid, and he actually felt embarrassed at being directed to it. How to Read a Book? Troy thought, I'm in college for goodness sakes! I know how to read a book!

The professor read his reaction and smiled with a twinkle in his eye.

Of course, the professor had turned out to be right. The volume contained great suggestions, and over a period of time Troy adapted them to his own working style.

Troy smiled as he thought about his former professor while he moved the stack of papers and books from Sam's empty cubicle to his own. “Strategic reading” was about to come to his rescue again.

The first place to start was to look at existing overviews of the issue. Troy could see from Sam’s notes that there were several surveys of education and economic development, some older than others, and some looking at the issues from different disciplinary perspectives. The surveys would both orient him to the issues and to the corresponding literatures.

After about an hour of sorting through the material Sam had collected, placing it in piles that made sense to him, Troy looked at the stack of 10 survey articles. They stood about 3 inches high, roughly 500 pages. The job now was to go through these quickly, deciding what to look at more closely, and setting aside the others.

Troy picked up the first paper and read the first paragraph. He then jumped to the end of the piece and lightly skimmed the conclusion. Not exactly what he was looking for, but promising. He went back to the beginning and began scanning the article. Troy let his eyes scan down each page, picking out words and phrases, but rarely lingering to read whole sentences. He tried not to spend more than 3 or 4 seconds on each page. At the end of 2 minutes, he had a rough idea of the main points of the survey and its orientation. He put it on the “look at more closely” pile and picked up the next article.

After a little over an hour, Troy had scanned through each of the 10 articles, now sorted into two stacks: “Read no further,” and “Look at more closely.” The first stack consisted of 4 papers and the remainder were in the second. Troy stretched, looked around his cubicle, and found his slightly grubby coffee cup. Time to fill up, he thought to himself.

Troy smiled, as he returned to his desk. He had run into Judy in the coffee area, and they traded their usual banter about work, coffee, and what not. Troy liked Judy. She was sharp and could be quite funny. She’d just told Troy about embarrassing herself in front of Denise this morning by getting out of the elevator on the wrong floor and almost running their boss down. Judy seemed happy with whatever she was working on. That made her fun to be around.

Troy sipped his coffee and stared at the “Look at more closely” stack. These were the articles that seemed promising and worth more time than the scanning process allowed for. The next stage was to skim each article, reading the introduction and conclusion first and then the first sentence of each paragraph.

As he picked up the first paper, Troy remembered an exchange he had had a couple of years ago with Derek, a colleague who had asked him about this “strategic reading” technique.

After listening to Troy’s description, Derek somewhat aggressively said, “All this ‘scanning’ and ‘skimming….’ Wouldn’t it be better to just read the damn paper?”

Troy had been caught off guard by the aggressiveness. “Maybe,” he mused, thinking of how to respond. “But if I know that I can’t read everything, which ones do I choose ‘to just read’?”

“I’d just choose one and go for it,” Derek responded in a cavalier way that had a hint of defensiveness.

“What if the really good one is in the stack that I don’t get to?” Troy asked.

Derek had shrugged and walked away.

We can do better than hit or miss, Troy thought to himself.

A couple of hours later, Troy had skimmed through the six articles—reading the introductions, conclusions and the first sentences of each paragraph. He made notes in the margins. After going through each piece in this fashion, he wrote a few sentences on the first page that gave an assessment of whether the article was useful and why. He also had decided that one of the six was worth reading more closely—that is, word for word.

Troy yawned and stretched, looking at his messy desk, with papers in different stacks, sticky notes poking out between pages here and there. He smiled as he imagined his old college professor talking to Derek (who the professor never met): So in the space of a few hours, you might have been able to “just read” two and a half of the ten articles. In contrast, by reading strategically, Troy has a sense of which of the ten are useful and which are not. And of those that are useful, he has a reasonable assessment of what they contain. And he has identified the one article that is likely to be a home run for this project. Who has used his time better?

I need a break, Judy said to herself. She had just spent an hour and a half drafting an argument for a child-first homeless policy. This took more time than generating the initial outline and sketching her thoughts. Then she had been writing for herself, trying to figure out what she thought about the idea. In this last 90 minutes, Judy had shifted gears toward writing for others. She wanted to have something in hand, should Denise like the idea. When Ok’d, Judy knew, the memo would probably find its way to the Director.

Judy scrolled through the draft on her computer. She first looked for the statement of the essay’s point in the introduction and conclusion. Judy knew that for this type of writing, it was crucial to be clear about what she was saying. Busy readers wanted to see the bottom line up front. “The State should place homelessness among children at the top of its housing policy agenda,” read the relevant sentence in her introduction. Judy jumped to the end of the essay, to make sure that a similar, though not identical, statement appeared in the conclusion.

Good, she thought to herself, as she scrolled back to the top of the essay. Now let’s look at the argument. She began reading the first sentence of each paragraph. Judy had purposely constructed the essay from the bullet points she had developed in response to her “because” statement (“We must eliminate homelessness among children, because:”). She had thought about the order of the points and what sequence would most affect the reader. As she constructed the essay, Judy added paragraphs in a couple of places to elaborate on certain points. In other places, she rejected bullet points that she’d decided were weak.

As Judy read through the first sentences of each paragraph, she was primarily listening for a logical, sequential flow of arguments to support her position. She paused once or twice, debating whether to move a paragraph up or own in the argument’s order. But, in general, she was happy with what she had.

Judy hit “save,” picked up her coffee mug and walked to the common area.

At the counter Denise was bobbing a tea bag in a cup. “How's it going?” she asked, as Judy rinsed out her mug at the sink.

“Pretty well,” Judy said with a hint of fatigue in her voice. “I should have something for you after lunch. Should I drop by around 1:30?”

“Yes, that would be good.” Denise replied. And, after a pause, “Thanks Judy.”

Judy looked up and caught Denise’s eye. This was more than casual gratitude. Judy sensed that Denise really did appreciate what Judy was likely to bring to her after lunch.

Judy smiled to herself as she slowly walked back to her office, thinking about the essay. She wanted to check the essay’s “voice,” and she wanted to read the essay out loud one last time before going to lunch.

Judy entered the password on her screen saver, and the essay re-appeared. She now wanted to go through the piece to make sure she was using active language. In the third paragraph she found “It is a waste to allow bright young minds to be idling in homeless encampments along the canal.” Awkward; and passive. Judy thought for a moment; she needed to pair subjects with verbs to make the sentence more active. “Society cannot afford to waste bright, young minds in homeless encampments along the canal.” Better. Judy continued through the essay, looking for forms of the verb “to be,” in each case pausing to decide whether there was a stronger, more active way to phrase the thought.

When she made the last language adjustment, Judy glanced at the clock: 12:15. She wanted something to eat before the 1:30 meeting with Denise. I’ll just read out loud before I go. She rose to close the door of her office; Judy always felt self-conscious about this stage of the writing process. Yet, she had learned through experience, that skipping this near-last step could prove embarrassing. Reading her writing out loud almost always revealed glitches she hadn’t seen. Something about reading out loud interrupted the pattern her brain developed while reading silently, letting her see the piece with nearly fresh eyes.

Twenty minutes later, Judy jumped up as she realized what time it was. She had just finished making the fourth, and last, correction revealed by reading aloud. Once again, this trick had caught some things she wanted to change.

I’d better hurry, Judy said to herself as she grabbed her bag and headed out the door.

“I don't get it,” Curt said to Denise. “She would be perfect as the Division Chief. She has experience supervising others, she’s worked in the field for years, and she’s personable. What don't you like?”

Denise and Curt sat across the conference table from one another, their lunches strewn in various stages of consumption near the stacks of papers in front of them. The two were part of a committee of five reviewing the application files for the vacant top position in the department's Research and Planning office. The committee had interviewed a dozen candidates over the last several days and the members were trying to select the “short list” of two or three applicants who would be called back for a second round.

“She's a dualist,” Denise said, with a tone that suggested the meaning should be clear and the judgment decisive.

Curt had a sense of what Denise meant. They had known each other long enough for him to be familiar with Denise's orientation on such matters. But he was feeling belligerent, so he asked her to explain.


“She's a dualist,” Denise repeated. “She sees the world as black and white; good and bad.”

“What's wrong with that?” Curt asked, deliberately being obtuse.

“Don't you think the world is a little more complicated than that?” Denise asked, trying to put some civility into the question that implied Curt was being stupid.

“Maybe,” Curt grudgingly replied, “but it's not a bad thing to have some boundaries.”

“Agreed,” Denise replied, adjusting her tone to acknowledge that Curt was now engaging the issue more seriously. “But think back to her responses to our questions. Almost all of them were definitive, conclusory statements: This, not that; X, not Y. There was no middle ground, no room for thought. Even the questions that explicitly asked for a thoughtful response--'What do you think the issues are in this personnel case?'--she answered categorically, without reflection.”

“I don’t know,” Curt said, still somewhat defensive. “I found her refreshing compared to that Stevenson guy, who couldn’t seem to make up his mind. Remember how he handled the scenario? He had so many ‘On the one hands,’/‘On the other hands,’ I thought he was an octopus.”

Denise laughed. Stevenson had been infuriatingly cautious. Their interview process had asked each applicant to read a personnel scenario, loosely based on past experiences in the department. The scenario involved a hypothetical employee who had been covering for a second employee calling in sick to accompany her husband on appointments for cancer treatments. It was a deliberately complicated set of circumstances, designed to reveal how applicants could parse the issues, distinguishing between major and minor points. Stevenson had looked like a deer in the headlights, looking alternately from Curt to Denise, seemingly for hints as to what they wanted to hear.

“Yes, Stevenson seemed to be a relativist,” Denise smiled. “He had a hard time seeing the issues and deciding what was important.”

“He’d have a hard time deciding to breathe,” Curt smirked.

Denise gave him a sharp look. She didn’t like gratuitous digs at job applicants, and she’d made that known more than once.

Curt looked away sheepishly. “All right, all right. Sorry.”

“I think we want someone who is able to come to a decision while at the same time being open to additional information,” Denise offered. “Someone who can use his head to think through an issue yet won’t get locked into a position merely because it’s his position.”

Curt knew he was going to lose this argument. And he knew that he shared Denise's point of view. He agreed that they wanted someone in the Division Chief's position who was a sophisticated thinker, someone willing to explore ideas with colleagues when necessary, but also a person who could make a decision and stick to it until or unless additional compelling evidence was offered.

“Look,” Curt began, taking a more conciliatory tone, “I know that we want what you call a 'committed relativist,” but I think this candidate's skills are high enough that we should continue to consider her.”

“I'm willing to do that,” Denise said, also stepping toward conciliation, “but unless I hear something from her suggesting that she is willing to think through issues with people, then I'm not sure she is for us.”

“Let's come back to her,” Curt suggested, “after we've discussed the rest of the candidates. What did you think of Robert?” he asked, picking up the next file.

Later that afternoon, Troy bumped into Judy coming out of Denise’s office. He clutched a printout of a report he had discovered on another state’s website related to education-oriented economic development. The report had been commissioned by the state’s department of labor and provided a policy analysis with specific recommendations. What captivated Troy was that the report did a thorough, convincing job of describing the policy problem for the state, discussing past policy proposals and efforts, analyzing likely policy alternatives in the then-current environment, and laying out an analysis of those policies against goals. It was a beautiful combination of analysis and synthesis—just the thing that Troy hoped to do in response to his new assignment. Troy had almost run to Denise’s office with the hard copy to see if she had seen it.

But the look on Judy’s face brought him up short. Judy was visibly upset. Not crying, but angry and concerned. She looked as though her brain was going a hundred miles per hour.

“Hi!” Troy greeted her. Then, after taking Judy in, “Are you OK?”

Judy looked up; she hadn’t really noticed him until Troy spoke.

“Huh? Oh, hi. Yeah, I’m OK. Just busy,” she lamely offered as she moved past Troy and continued down the hall.

Troy watched her go, puzzled. The bare acknowledgement was not like Judy. But Troy didn’t take time to think about it. He wanted to get in to Denise to show her the report.

After knocking and hearing a muffled response, Troy entered the office and saw Denise at her desk, her face grim. She was looking down at a document on her desk, almost scowling. Troy waited for her to look up.

After a moment, Denise raised her eyes from the document, seemed to realize who was in her office, and physically shifted gears. She smiled, gestured Troy to a chair, noted the papers in his hands, and said in friendly voice: “What do you have there?”

Troy was still processing the look on Denise’s face—and on Judy’s of a minute earlier. “Um, this can wait if it’s not a good time,” he offered.

“No, no. This is OK. What have you got?” Denise repeated.

Troy took this as license to share his excitement. A sentence or two into his explanation, Troy was vaguely aware that he was gushing—speaking very quickly, perched on the edge of his seat. A smile had begun spreading across Denise’s face. She seemed at least as amused by Troy’s excitement as about the content of the report.

“No, I haven’t seen it, but thanks for bringing it to me,” she said. “I’ll take a look at it tonight.”

“Great!” said Troy. “I really think this could the basis for ….” Troy was off and running again, probably repeating himself, but he couldn’t seem to stop. When he paused for breath, he could see Denise smiling at him and realized that he should shut up.

Denise watched Troy collect himself. She thanked him again and stood up. Troy understood that the conversation was over, mumbled something about keeping her informed, and left the office.

As he walked down the hall toward his cubicle, Troy felt slightly foolish about his excitement. But he was reassured by Denise’s smile—he knew that Denise shared his enjoyment of intellectual stimulation, and she had encouraged him to keep working.

As his thoughts returned to the out-of-state report, Troy knew what he wanted to do next. The report was so good, that Troy wanted to read it again, making margin notes next to each paragraph. It was almost a template for clear, persuasive policy analysis. He rarely expended the time to read something more closely than word-for-word, as he had done before coming to Denise’s office. This was one of the few occasions that he would re-read the piece, making a few notes at each paragraph, summarizing the essential point, or the role of the paragraph in the report’s structure. Troy knew from experience that by the time he finished this exercise, he would understand the report on a deep level, and perhaps be that much closer to constructing a similarly high-quality paper for Denise.

Judy leaned back in her chair, away from the computer screen. She had spent the last half hour searching through her hard drive, trying to reconstruct who had worked on which portions of the Governor’s speech as long as two months ago. Denise had asked Judy to work as quickly as possible, before the press got the story. The governor’s office was in overdrive, and it was clear that Denise was feeling heat from the department Director, who was transmitting it from the Governor. As Judy stared at the screen, she thought she had what Denise was looking for now.

Judy had been in such a good mood earlier as she walked into Denise’s office for their meeting. She felt confident about her homelessness approach, and she had her draft memo in a folder should Denise prove equally excited about the idea.

Denise had been on the phone when Judy poked her head in the office. She waved Judy into the office and signaled her to close the door. Denise was listening hard, making small noises here and there to signal understanding. Judy tried to pay no attention, glancing through the draft memo in her folder.

After a couple of minutes, Denise muttered “OK. I’ll look into it and call you back.” A pause, and then, “OK, an hour,” and she hung up the phone. Judy watched as Denise appeared lost in thought for a moment. She waited.

Looking up, Denise looked mildly surprised to see Judy. Then she glanced at the folder in Judy’s lap and remembered their meeting on the homelessness paper.

“I want to hear what you have on the homeless issue. But it will have to wait. We have something else to deal with right now.”

“Oh?” Judy looked at Denise expectantly, trying to hide her disappointment about the paper, but also feeling good that “we” included Judy.

“That was Fielding,” Denise started. Alexander Fielding was the Governor's Chief of Staff, a no-nonsense administrator who had a reputation for getting things done—especially what the Governor wanted done—but who was also liked and respected by those working closely with him.

Denise leaned back and explained. The governor's office had received a phone call this morning from someone complaining that a large section of the Governor's recent speech on policy priorities had been lifted from the caller's book.

“You're kidding!” Judy exclaimed.

Denise looked at Judy, waiting to continue. She wasn't kidding.

Apparently the governor's office had exploded into a whir of activity. People scrambled to find a copy of the book, which turned out to be easy to do in the bookstore down the street. Fielding and his staff had been poring through the pages. Sure enough, several paragraphs in the two-year-old volume were immediately recognizable: the Governor had spoken them to a meeting of business leaders last week.

“We need to find out who is responsible,” Denise said. “Fielding is on a rampage.”

“That's going to be hard,” Judy mused. “Lots of people worked on the speech.”

“I know, I know,” Denise sighed. “Just go through the speech and try to reconstruct who worked on what. Let's narrow this down as much as we can.”

Judy rose and turned to go.

Denise’s voice made her turn back. “This is almost certainly going to hit the press. Fielding wants to know who did this, and figure out what to do, before the questions start coming. We need to move fast.”

“Right,” Judy said, as she left the office, almost running into Troy in the foyer. Troy said something, but Judy couldn’t remember what it was.

Judy had been sifting through versions of the speech, and emails related to the speech, since getting back to her office. They had worked on the speech over several weeks and it involved several of the departments in the executive branch. Even if they found the person responsible for plagiarizing the book, what then? Publicly humiliate him or her?

Judy remembered something like this happening at Adams College where she had done her undergraduate degree. She didn't quite get the whole story, but apparently a student had a habit of using material without citation or attribution. Initially, the student was counseled about the problem and shown when and how to properly cite and reference her sources. But the problem persisted. It was puzzling, because the student had been assured that it was perfectly fine to use other people’s work—provided that the work was appropriately acknowledged. But she just couldn’t get on top of it. One day Judy noticed that the student hadn't been around for awhile. She had disappeared. Judy later heard that she’d been expelled.

As Judy thought about it, it was easy to see how someone, in the rush to put the Governor’s speech together, could inadvertently plop material into a document and forget to keep track of where it came from. After a few versions, you don't know what's yours and what isn't, she thought to herself.

On the other hand, this could be very bad for the Governor. The opposition would have a field day, asking whether the Governor had committed fraud or whether he was simply incompetent in the management of his staff. Either way, this was bad.

Judy sighed. She’d found the email thread that documented the names of contacts in two departments that had worked on the relevant section of the speech. It should be easy to narrow things down from there. She picked up the phone and dialed Denise’s extension.

Denise stared out the window as the street lamps began to come on. It was mid-summer, so she knew without looking at the time on her computer screen that it was late. It had been a long week.

It had started well enough. Judy was making progress on the homeless background paper. During the craziness of the last several days, Denise had only found time earlier today to talk with her about it. Focusing the policy response around homeless children was intriguing, and Judy’s memo was, as usual, well-written and compelling. Denise had some concerns and questions, but she’d forwarded the memo to Mark Roberts, the Deputy Director, for his thoughts.

Troy also seemed to be engaged in the work on education issues. It looked as though Sam, who had started the project, would be out tending to his mother for some time. (Which reminded her: she made a note to send Sam a card.) Troy was excited about a particular article that Denise hadn’t had a chance to look at, but she trusted Troy’s judgment. Denise knew from experience that when Troy got into a project, he produced good work.

They had even made progress on the hiring of the vacant Division Chief position. She, Curt, and the rest of committee had settled on a short list of candidates to call back, and the first interviews were next week. Working with Curt had been the combination of fun and challenge that she had expected. Curt was witty, but also a little stubborn, and occasionally mean.

But all of this had been overshadowed by the hoopla over the plagiarism issue in the Governor’s speech. Judy had quickly narrowed down the possibilities for who might have dropped the published paragraphs into the speech. It had only taken a couple of hours before the poor analyst in Labor had admitted that he had probably done it.

It was sad. Apparently the analyst was surprised and confused when confronted with the evidence. He was shown an early draft of the material he had submitted and then the material from the book that showed a nearly word-for-word overlap. His initial frown of non-comprehension, or disbelief, had dissolved as he looked up, thinking furiously, and then he said to himself, “Oh my god.”

It was clear he had not intended to plagiarize. The material had been one of several pieces he had looked at as he worked on the speech. He had every intention of citing the author. He just forgot. The deputy director at Labor had exploded in anger during the meeting, but the analyst was beating himself up even more severely. He kept apologizing and, heartbreakingly, asking his supervisor and the Director to convey how sorry he was to the Governor.

Fielding, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, had asked each of the involved departments to submit suggestions about how to proceed. Mark had asked Denise to draft something before the weekend so that they could get it to Fielding by noon Saturday. Tomorrow.

Denise needed to think about what to recommend. One set of issues revolved around what do with the Labor analyst. While that was still being discussed both within Labor and the governor’s office, Denise knew that that was not the Chief of Staff’s major concern. He wanted to hear how the relevant departments thought the Governor should respond to the plagiarism issue. At least that was what Denise intended to provide. But this was so important that she wanted to think it through carefully.

At the top of her blank word processing screen Denise typed:

Purpose: To figure out what to recommend the Governor do in response to using uncited work in his speech.

Once again, Denise was turning to the elements of critical thinking that she had come across years ago. Somewhere she still had the small, blue pamphlet from the Foundation for Critical Thinking that had apparently been mass-mailed to people—chiefly academics. Denise had been intrigued by the ideas, and when she learned that one of her friends at the local university was using it in a first-year graduate course, she had begun using the 8-element framework regularly.

Denise began working on the second element, typing:


The use of uncited material in his speech could be a disaster for the Governor.

We have learned how this happened, and we need to take steps to prevent it in the future.

We need to prepare to answer embarrassing questions—are we cheats? or just incompetent?

We could try to downplay the issue, say as little as possible, and hope it disappears.

Or we could be more bold and direct in recognizing the problem and spell out how we are responding.

She paused, thinking. Were these all the issues raised in this event? What am I missing? Denise couldn’t think of anything else right now, so she moved on to the next element. She could always come back and add more issues.

As she typed “Assumptions:” Denise felt the familiar reassurance of going through this process. She had performed this exercise many times—primarily on issues or problems that were important to her; ones that she wanted to be sure she had thought about carefully. She had come to trust the framework, feeling confident that if she took the time to think things through in this way, then she was likely to be well on top of the topic. She continued typing:


We can’t keep the use of uncited material secret. This is going to come out. And the Governor’s opponents will try to use it to their advantage.

We have found the person responsible. We should be able to develop a protocol for preventing this in the future. Perhaps it can form the basis of a training by Human Resources.

What is assumed in issue 3? Denise asked herself. She had come to the practice of organizing Assumptions around the items in her Issues list. Asking for the implicit assumptions in each Issue item helped generate the Assumptions list.

There will be embarrassing questions. And they will be asked in as hurtful a way as possible.

The media will not find this story interesting, and the public doesn’t really care about plagiarism. [Both probably false, Denise noted to herself.]

While uncomfortable, the press and the public will appreciate a direct approach and give us credit for dealing with it professionally [Maybe the first part; the second part questionable, Denise thought.]


What concepts are important here? Denise asked herself.

Plagiarism: Intentionally passing off the work of others as one’s own.

Political risk: Embarrassing, and perhaps damaging, to be accused of wrongdoing.

Intention: Willfully acting to achieve a specific goal.

Being forthright: Admitting mistakes or faults and stating how we will correct them.

Denise glanced at the upper right corner of her screen: 8:30 p.m. Another hour to finish. At most.


What evidence do we have? Or what evidence would we like to have? Denise asked herself, in reminder of the purpose of this element.

We know that published work was used without reference or citation.

We know who did it and roughly how it occurred.

How damaging is this likely to be in terms of distracting from the Governor’s agenda? [Depends on how we respond.]

Who’s points of view are relevant? Denise thought.

Points of view:

Everyone’s? Denise joked to herself. Not helpful.

The Governor’s

The cabinet/administration

The press

The public

The political opposition

Political allies

Denise paused. Well, almost everyone. Whatever we decide to do, we should decide with these points of view in mind.


What must be true if we choose to keep our heads down and minimize this issue?

We can see very little upside in how we deal with this.

There is a reasonable chance that this will not attract much attention.

We are confident that even if there is a short-term reaction, it will be forgotten fairly quickly.

Not much chance of the last two, Denise thought. Maybe we can make the situation work for us.

What must be true if we face this head-on, admit the mistake, generally discuss how we are dealing with it, and let people decide?

We have some confidence that we can step up appropriately and clearly.

We have a chance of controlling the narrative by being proactive.

A successful response could be an advantage in future political battles.

Denise knew she was leaning toward the second approach. The question was whether the Governor and Fielding would agree. Moreover, the memo she would start to write in a few minutes would first have to go through Mark and the Director. The latter may have different points of view.

Not my problem, Denise thought to herself. She knew her job was to give her best thinking to those above her. Now that she had almost finished going through the 8-element outline, she was pretty sure what she thought.


Make a strong, clear admission of the error.

Note that with respect to the responsible employee, the matter is a personnel issue and therefore will be treated confidentially.

Note that this appears to have been done unintentionally and that training will be developed to prevent such lapses again.

Point out that the plagiarized author’s ideas are admirable, and the Governor is happy to cite his work.

Governor to make clear to his cabinet that he wants the message to employees to be: Work hard. Take risks. Honest mistakes will be dealt with fairly. Learn and move on.

Denise looked at the time. 9:03p. She felt good; she was now confident that this is how she wanted to see the Governor deal with this, and that, if necessary, she could defend this approach.

Denise opened a new document and placed her hands on the keyboard. OK. Another half hour for the memo and I’m out of here.

Chapter II

Judy hesitated as she raised her hand to knock on Denise's door. Did she really have to do this now? Did she have to do it at all?

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