Friday, November 28, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Opinions are like ...

I recently found myself in the situation where I needed some advice vis-à-vis my career. Like anyone in my situation, I found myself turning to my peers.

Everyone I told my story to was more then happy to chip in his or her two cents, and I was happy to collect. But herein lies the problem, what do I do as a relatively new public servant when more experienced public servants give me different or even contradictory advice? In short, I was in a spot where I needed to make a dollar (quickly!) out of what made sense.

It got me thinking back to when I first joined the public service and the problematic nature of career advice for new public servants. Looking back, I think it is an especially precarious field for new public servants to try to navigate. I have said previously that I feel as though there is an implicit and immediate level of trust among new public servants that has yet to manifest between new public servants and their managers.

The result is that new hires are more likely to seek advice from people they consider to be their peers, peers who are not necessarily senior public servants or managers. It is also my experience that the new recruits whom are most in need of the advice that their managers can provide are also the least likely to seek out that advice. This harkens back to the conversation we had a while back about the importance of simple conversations taking place about the public service being more important than the official discourse -- incidentally, something that Mike Kujawski hammered home during his armchair discussion yesterday at the CSPS, but I digress.

I have spoken to many new recruits, and even some of the not-so-new recruits, who have found themselves stuck in precarious positions and now asking me for advice. Their question -- how do you tell your manager, the person responsible for assigning your work, that you aren't being challenged enough, without implying a 'management problem'? -- is pointed, and one that I cannot yet answer with any degree of certainty.

If I had to offer my own advice on taking advice (the irony!), given the title of the post!), I would say that you need to do two things. The first is trust your judgment above that of anyone else. Even if it turns out that you didn't take the best course of action, at least you took it yourself. Call it a learning experience. Second, make sure that whatever you do with the advice you are given, be it following it to the letter or ignoring it completely, make sure you trust your own judgment and make sure that you can live with yourself when it is all said and done. At the very least, I can say that that approach worked for me, in what was a difficult time in my career, albeit for different reasons.

But hey, you should take what I say with a grain of salt, because we all know what opinions are like... hey maybe you could share yours? Where do you go for career advice, how different has that advice been? The irony of asking for even more opinions hasn’t escaped me, but we want to know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Round-Up: November 26


  1. No recession in Ottawa
  2. How to land a job in Ottawa
  3. 'Whistleblower' sues PSAC over dismissal
  4. Advisers accuse PSAC of selling out rights claim
  5. A tale of two contracts


Etienne has a new domain name, update your RSS feeds accordingly.

Mike Kujawski thinks that Social Media will be hot during the recession. He lists a couple of compelling reasons, reasons that proponents could find support for by leveraging the recent speech from the throne's specific commitment to making government more effective (at least in my opinion):

Part of a solid economic and fiscal foundation is the sound management of government. To make Canada’s national government more effective, our Government is committed to reform and streamline the way it does business.

Our Government will pursue innovative reforms to the administration of programs and services, drawing on the successful experiences of other governments around the world. It will build partnerships with third parties and the private sector to deliver better services at a lower overall cost.


Also, following PSAC's lead, CAPE has tentatively agreed to 6.8% over 4 years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Round-Up: November 25


My director came by my office and dropped an article for me to read, entitled Digital Diplomacy: New Technologies, New Players . It is about DFAIT's use of Web 2.0 technologies. It's a great read, here is a small excerpt:

All of these initiatives are innovative and worthwhile, but they still fall far short of how opponents of Canadian policies use Web 2.0 technologies to get their messages out.

Here is a response from a fellow public servant to Randall Denley's article - Unions need to wake up to the reality of today's economy - that we linked to yesterday.

Regardless of where you sit on the issue, here is a small selection of the press coverage around PSAC's acceptance of the 6.8% over 4 years:

  1. Economic woes temper public-sector wage demands
  2. Federal employees agree to 'tough times' wage deal
  3. Biggest government union trades money for job security

Apparently the Clerk of the Privy Council may be moving onto a diplomatic position, more info c/o the Toronto Star.


Etienne has another hope filled post on his blog worth reading.

Happy Tuesday Everyone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Round-Up: November 24th

Things inside the GoC

  1. PCO put up a power point presentation from a PS Recruitment fair.
  2. The fall edition of Its my day is up and running.
  3. You probably want to read the speech from the throne if you haven't already. Here is the relevant snippet on Public Service Renewal:
The Public Service of Canada is a key national institution. Public servants inspect our food and police our borders. They deliver programs and services to millions of Canadians in every region of this country, from our largest cities to the most remote Arctic communities. Drawing on the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service, our Government is committed to the continued renewal of the Public Service.

  1. Don't ignore value of digital generation
  2. PS faces forced wage controls
  3. Ottawa public servants face stagnant wages, fewer colleagues
  4. Unions need to wake up to the reality of today's economy
  5. How clerk's job moved to the centre of power
  6. Federal public service faces challenge of renewal
  7. Civil service hiring outlook remains healthy

  1. What's the Fuss Over Leadership? c/o Etienne
  2. On-the-Spot Job Offers: Real Solution or Quick Fix? (c/o Etienne - we really like this one!)
  3. For What it's Worth c/o Paul Crookall @ CGEM. (I was also @ the Osbaldeston Lecture, I hope to provide my reaction in the future, but in the interim you can get the flavour of the lecture from Paul's blog posting.)

Interesting Armchairs being offered @ CSPS

  1. Depression Was Not Part of my Career plan (EN/FR)
  2. Bottom Up Change: It Starts with an Individual (EN/FR) (by our Friend Etienne Laliberté)
  3. Government Blogging - Best Practices and Tips for Success (by our friend Mike Kujawski)

Other things of interest
  1. 10 Ways to Make Office Slacker Pull His Weight

Friday, November 21, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: An Interview with a GCPEDIA Wiki-gnome

As we mentioned earlier, we requested some information from the good people at Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) regarding GCPEDIA. Here are our questions [CPSR], followed by TBS's answers [Laura@TBS]

[CPSR]: How is GCPEDIA being used by people at TBS right now?

[Laura@TBS]: I cannot speak for the whole department but I can, however, give you some examples of how my group has used the wiki. I work in the Information Management Division, Chief Information Officer Branch (CIOB) at TBS so to start we have used the wiki to set up collaborative spaces for all of our committees (e.g. on Information Management Policy and Management Accountability Framework) as well as some of our discussion forums. We plan to use this tool as we collaborate on documentation and to foster discussions. This tool is enabling our committee and forum members to collaboratively comment and change documents on the most updated copy.

TBS has used its own departmental wiki as a proof of concept before moving forward with the larger scale government-wide wiki - GCPEDIA. Over the last year, we have used TBS Wiki to do some really awesome collaboration. For example, TBS is currently implementing a change initiative and we were able to use the TBS Wiki to foster an employee collaboration process. All employees were encouraged to use the TBS Wiki to post ideas and vote on potential options for how CIOB could change. The wiki also allowed everyone in CIOB to stay up-to-date on what the Change Group was doing.

But really, this is SO much more than just what TBS is doing on the wiki. We need to be talking about what everyone is doing (or could be doing) using GCPEDIA. This is a Government of Canada wiki so I think I would encourage every public servant to go and check out GCPEDIA - and see what’s happening!

[CPSR]: How frequently is information being accessed?

[Laura@TBS]: It’s hard to say exactly how frequently the information is being accessed; a little less than a week ago Ken Cochrane spoke about GCPEDIA at GTEC 2008 and since then, the traffic has been growing exponentially. Right now we have 654 registered users (by the time I finish writing this message to you we will probably be at over 700 users). We have over 1,000 pages of content and it’s growing very quickly.

It’s so much more than how many “hits” we’ve received, how many people are visiting, or what information is being accessed. It’s about how many edits have been made, how many pages of content have been created, or more importantly is how are we are working together and collaborating.

[CPSR]: How has it affected internal communications and work place culture since its inception?

[Laura@TBS]: I think it’s way too early to tell. I like to think it’s starting to open things up. I love to believe that this is moving us from a culture of need to know to one of need to share. I have very high hopes!

How should users approach content generation, specifically in cases where information is already found on departmental intranet or internet sites. (e.g. departmental mandates, Acts of Parliament, etc.)

GCPEDIA should always link to information available at another location e.g. information that can be found on a departmental internet site. However if information is behind a firewall (i.e. intranet site) and you believe it could be of use to people outside your department, we strongly encourage you to put it on the wiki. That being said we are all responsible to consider security implications before posting information. We cannot post confidential material on internal sites that is above the security level of the site.

Although one of the coolest tools I’ve seen the Government of Canada come out with recently, GCPEDIA is not a replacement for a departmental Internet or Intranet site – more like a close partner.

It does one thing really well – wiki collaboration.

[CPSR]: How will GCPEDIA impact departmental intranet sites? (and other departmental Wiki's like NRCan)

[Laura@TBS]: GCPEDIA is an evolving platform for online collaboration and has the possibility to evolve into many different things. As we see how things evolve we will be in a better position to say how it will affect departmental intranet and wiki sites.

[CPSR]: How is GCPEDIA being marketed to public servants and encourage their participation?

[Laura@TBS]: Since this is a community-driven tool, we are using word of mouth as our primary marketing tool. We also have a base of people in TBS ready and willing to give presentations for those who are interested in what the wiki is and how they can use GCPEDIA.

I think it’s an idea with so much potential it might just sell itself!

[CPSR]: Thank you so much for your time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Round-Up: November 18

Here are some links that may be of interest:

c/o Ottawa Citizen

  1. Government assets could be sold to balance budget, Flaherty says

Here is the snippet you probably want to know about:

Mr. Flaherty also said the government is looking at controlling the rate of growth in the salaries of public servants, and is continuing a strategic review of expenditures at all government departments.

c/o Havard Business Publishing

  1. What leaders need to do right to move up
  2. Confessions of an unrepentant BlackBerry addict

Friday, November 14, 2008


My apologies to everyone but this week has been quite hectic for me. I started a new job this week (which added to my commute!) and Remembrance Day took its toll on my home life (my brother-in-law is currently deployed in Afghanistan). Mike and I have also been working on a discussion paper we hope to share with you shortly. To Mike's credit, the ball is back in my court.

Given that we've been busy, we planned on cheating a little bit with this week's column. We were planning on sharing responses to some questions we put to TBS about GCPEDIA, but have yet to receive them back.

So here goes Plan B

I was watching the Agenda with Steve Paikin on Monday and Darin Barney made a great comment about technology and the mobilization of people in the context of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. I have cut specific references about Obama and the US so it fits within the context of public service renewal.

It is important to keep in mind that [it] used emerging technologies to great effect but it didn't succeed in mobilizing an unprecedented number of young [people] because it used facebook and youtube. It succeeded, I think because it offered young [people] something they haven't had for a long time ... substantial positions they could be enthusiastic about, a sense of tremendous stakes and opportunity... a chance to say something real about the kind of country they wanted to live in. It’s this that moved them, not facebook and youtube, even though that may have been the means for communicating that message... I think it is very important to understand that we may be selling young people short if we think we can engage them simply by connecting with them via the new technologies they happen to use.

At it’s core, Barney’s statement emphasises the importance of how technology is used over the simple fact that technology is used. Facebook, youtube, and social media are all just vehicles. The message, and what people do with it, is still paramount.

It has been widely documented, and should be fairly obvious by now, that young people are mobilized electronically more than ever before. Facebook, youtube, blogs… web 2.0 is simply a fact of life for young people. Barney is correct when he asserts that thinking that any entity can engage the interests of young people simply by having a presence on these sites is selling them short.

I fear that government departments may be too eager to deploy web 2.0 solutions to show potential recruits that government ‘gets it’: they’re innovative, ready to communicate and to work with you on your terms. But therein lies the oversight that Barney points out. Simply putting up a page or an ad on facebook or an ad on youtube without the means to actively engage them is unlikely to have any substantial effect.

Even something as simple as an interactive webcast with a Deputy Minister on PS renewal, followed up by an dedicated intranet forum on and an invitation to explore ways to get involved within my own department has, last I checked, been met with very little uptake.

I can’t help but feel for people like Etienne who have made incredible efforts in terms of bringing something to people in a method that they can engage in it. Truth be told, I am as guilty as others are in terms of consuming the knowledge he is sharing without actively contributing to it. I think his frustration is understandable and warranted, but I also think that one of his original premises – bottom-up renewal – is as valid today as the day that he first employed it.

Deploying the technology is simple (recall the people, process, technology problem), mobilizing people is the truly difficult part). The web (and thus web 2.0 technologies) allow us (those interested) to share information across the public service, but I think (at least my experience has led me to think) that the most effective place that public servants can make organizational and cultural change is in their own department (at least for now)… again I think this is where something like GCPEDIA can play an enormous role. Moreover, those of us working in areas of Knowledge Management, Planning and Exchange (did I mention I have a new job now, guess in what area?) have a responsibility to start actively collaborating better and facilitating the collaboration of others.

I am really interested in what you all think about this? What do you think about the relationship between technology and engagement? Is the public service too caught up in an if you build it they will come approach to web 2.0 technologies?

We are interested in hearing comments from users, implementers, practitioners and target group members (or anyone else we may have missed).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Round-Up: 'bout time.

Like I said, a lot has crossed my desk these past few weeks. Hopefully this post captures most of it. Yes this post is rushed ... sorry but rushed updates are better then no updates!


Etienne has started posting the results of his unofficial survey on PS Renewal:

1. Challenges of Conducting the survey
2. Access to Web 2.0 and PS Renewal related websites
3. Interest and Usefulness of PS Renewal related websites
4. Getting Involved in PS Renewal
5. Ideas on How to Get Involved

We also wanted to wish AIR a happy anniversary. Btw since drafting this update his blog has seen a slew of new posts – go check it out.

Over the course of his posts Etienne mentioned that:

The figures are better for my friends at who, despite the fact they use the same platform as I do (Blogger), are able to be reached by an additional 25% of public servants (that means 65,000 more people!). That is a relief, since I think their blog is the single best source of news on PS Renewal. But why is my blog blocked more than their's? I don't know...

The reason that our blog is more accessible then Etienne's is that we registered a unique domain name that doesn't end in "". Our reasoning (dictated to us by our experience) was that the blogspot domain was routinely blocked by internal firewalls while a unique URL was more likely to reach more of our colleagues. The result was our deliberate purchasing (with our own funds) a domain name to use.

In other blognews GCPEDIA has been garnering some coverage in the blogosphere (outside our own coverage of course). Check out these posts at Spaghetti Testing and SoSaidThe.Org respectively.

2008 Public Service Employee Survey

You should be getting or already gotten a link and an access code in order to complete the 2008 PSES. More information can be found on their website. It goes without saying that this is a good opportunity for you to participate.

Opportunities for Public Servants Abroad

Interested in working in Afghanistan as a Public Servant? Check out this webpage.


The Ottawa Citizen published an article called Rise of the Public Sector. Here is the snippet on renewal:

... efforts at public sector renewal should continue and be more widely publicized. In Ottawa, the Privy Council has been leading a reform and renewal effort on the grounds that a well-functioning public sector is crucial to our competitive performance, and that argument will now resonate much more than it has in the past. Slogans that might have seemed pretentious or empty in the recent past -- being the "best employer in the country" -- now have a chance of being given a fair hearing. People who might have aimed at a corporate career may now see some attractions to working in a sector that is, on the whole, untainted by "greed" and now clearly responsible for the well-being of both the economy and society.

I also came across an article entitled The public service must lead change out of Atlantic Canada.

A cool new space for civic-minded young Canadians?

[h/t to Robin for sharing this with us. Here is an email from someone from PPF looking to start an initiative targetted at youth.]

From: Vinod Rajasekaran []
Subject: PPX : a cool new space for civic-minded young Canadians


My name is Vinod and I am a Research Associate with the Public Policy Forum (PPF). I thought you’d be interested to know that the PPF is starting up a new venture called PPX that is focused on engaging young Canadians – PPX is youth-designed and youth-led.

So, what is PPX?

It is a new kind of space that brings together young Canadians from all fields and sectors to learn about, inform, mingle, collaborate on, influence, and discuss issues that matter to Canada and the world.

Why are we doing it?

Young Canadians care about their communities. But traditional ways of engagement do not respect or reflect the ways in which they organize themselves, interact, and hope to influence. Public issues need to be seen as relevant and worth participating in.

What will we do together?

Using a mixture of web 2.0 stuff (blogging, texting, Facebook, etc.) and events (cappuccino sessions, lectures, dinners, etc.) in new and creative settings, we will generate approaches to tackle issues affecting Canada and the world, strengthen relationships between young professionals and Baby Boomer executives, increase collaboration between the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, and reinvigorate public debate.

We don’t have a website just yet, but do have a Facebook page where we have discussions, post events, and share ideas. I invite you to check it out and join the group.

Also…the first PPX project is a workshop on retaining young talent. A few words about it: Lately, attracting and retaining young talent has become a challenge for businesses, NGOs, and the public service. To help address this issue, organizations need to better understand the values, interests and priorities of Gen Y on the nature of work and the workplace. While some studies by HR experts exist, rarely has an opportunity been created to bring together Gen Ys, who are the workforce of the future, to develop recommendations.

This workshop is still in conceptual stage but, if you have any ideas or thoughts, feel free to email me!

Here is the link to PPX Facebook page:

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you on PPX!


Vinod Rajasekaran
Research Associate / Associé à la recherche
Public Policy Forum / Forum des politiques publiques
1405 - 130 rue Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1P 5G4
Tel/Tél 613 238 7858 x 230
Fax/Téléc 613 238 7990

Friday, November 7, 2008

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Too Busy Dodging Alligators to Drain the Swamp?

I have to level with you; I am pretty excited about GCPEDIA, and the tag line, People & Knowledge is a great fit. At the time of drafting this weekly column, there are 688 users and 1,003 articles.

People, Process, and Technology

I sat in on an IT Modernization Workshop this week (completely unrelated to GCPEDIA), and the facilitator said something that really struck me. He said that what we were engaging in wasn’t really a discussion on IT modernization per se, but a discussion on IT enabled business modernization. Below is my adaptation of what he shared with the group.

Organizations that succeed in modernizing their IT solutions are the ones who modernize their business delivery models as well. There are three elements that need to be addressed (in order) when undertaking IT enabled business modernization:

  1. People do the work, so they have to be on board. People can be sticky: they get accustomed to doing things a certain way, and they can be proprietary. Changing old habits is incredibly difficult. Typically, people account for 70% of the problems that arise during IT modernization.
  2. Process is simply the chain of actions that create results. Process usually accounts for 20% of the problems during modernization.
  3. Technology is the enabler. It comes into play once people and process are aligned. Technical solutions typically only accounts for 5% of the problems during modernization projects.

It is no surprise that the sticking point is people. I think convincing people to use and create content for GCPEDIA will be the most difficult part of rolling out this type of initiative.

As Etienne pointed out in one of his more recent posts “[online] user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., those that read or observe, but don't or very rarely contribute);
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time;
  • 1% of users are active participants and account for the majority of content.

Couple the 90-9-1 rule with public service culture and what do we get? Well only time will tell, but given the potential that I think GCPEDIA has for the future, I think there should be people creating content or facilitating content creation as a part of their full time jobs. I can tell you this much – I am moving my substantive position into an area where I deal primarily with knowledge management. My first order of business is to bring GCPEDIA to the attention of my managers and initiate discussions about how we can leverage it to better manage our own knowledge and share it with our colleagues from outside our department.

A Tremendous Opportunity

Truth be told, I was in the midst of creating my own personal wiki on a USB stick (using portable applications). Once it was completed, I was planning on unveiling it to Senior Management as a better way to manage the transition between Ministers, increase collaboration, and retain corporate knowledge.

However, as I said, I am moving into a new area so those wheels have ground to a halt. In retrospect, given the presence of GCPEDIA, I wonder how departmental initiatives in similar veins would overlap with the admittedly great work that TBS has done with GCPEDIA. I have a lot of questions around how GCPEDIA is impacting, and will continue to impact, internal departmental communications and intranet sites, but those will have to wait for another day. My interim conclusion is that GCPEDIA represents a tremendous opportunity for knowledge sharing across the Public Service. Furthermore, it is an opportunity I encourage you all to take.

Getting the Ball Rolling Part I

Having coordinated my departmental briefing book by email and diskettes (ugh!), I know that a wiki could be a better way of doing business, especially when it comes to internal collaboration. I also know for a fact that every federal department in the country just delivered briefing books to their Ministers. So why don’t we drop all of the (non-secret) notes into GCPEDIA?

If you want to create a central repository for knowledge, GCPEDIA seems to be a good place to start. All the notes have ADM and DM approvals and all of them are available in both official languages. I can’t think of a better way for someone to learn more about another government organization (or even their own) than by centralizing all of this information in GCPEDIA. If I were to do this today, I could easily add over 100 articles to GCPEDIA - an increase in the current article count of 10%!

While this little suggestion seems entirely tangible to me, I think that this type of push is something that needs to come from the central agencies. A collaborative call to open up our briefing books (again, minus the secret material) made by both TBS and PCO could go a long way towards creating useful wiki content, a lot further then this blog’s recommendation anyways.

My only fear about GCPEDIA was summed up nicely at the IT Modernization workshop. When asked about how we were proceeding with IT Modernization, one participant aptly responded: “We will be too busy dodging alligators to drain the swamp”. What he meant to express was his worry about the operational necessity of the day precluding our ability to address the root causes of our knowledge management problems. Given the depth and speed at which information can be made available, it is imperative that we share knowledge more effectively and efficiently both within and across federal government departments, and I think that GCPEDIA represents a tangible means through which we can start to drain that swamp.

Getting the Ball Rolling Part II

True to the 90-9-1 rule, a very small percentage of people have self-identified as “wiki gnomes” - motivated wiki-savvy public servants. That’s not to say, of course, that many public servants are neither motivated, nor wiki-savvy. As above, it could simply be the case that, despite being eager to drain the swamp, dodging alligators simply takes too much time and effort. But in another case, many might have the concern that management may not allow the level of participation that wiki-gnomes might want to engage in. While there is undoubtedly a discussion underway about how participation can be justified from a number of official standpoints, let’s think about it in a different way.

The concern, and the desire for a solid foot to stand on, though valid, may be slightly misplaced. Rather than justify participation to your manager, see if there’s an opportunity to work with your manager to piece together assignments that integrate content generation into your deliverables.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Quick Note from

Hi Everyone,

I Just wanted to drop you a quick note saying that we have been very busy these past few weeks, and there has been a lot of things that have caught our eyes that are worth pointing to.

That pointing will most likely have to wait until after this week's weekly column. I simply haven't had the time to pull together a post.

Stay tuned ...