Generations (Leadership Seminar Day 9)

We talked today re managing various generations in the workforce.   Postwar baby boomers are still the most numerous of government employees, but there are still a very few from the WWII veteran generation, a growing number of generation X and the up and coming millennial.  All my kids are Millennial.  They sometimes call this generation the baby boom echo generation since these are mostly the kids of us boomers.   Most of us thought the idea was useful but that it was easy to overdo the generation analysis.    There are some general patterns.  For example, the veterans as a group are not very comfortable with technology, while the millennials are digital natives.   But some of it just depends on where people are in their careers.   The literature we read on the topic was a couple years old and the people at my table, boomers all but one, agreed that we were starting to look more like the veteran generation, with concerns about retirement and leaving a legacy. 

Generations make a difference in the government, since such as big percentage of us are or soon will be eligible for retirement.    We have to plan for a big turnover that has already begun and will continue for around ten years.  Besides the general challenge of simply hiring so many new workers, making sure the experience and knowledge is passed along.

There was an interesting lecture on possible futures.   This one was called the “Seven Revolutions” and it analyzed trends such as population, resource shortages, tech innovation, movement of data, global economic integration, conflicts and the challenge of governance.   The last one of these refers to the increasing inability of governments to cope with or even understand the other trends mentioned.

I won’t go into details.   Most of it is available at

Predicting the future is difficult.  When you think re all the predictions of the past it is easy to see the problem.    Think of all the apocalyptical predictions of the late 1960s and 1970s.   According to those guys we were supposed to have starvation in the streets during the 1980s and even global cooling by now.   “Soylent Green” was set in 2022.   I don’t think that future is very likely anymore, but it scared me at the time.    I think the trouble with predictions is that we have to project from what we have today.   Many of what will make the future better than the past has not been invented yet, or at least not developed for their eventual uses.    Developments like nanotech, biotech and alternative energies are just at past the starting line.   We really cannot make accurate projections. 

We cannot predict the details of the future, but we can think about possible scenarios and how we might react.   Tomorrow we have scenario simulations.  It should be fun.  

I got one good ironic saying.   In government we always talk about the dangers of stove piping in the organization.    Somebody renamed this.  They are now “cylinders of excellence.”   We sometimes talk like that.  I am not entirely sure it was supposed to be a joke.