Friday, January 30, 2009 Weekly: WWOD?

In the vein of Etienne's latest post, here's an excerpt from President Obama's inauguration speech that I have taken the liberty of remixing in hopes to to shed some light on revitalizing the Public Service culture and, by extension, it's relationship with the people they serve.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system bureaucracy cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country Public Service has already done; what free innovative and passionate men and women can achieve when imagination and diversity is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political bureaucratic arguments that have stifled our creativity and consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government as an employer is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified it facilitates innovation, takes care of ambitions, and transfers skills and corporate knowledge before retirement. Where the answer is yes, we intend to continue to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs poor practices will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of today's reality - because only then can we restore the vital trust vibrant, diverse and innovative culture between a people within which Public Servants and their government work.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reloaded Weekly: A Good Ol' Fashioned Barn Raising

[ncharney: Sorry about the issue with the links, apparently blogger doesn't like me. I have fixed all the links in the post. Happy reading (and weekend!)]

First let me explain what I mean when I invoke the term "barn raising." I first heard it at a wiki workshop at NRCAN. They have a team of people there who provide the support needed by other units and/or divisions to use their wiki. They do all the support work; they set up the scaffolds (wiki-speak for templates).

They effectively raise the barn and then leave the group to manage how exactly to use it.

I think the idea of “barn raising” has huge potential outside of the narrow use outlined above. What if people have expertise they want to share that isn’t necessarily part of his or her official duties? It doesn't make his or her expertise less valuable, just harder to access. So, why not make it easier?

For example, I personally have what I think is a good amount of experience leading a youth group and representing that group to senior managers. The combination of my unofficial work as a youth organizer and my official duties within ADM's office uniquely positioned me to offer some rather unique advice to who?. But how do people get it? Well, someone I met along the way simply asked me to come speak to her fledgling youth group (which I did happily, and from which I received positive feedback). But if she didn't already know me, she likely wouldn't have known where to turn and even more likely wouldn’t have known to turn to me.

Social media behind the government firewall could easily step up and fill the void. In the absence of a full-fledged or we can easily turn to our GCPEDIA profiles or even GCPEDIA itself. I would encourage you all to set up a subheading in your profile that lists what other expertise (e.g. those not related to your official duties) you have and are willing to share. In short, what barns you can help to raise.

My GCPEDIA profile now includes barns a subheading that references barns that I think I can help raise. I also created a central hub for barn raisers across the Government of Canada. Please add to it and share your expertise. I've already included a couple of categories but feel free to add to and expand them as you see fit. Or if you think the page should be organized along different lines please feel free to re-construct it in a manner that you think makes the most sense.

Please understand that by adding your information you are inviting others to contact you and partake in your expertise.

GCPEDIA provides us the space and the structure to allow us to build this database of expertise but it is also up to us to start shifting the culture towards one that encourages us all to share in this way.

Ps - we thank you very much for the two conversations that this blog has seen via the comments in the last week or so. We always welcome your feedback and participation.

In case you missed the link above, CLICK HERE to raise a barn!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Round-Up: January 19th

Kathryn May reported that PS unions are set to battle wage freeze.

Etienne offers some thoughts on the State of HR.

There is a new blog in the ever (slowly) expanding unofficial universe of GoC bloggers. You can check it out here.

Interesting piece c/o Harvard Business: Trapped in a Risk-Averse Workplace.

Friday, January 16, 2009 Weekly: An Interview with ACFO

Recently Joe Boughner [JB], a communications officer from the Association of Canadian Financial Officers (ACFO) let us know that they had just unveiled their new website for their union membership (FI group); and you might be surprised to see what they've done.

We checked out the site and decided to ask him a couple of questions:

[CPSR] What efforts has your union made to incorporate web 2.0 into its communications and where do you see the convergence with public service renewal?

[JB] Thus far we’ve rebuilt our site using WordPress as the content management tool to create an RSS feed for our updates. We’ve also created a series of podcasts aimed at demystifying the FI Collective Agreement.

It’s a learning process for us so we started with things that were really just extensions of our core business operations. We already emailed updates to members; RSS was a logical next step. And our Labour Relations Advisors already help members interpret and apply the Collective Agreement over the phone; podcasts just make this advice more accessible.

As for the convergence with renewal, using web 2.0 technologies is all about reaching the increasingly tech-savvy and much younger FI Community. We see ourselves as stakeholders in the renewal process and it’s up to us to make sure our members understand our role in their working lives. Making the public service a better and more attractive place to work should be the goal of everyone; using 2.0 tools to reach our members is one way we’re contributing to that.

[CPSR]What has driven these efforts?

[JB] Our previous website was almost 10 years old; archaic in web terms. The introduction of web 2.0 tools was part of our broader effort to redevelop our online presence. It wasn’t so much that we set out to use shiny new tools on our website, but rather that when we looked at the best way to get the information out to our membership, these tools seemed to be the best fit.

Our efforts were also driven by our membership. While we were planning the new site we did a survey of our members to gauge their expectations. We learned a lot about their web habits and what they wanted out of the new site. This feedback was instrumental in deciding which features and tools to include.

Lastly, the FI Community is among the youngest groups in the public service. Not only did we need to play catch up when developing our new site, we needed to get out in front and anticipate the future expectations of a younger professional community. Building on an extendable platform like WordPress should leave us plenty of options on that front.

[CPSR]What have the results been?

[JB] It’s a bit early to gauge the results in any comprehensive way; the site launched just prior to the holiday season. However, anecdotally the reaction has been great. We unveiled the site during the Financial Management Institute’s professional development week in the National Capital Region – a popular event for our members – and the response was very positive. We’ll be doing a more thorough review in the coming months but, internally, we are really pleased with the results.

[CPSR]What are you planning for the future?

[JB] It will depend to a large extent on what our needs are going forward. By building the site with WordPress, we have left a lot of doors open for online collaboration and discussion within the FI Community. We’ve always consulted our members on things like collective bargaining proposals; the new site should allow us to do that online in a more collaborative way. We’re also in the process of drafting a white paper on employee engagement; we’re planning to invite comment from the Community and open this up to collaboration online.

We’re also considering the integration of more professional development and networking functionality, either by including services directly on the site or establishing an FI Community presence on other professional sites.

And since we’ve dipped our toes in the multimedia realm with the introduction of podcasts, we expect to carry this forward and introduce videos, more audio and other sharable elements, all in the name of fostering the sense of community among our members and facilitating the spread of information.

[CPSR]Have you read the series of articles we posted on the role of unions in public service renewal? What are your thoughts?

[JB] The posts hit on something that is very important to us going forward. Much of the thinking behind our new site focused on making our members more aware of the services we offer. Our Association does a lot more than collective bargaining – all public service bargaining agents do. It’s up to us, though, to ensure our members know that.

In a more general sense, bargaining agents bring a unique perspective to discussions on renewal. We offer our members a collective voice and we are familiar with the sorts of workplace issues that can have a major impact on how the public service is seen by potential employees of the future.

At ACFO, for example, we are pushing for the renewal of the qualification and classification standards for the FI Community to better reflect modern financial management standards. We are also drafting a white paper that analyzes existing research on the role of employee engagement in recruitment and retention. We are putting that research in a public sector context and will be inviting our members to share their personal experiences.

All of this serves to benefit not only our existing members but also those we hope to attract in the future as part of the renewal effort. It comes down to recognizing that all stakeholders have the same goal – creating a work environment that remains the career destination of choice for the best and brightest Canadians.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Round Up: January 14

Fairly quick little update.

Apparently the GoC is considering a new policy re: security screening, the new one would apparently involve finger printing and credit checks.

Etienne has shared some of his work re: the use of Facebook as a Public Servant.

Our last weekly got three comments (reproduced verbatim):

Anonymous kp said...

good article...I'd say that you are already one of "those" leaders.

January 09, 2009

Anonymous Stephane Dubord said...

Here here kp!

But on the topic of risk-aversion in the PS, we had a discussion on the issue at the MTP Forum last month with Anatole Papadopoulos, and came out with a lot of reasons why it permeates the PS.

First is the type of employee attracted to the PS. Those looking for job stability and pensions aren't necessarily the risk-taking type.

Second, there's the risk-reward balance. In the private sector, if you risk and succeed, there's a high reward factor, which the PS lacks. Even if you risk, and succeed, in some major endeavor, you won't get a bonus or a promotion out of it. You'll just get to include it in your competency portfolio for your next competition.

I think the reason for the lack of risk-taking is that the PS attracts risk-averse employees to begin with, and then doesn't offer any incentive to risk. No matter how little there is to lose, it still outweighs the lack of incentives to gain.

January 12, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nick and Mike. I've been lurking your site for months and just **have to** come out of hiding after reading your most recent post. The Human Resources Branch at Industry Canada is in the process of designing an innovative new physical workspace for itself. We are lowering the cubicle walls, creating collaborative work pods, providing private rooms for those times when work requires major concentration and going wireless in order to create a mobile workforce. And, we're doing it in full partnership with our Accommodations folks who are keen to implement something new with us. If you're interested in hearing more about our plans and following our story as we move into the new space in May or June 2009, send me an email ... nathalie(dot)kachulis(at)ic(dot)gc(dot)ca. :o)

Nathalie Kachulis
Deputy DG, HRB
Industry Canada

And our last email rant got this comment:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note that the Ontario Public Service and the City of Vancouver are on that list. If the provincial and municipal governments can make it on there, what's stopping us?


January 14, 2009

Thanks to all of our readers/those who leave comments. Nathalie, I will send you an email before the week is up!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Email Rant: 10 Second Commute

It's been awhile since we did an email rant. So without further ado.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike
To: Nick
Subject: 10 second commute


-----Original Message-----
From: Nick
To: Mike
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

and yet we are looking for what, an additional 4 million square feet of commercial real estate?

Who's brand is #2 globally? Oh that's right IBM!

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike
To: Nick
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

post both links on the blog... though with a more diplomatic spin

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick
To: Mike
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

btw did I mention that this podcast (c/o Deloitte) points to the fact that during hard economic times the government should be looking to reduce its capital expenditures and re-examine its real estate portfolio... (have I pushed you over the edge yet?)

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike
To: Nick
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

you no doubt heard on the radio this morning that they're looking at about 4 big purchases... all at the same time and therefore artificially spiking up demand

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick
To: Mike
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

yes. I actually like what the urban planner said yesterday morning on CBC about looking at commercial investments along the existing and planned transit way... that is, of course, if we had transit operators...

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike
To: Nick
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

that best brand slide show isn't necessarily about best people to work for - though there is probably a distinct correlation.

-----Original Message-----
To: Mike
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

i know but I am sure they also rank highly on employers... this is from 05 but I doubt much has changes since then, they probably still rank in the top 100.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike
To: Nick
Subject: RE: 10 second commute


----Original Message-----
From: Nick
To: Mike
Subject: RE: 10 second commute

way to disprove the point and derail the rant - IBM Canada, not on that list... thanks a lot.

----Original Message-----
From: Mike
To: Nick
Subject: RE: 10 second commute


----Original Message-----
From: Nick
To: Mike
Subject: RE: 10 second commute


Friday, January 9, 2009

CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Some Reflections About Renewal

Just prior to the holiday season I had the opportunity to attend a renewal mini-workshop put on by my friends at PCO's renewal secretariat and sponsored by outgoing Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Jim Lahey; it doubled as his unofficial retirement party, one of Jim's last attempts to spur on the renewal conversation.

This was my first interaction with Jim and let me say that, while I can't speak to his overall contributions to the Public Service in sweeping terms, his demeanour, candour and passion were inspiring. I also had the opportunity to meet some other great people, most notably Katherine Baird from the Public Policy Forum (who co-authored Canada's Public Service in the 21st Century: Destination: Excellence) and Bob Chartier, the GoC’s resident leadership expert.

There was a lot to take from the workshop. Here is just a small taste of the conversational flavour of the evening.

Katherine and I had a very interesting discussion on what the ramifications would be if we simply started to change the physical space within which we worked. How would breaking down the cubicle walls, creating open and bright collaborative workspaces while retaining a handful of shared offices for private meetings affect the work culture? Mike and I have often discussed enough, we even ranted about it once. I doubt this idea will gain much traction but if there is a manager out there willing to experiment, why not give it a whirl? You may find that your team is more innovative or collaborates more frequently if you liberate them from the physical rigidity of the typical workspace. Involving them in the physical act of tearing down the walls between them may even increase the magnitude of the impact on their approach to working together. So why not leave the accommodations people out of it? Consider it a team building exercise.

Bob and I spoke about the need to simply engage in conversations about some of the problems within our work culture(s) or rules-based systems something we don't do that well in the Public Service. More often than not we are quick to self-rationalize as to why we can't have the conversation, even if we know it is one that should be had or that could bear fruit. We need to move beyond avoidance and into engagement. Jim added that he often hears public servants say that they want to take risks without facing consequences, yet there can be no risk without consequences. We then got into a conversation around the fact that the risk adverse culture within the public service is confusing given the difficulty involved in terminating employees and documenting poor performance. If anything, we should be expecting to see more people taking risks than avoiding them altogether.

If this is not evidence of learned helplessness, I don't know what is.

In that spirit I want to try to drive the blog back to the discussions about work culture that originally prompted its creation. I don't think we have gotten away from that altogether; however I feel as though we focused a lot on technology in the workplace, and there are clearly other determinants at play.

In Jim's closing remarks he spoke a bit about leadership’s 4 components: courage, judgment, love and humility. Courage and judgment reside on one axis, love and humility on the other. Good leaders are courageous enough to get involved, to take risks, to stand on points of principle, and to call nonsense by its name. Good leaders temper their courage with judgment. Judgment, says Jim, can only be learned by making mistakes. Often the gain to one's faculty of judgment is of a similar magnitude to one's mistake. Good leaders love what they do, they are passionate and inspire passion in those around them. Yet good leaders remain humble, and know that without others, they lead nothing and can accomplish nothing.

The most important thing that I took away was something that Jim said to me when I was leaving. I was explaining that I am trying to direct my career so that I can be one of those leaders he spoke of. He looked at me and said, "Don't wait - do it now".

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Round-Up: January 7th


Etienne has posted a small series of posts that you probably have already read:

1. In response to the comments ...
2. There is something happening here
3. New Year's Resolution

Krishna Kumar has a good post on today's knowledge worker [h/t to Chamika]. Here is a snippet:

... a knowledge worker’s productivity is not a function of how many hours they work or how much they earn. And this is completely the opposite of how most managements think. They have fine-grained rules about work hours and holidays, polished after decades of dealing with manual workers. Sometimes, these rules actually allow management to set a floor for low-performing knowledge workers, but they prevent high-performing individuals from achieving their true potential.

While Seth Godin makes some good points about boundaries in this post.


Mike Kujawski has his rescheduled armchair disuccussion on Government Blogging Best Practices on January 15th.

Also Doug Bastien has informed us that the CSPS he has created a Facebook group where users can join and receive regular invites to upcoming CSPS armchairs. Doug has been very active with his use of GCPEDIA (including maintaining stats). You can check out his user page here.

Social Media

1. 7 ways to get your next job via social media
2. The Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You in Return on Twitter
2. Twitter Squatters are the latest online threat


The Public Policy Forum (PPF) welcomed it's new President, David Mitchell.

Public works has put out a call for more office space in the city, Kanata is apparently the spot. There was a great discussion with an Urban planner about it on CBC radio one's Ottawa Morning this morning.