Friday, October 10, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Try Our 12 Step Program

If you know me beyond the blogosphere you may know that my resolve to remain an active player in the renewal puzzle was recently challenged. While this blog provides neither the time nor the place to tackle my personal issues, I thought it would be fun to try to renew my own commitment to renewal by creating the equivalent of a 12-step program.

12 Step Program for (re)engaging in Public Service Renewal (applicable to all groups and levels)

1. Admit you are not powerless over renewal.

2. Believe that working in the Public Service, as something greater than yourself, could help you achieve a meaningful living.

3. Decide to turn your attention and skills over to the Public Service and to the care of your fellow Public Servants.

4. Take stock of your character.

5. Admit to your group, to yourself and to your manager the exact nature of your needs.

6. Be entirely ready to demonstrate your commitment to the Public Service by ameliorating yourself.

7. Humbly ask for help from others whenever required.

8. Distinguish sense from nonsense whenever possible.

9. Keep a list of everything you determine to be nonsense.

10. Work to make sense of the nonsensical, but learn from others and pick your battles.

11. Through hard work and experience, seek to improve your awareness the Public Service and build your knowledge of right and wrong and the strength to follow that knowledge.

12. Renew yourself prior to making demands on others or on the organization to do it for you. Carry this message to Public Servants and practice these principles in all your work endeavours.

Let us know – what do these steps mean to you? Do you have a thirteenth (or fourteenth, fifteenth…step)?

Have a great (long!) Thanksgiving weekend.


  1. Neat little piece! We could even turn this 12 step program into a 12 week program (or twelve month) that Departments and Agencies could provide to their managers!

    I think the most important steps to begin with are #1, 4, 5, 6. In my experience, these may be the most difficult, because they require the employee to take a good look into the mirror. I found few people capable of doing this honestly and take responsibility for their own unhappiness.

    I can think of another application for your proposed 12 step program: a variation to help employees get over their "elimination from further consideration" in staffing processes. When applicants fail to get appointed in the job they want and ask for an informal discussion, they are often overwhelmed by negative feelings. Such a program could help them get over their anger and find the motivation to do better next time.

  2. Good article....I think it is important to recognize that you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole....are you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? It's essential to know where to start or you are not really starting anywhere. For example, touting social networking sites int he federal public service? Isn't this a square peg? Why do you think we can so easily put ourselves out there when we work for the public and we have to be very cognizant of what we say and how we say it so as not be to misrepresented or misunderstood. I come from the private sector and it has taken me some time to understand how the public service is different (I still can't say I do). But I have learned that things take time for a reason...because we have so much at stake with the wrong policy or economic decision. Making use of social networking is awesome....such as the use of the wiki at NRCan. So perhaps it is time to consider whether or not you are trying to push a square peg into a round hole.

  3. I really don't know where to start! So much to say, so much to ask. First, this blog is great. I would say that, for a Regional employee, this is where I get my information on Ottawa goings-on. Its sad to say, I know more about whats going on then my boss does. So, thank you for your dedication, and time to this tool.

    While I'm on dedication and time, I'd like to also extend that to the Clerk, and all the other senior executives who have recognized, and come to believe, that renewal is about 10 if not 20 years too late. While I admire their quest to fix the beast, I'm going to put my neck out and say the ship left a long time ago, half full.

    I'm not saying that Renewal is dead. Far from it. I'm saying that those senior execs have provided a vision for renewal - the Values and Ethics for Civil Servants. From there, it is the cohort of civil servants, Generations X and Y, that need to take on the responsibility of adopting the values and ethics, and like one reader said, take a long hard look in the mirror. I'll stop at that point because I don't want to get ahead of myself.

    One piece that is missing from the renewal talk - probably because everyone is afraid to talk about it - is the two faces of civil servant management.

    One minute an employee is being praised, the next minute that same employee is being bad mouthed, and reprimended, with a note put to their employee file for something that in the grand scheme of things is really trivial. In fact, some of my colleauges have coined the behaviour as BPM. No, not the pay per view Rogers Channel called Beats Per Minute TV, an all-things look in the the world of "clubbing", but rather Bi-Polar Management.

    Employee discipline is necessary, but not in the way that the Public Service managers of embraced. I'm not saying that every manager employs this method either, although I've experienced colleauges and friends experience BPM. In the end, there is not life in them, nor is their dedication or even trust in their organization.

    So, I'm going to say that a more focused view on renewing management may go hand in hand with a successful system wide renewal excercise.

    Just my thoughts.