Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thoughts on the 8th Report from the Advisory Panel on the Public Service

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

Last week the 8th Report to the Prime Minister from the Advisory Panel on the Public Service dropped. Each year, this document provides an independent assessment of the state of the Public Service, outlines recommendations, and feeds into the Clerk of the Privy Council’s report to the PM that follows shortly thereafter.

The report begins by outlining the burning platform:

Our… premise is that the world in which the Public Service is operating has changed significantly over the last 10 to 15 years:
  • There is greater demand for transparency and accountability in the workings of government. There are more critics, more rules and greater scrutiny of almost everything done by public servants.
  • The relationship with parliamentarians has become much more challenging for the Public Service. Interaction is more frequent, covers a wider range of issues, and has become more intense.
  • Demographic shifts in society and in the Public Service present both new challenges (e.g. an aging workforce) and new opportunities to renew this national institution to ensure it is fully representative of the population it serves.
  • Globalization has changed the way the Public Service is doing business – most issues have become internationalized.
  • The Government of Canada faces an increasingly tight labour market where there is significant competition for skilled people.
  • Ever-changing technologies continue to transform the public service workplace, bringing a demand for new skills and new approaches to problems.
  • To put it simply, the world of program delivery and policy development has become increasingly complex, for all the reasons noted above.
We believe the overriding imperative for the Public Service today is to adapt to challenging new circumstances and to respond in innovative ways to the evolving needs of Canadians.

Perhaps the bullet on globalization gave it away - that was actually from the 1st Report of the Panel, back in 2007, but largely rings true today. But I think it's important to contextualize the rate of change, and the one thing that hasn't changed is the imperative for renewal:

2008, 2nd report: “The world in which the federal Public Service operates has become more complex and in many ways more unpredictable over the last 15 years”

2010, 4th report: “We believe we are now seeing tangible results of the concerted efforts to renew the Public Service. First launched in 2006, public service renewal continues to be the top management priority led by the Clerk of the Privy Council.”

2011, 5th report: “We believe there is an opportunity today for the Public Service to transform its business model and its approach to service delivery.”

2012, 6th report: “We are conscious that the Public Service is on the verge of significant changes, driven in part by the immediate requirements of deficit reduction, but also by a more fundamental need to renew public institutions for the future.”

The 2011 and 2012 reports shared a theme of investing in long-term thinking and long-term capacity. From 2011:

It must be recognized that one of the Public Service’s most important functions is maintaining a capacity for strategic thinking and policy advice. To this end, the Public Service should:
  • Continue to invest in the sustained examination of issues beyond the current agenda and in developing people with the skills to do this kind of work; 
  • Engage other sectors and other jurisdictions on a continuing basis to understand emerging trends in the domestic and global environment; and 
  • Pay particular attention to the emergence of new ways of adding value, as well as changes in how knowledge is transmitted in the global economy.

2013, 7th report: “In looking back on the past year, we find Canada’s Public Service at an important juncture.”

Which leads us to today.

2014, 8th report: “Canada’s Public Service is on a path of significant change and renewal.”

The theme is Contributing to a Competitive Canada, based on the idea that an effective Public Service can be a competitive advantage for nations. Throughout my first read through, I found myself thinking that this report was more generalized and less bold than that of 2013, the recommendations from which impressed me:

  1. Modernizing the employment model is the key challenge facing the Public Service today.
  2. It calls for sustained attention and a sense of urgency.
  3. Engagement is the key to employee commitment. If public servants can see where their institution is headed, they will be keen to get there.

However, I started to find passages that stuck out: bold, insightful, and counter to the standard dialogue.

The Limits of Efficiency

The Panel cautions against excessive cost focus, and reminds of the necessity for a reasonable level of investment in the Public Service. Which is crucial, especially given the terrible application of the logic of industrial efficiency to an organization increasingly composed of knowledge workers. Interestingly, the seemingly rare assessment that there are limits to "efficiencies" was coupled with a statement that usually accompanies the "we can do more for less" approach: “fiscal pressures can only be met through a deeper rethinking of how work is done inside government.” 

A Return to Service

“Canadians want fast, seamless and e-enabled services from government. The Public Service should redouble its efforts to meet this expectation.”

These two sentences slide by quickly, but carry a lot of weight. Nick recently hit on the service imperative (see: Is Innovation in Service Delivery a Blind Spot in Canada?), as did a Deputy Minister speaking about the need for a return to a focus on service last fall at GTEC. Or, this line from the Canada Digital 150 Strategy:

We will create a new log-in approach to government services that leverages industry investment to provide a client-centric and secure online authentication solution at a significantly reduced cost to taxpayers and in a manner that respects privacy.

Canada can’t quite take the Big Data route for personalizing citizen services (see: What Government Can Learn From Amazon)  due to legal and policy issues. So that line, above - referring to a federated digital identity for citizens - could be the game-changer for digital services.

Especially when coupled with the same strategy's plan to expand high-speed internet availability to 98% of Canadians. That said, the interesting question for me is how well we maintain other channels as we increasingly enable digital interactions (I have a point, here - but it’s for later post).

Back to the 8th Report: “Yet we have only begun to explore in this country the implications of the information revolution for Canada’s Public Service.” The panel included this under the heading Facing up to the information age, and I’d agree with their sentiment (see: We Don't Make Widgets Anymore or People Act, Technology Helps). But I’ll leave that one for now, and I’m curious as to whether it caught Nick’s eye.

Middle Management

“What is [the role of middle managers] in a 21st century Public Service?”

Okay, now we're getting pretty bold. 

“Do they have the right training, orientation, experience, skills and span of control? Is organizational design too cumbersome? Are there too many management levels?”

The answers to these questions may shock us. Or they may not. But we’re long past due in asking them.

The Panel continues: “[middle managers] must be… given operational responsibility, held accountable for results, and recognized accordingly.” I couldn’t agree more. I'd even go so far as to say that the the other recommendations of the Panel - and the potential of Blueprint 2020, for that matter - largely hinge on how seriously we take questions like these.

Investing in Learning, Leadership, and Longer-term Thinking

The Panel emphasized the importance of investments in learning - again, the recognition that pursuing cost efficiencies and short-term demands is, well, a short-term approach. Interestingly, in two separate passages about learning, the report segues to the imperative for leveraging the knowledge outside of the Public Service - an idea that also appeared in 2011. The panel also highlights the need to learn from each other, and to facilitate interchange with the private sector. This returns to the 2013 call to reform the employment model, and may be a harbinger of a Public Service whose organizational boundaries are much more permeable than before.

Regardless, an emphasis on continuous learning is the only reasonable approach, if the 7-year arc of these reports is a guide: change, change, change, and after that, more change

Or, as the Panel put it:

“Change on the scale being undertaken today is not a short-term deliverable. Take the time to do it right.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pilot Projects and Problems

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

Earlier this month the Director of the MaRS Solutions Lab, Joeri van den Steenhoven, spoke in Ottawa about Systems Change. The Systems Change idea is that to solve Canada’s complex problems, we not only have to create new solutions but alter the systems in which we develop and implement solutions in the first place. 

There was much to dig into from Steenhoven’s talk, but for today I want to point to a statement he made about pilot projects. His idea was that while we dutifully test out ideas -  we being social entrepreneurs, businesses, municipalities, provinces, or the federal government - we rarely maximize or scale what we learn through those pilots.

I’m sure we could make a long list of why that is, but I've had three factors in mind lately: the We’re Special syndrome, False Negatives, and False Positives.

We’re Special

Here, organizations neglect to look for, or take advantage of, the lessons of previous pilot projects or programs on the basis that their environment, organization, or challenge is fundamentally different. Or because they mistakenly believe that they’re the first to work in a particular problem space (hat tip).

Every organization is unique, yes, so other organizations’ lessons learned may only provide a rough guide, or principles and parameters, for a pilot project. But very few organizations are downright special. Exceptionally talented people are prone to error and bias, and few solutions are entirely novel (“All art is either plagiarism or revolution.” - Paul Gauguin). So those principles and parameters are invaluable starting points.

False Negatives

Any pilot that is launched without the requisite resources, time horizon, provisions for adjustment, or level of understanding will almost certainly get chalked up as a failure. A pilot project will likely be a pretty rough draft of the hypothetical full-scale program; pilots are new to the team executing them, exempt from economies of scale, and have fewer collaborators who can spread continuous improvements.

So, that game-changing idea that needs buy-in? It’s going to get approved or rejected based on the single worst version of it that anyone ever sees. Here is where a genuine understanding must support metrics, especially when it may be difficult to set them meaningfully. What of the experiment was meaningful, and what wasn’t? Were shortcomings because of the concept? Or the design, resourcing, or execution?

False Positives

Occasionally pilot projects fail to lead to meaningful organizational learning because of false positives. As with false negatives, it’s hard to set metrics for a project that has never been done and is not well understood. So, one of the easy mental baselines is zero: that is, before the pilot, nothing happened; during the pilot, something happened. Ergo, it was a success.

The real standard should be what would have been possible had the pilot project been done very well, and establishing that standard is only possible by employing the defence mechanisms against problems #1 and #2, above: establishing parameters by understanding comparable projects done elsewhere, and building as complete of an understanding of the environment as possible.

The false positive problem leaves ideas in a dangerous middle ground, with just enough success to avoid adjusting the approach, never revealing the true potential.

Processes, not Projects

Last year Tariq Piracha wrote about thinking about change systemically (see: Change is a Process, not a Pilot). He suggested getting away from the traditional pilot project model for approaching change within organizations. Which is the core of van den Steenhoven’s talk: if our current system for testing concepts is flawed, how do we create a better system in the first place?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Is Innovation in Service Delivery a Blind Spot in Canada?

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

I strongly recommend you read the transcript of Francis Maude's* Oakeshott Memorial Lecture on employee ownership and the future of public services. It was about as balanced a view one could take on civil service reform that I've come across in a long time and puts the public sector reform and innovation rhetoric here in Canada into perspective. Here are a few of my key takeaways:

It may be easy to look across the pond with envy but whenever I read anything out of the UK I am reminded of how everyone here in Canada is so deeply entrenched and wedded to rhetoric that principled discussions seem anathema (See: When did the Public Service Become an Ignoble Profession). If you would permit me my rose coloured glasses for another moment I'd like to take the opportunity to reiterate the 5 principles of UK public service reform (from Maude's speech):
  1. openness; 
  2. digital by default;
  3. a permissive public service culture;
  4. tight control from the centre over common activities; and
  5. loose control over operations at the periphery
Contrast those with the realities on the ground in this country and you'd likely only find one point where they intersect; I guess I misplaced my glasses.

More importantly, I am astonished that there has been a movement afoot in the UK that has steadily built momentum and has gone otherwise unnoticed in Canada: Public Sector Mutuals. I'll be honest in that Maude's speech is the first I've heard of them. I even asked around and have yet to find someone who is familiar with the model enough to speak to it.

At first brush the very notion of Public Sector Mutuals is fascinating. In essence mutuals seem to grant license to entrepreneurial civil servants to spin out of their current organizations if they think (and can demonstrate) that they can deliver a public service more effectively from outside the civil service than from within it. Mutuals can take a number of forms ranging from social enterprises to for-profit organizations. There is dedicated Mutuals Information Service in the Cabinet Office that provides tailored information suited to the needs of staff (who would want to spin out), commissioners (senior officers who would need to lead the spin out) and suppliers (who could support the spin out). There is also a myriad of decision trees, toolkits, and other supports (including a dedicated £10M development fund). In short not only are they providing the opportunity to spin out, they are providing all the requisite support to do so. It shouldn't be a surprise that the UK has seen the number of mutuals increase tenfold in the last 4 years. There are nearly 100 mutuals in the UK that employ over 35,000 people and deliver £1.5 billion in services all across Britain.

Not to mention, according to Maude, the results are spectacular:
Waste and costs down. Staff satisfaction up. Absenteeism - a key test or morale and productivity – is falling and falling sharply. Business growing.
Staff engagement surveys bear out the simple truth that service improves and productivity rises when the staff have a stake; when they feel they belong; and that their individual voice and actions count.
Our latest data shows that after an organisation spins out as a mutual absenteeism falls by 20%; staff turnover falls by 16%. Take City Healthcare Partnership based in Hull as an example. 91% of staff said they now feel trusted to do their jobs – and this level of empowerment has had a knock-on effect in the quality of care they give. Since they left the NHS in 2010, there has been a 14% increase in patients who’ve rated their care and support as excellent, and 92% say they would recommend the service to family and friends.
Maude goes on to hammer home the connection between autonomy, employee satisfaction and innovation:
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with better financial reward for public servants. But it’s not the biggest driver of better productivity. It’s the satisfaction people get from putting their ideas into action, and seeing swift results. It’s the sense of pride that it’s their organisation that is delivering the service. That they can make improvements quickly, taking responsibility for making things happen, without new ideas getting bogged down in bureaucratic treacle. Just looking at the Baxendale Awards for Employee Owned Businesses this year, you can see the spinouts dominating the innovation category. So in a mutual, public servants can give effect to their public service ethos with immediate and gratifying speed.
Whenever I visit a mutual – which I do a lot, it’s a drug, it’s addictive - I always ask the same question of staff: “Would you go back to work for the council/health authority/ministry?”
The answer is always “No”. “Why not?” “Because in a mutual we can do things”.
That’s the essence of it. People can see how things can be done better and do it. They can give effect and take responsibility and pride for making things happen. People typically say they are working harder than they were but they are enjoying it more, it’s more rewarding, more fulfilling. That’s why I think the public service mutual is the way of the future.
All of which raises the inevitable question: is innovation in service delivery a blind spot in Canada?

Other related thoughts

While the statement above is my formal conclusion, I have a number of unfinished thoughts on this that merit inclusion:

  • Sure, we've turned our attention to policy innovation but if you think about it critically you realize that we've done so to the back drop of losing the monopoly on providing that advice. That makes me skeptical of both our motivation and resolve. Are we interested in innovation or self-preservation? Have we adopted the behaviours or just the nomenclature?
  • What do we mean by policy? Do we mean big 'P' Policy in the nation-building and/or public governance sense? Do we mean little 'p' policy in the tweaking the status quo sense? Or do we take policy to simply be a proxy for influence?
  • It is commonly known that policy positions in government are regarded as the natural feeder groups for the executive ranks. What effect is this having on everything I've outlined above? Is it a contributing factor? If so, how can it be mitigated?
  • I'm sure there are examples of innovation in service delivery in Canada  I recall reading numerous case studies about how Service Canada was well ahead of the curve when it was created, and it has been widely replicated since. I am sure there are others.
  • Mutuals jive really well with the ideas of autonomy, mastery and purpose put forward by Dan Pink and also likely relate to the series of posts on faceless bureaucrats.

*If you aren't familiar with Maude, he is the UK Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General and is generally the Minister in charge of all things civil service for the UK government. We don't have a strict equivalent in Canada choosing instead to divide up similar responsibilities (e.g. public sector reform, industrial relations strategy in the public sector, government transparency, civil service issues, etc) between the the Clerk of the Privy Council (unelected) and the President of the Treasury Board (elected).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Firsthand Lesson in Participation

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

The public service has recently been experimenting with many exercises intended to engage employees and stakeholders, which have led to many questions and discussions about what drives people to participation.

I recently wrote on our internal platform, GCconnex, that the absence of technical barriers isn't sufficient - there may still be significant informational, social, and cultural barriers. That is, even if people can theoretically find and contribute to an exercise, doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily know about it, believe that it’s intended for them, or see their role in it.

Lessons in Participation

There’s an amazing body of knowledge on why people participate*, and I won’t scratch the surface today. But I’d like to share a lesson I experienced firsthand.

I run a summer side project called Musical Underground Ottawa, setting up in public spaces around the city with a guitar and inviting people to play a song. We capture the results, and anyone that plays is entered in a raffle for said guitar.

Here’s what I thought would matter: I figured that the free guitar would give people either incentive or social justification to play. Something along the lines of “I don’t know if I should be on Youtube, but whatever, free guitar.”

Here’s what actually mattered: Looking people in the eyes and asking them. We had a 5” by 4” sign that read “Free Guitar in Exchange for Songs”. All the information was there, but very few people volunteered. We learned on day one that we had to ask passers-by if they played guitar, and if they’d be willing to play a song for us. It was actually amazing how much that changed the dynamic.

It says to people that their contribution is valued, without them having to decide that for themselves and impose their decision on others.

The Principle Stands

In retrospect, what we learned for Musical Underground Ottawa starts to sound similar to behavioural economics (see: How Nudges Work for Government), and Cass Sunstein's work on setting defaults and making the desired choice the easy one for people to make.

If you want engagement, consider how to absolve people of the duty to singlehandedly determine that they have a contribution to make, and impose that decision on others. Instead, make it your responsibility to demonstrate that their contribution is valuable.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Impossible Conversations: Review of Mark Blyth's Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

John Kenney wrote to me this morning, having read these reviews, saying that in retrospect it seems strange that our discussion barely lead back to our day-to-day reality in public service. In retrospect, I agree. It seems that there would have been a really interesting discussion about the role of institutions in massive policy debates like this, but Blyth kept it high-level, and so did we. The question John and I hit on that may be ripe for future exploration, though, is the impact of austerity on public administration. And it's a question that came up during another book club as well: is it pressure or slack that enables innovation? At the austerity scale of policy, it may be that budget pressures ensure effective controls on spending, which may work well for a largely transactional government. But if the move to a relational state and cross-sectoral collaboration is the future, that lever could have the opposite effect. But that's a question for a future book club - perhaps for when we read The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths.

When we first sat down to discuss the book I admitted I hated it. By the end of our discussion I gave it a 7 out of 10 stars. The sheer act of discussing the book stirred a couple of lessons from its dog eared pages that I had forgotten. The most important of which was never give up your printing press, the upside of fiscal unions will never outweigh the flexibility of being in control of your own currency. If you are interested in the nuts and bolts of the idea and application of austerity this book is a tough slog, but ultimately worth the read.

Like many others, I found this book a tough go - it accomplishes what it sets out to do and provides a wide-ranging history of austerity measures across the globe, showing how the idea is politically motivated but not economically viable. Unfortunately, the book doesn't delve into Canada as an example in any way - I expected to see some discussion of Paul Martin and the 1990s cuts to appear, but they did not. Also challenging was the lack of a suggested alternative. The book made clear that austerity measures don’t work to build up an economy, particularly if multiple countries are pursuing the same strategy at the same time. It did not make any compelling arguments for an alternative economic strategy.

Austerity wasn’t what I was expecting, but as an Economics student it was a useful walk back through the history of economic schools of thought, and provided more level-headed insight than any short-form article could. From a public administration perspective, it illuminated the difficulty in regulating and governing incredibly complex systems. And the exploration of how ill-suited risk models are to rare/high-impact events was fascinating to me - I actually thought this book contained the best explanation of the Black Swan idea I’ve read.

From a book club perspective? Probably the least animated discussion we've had, as it was much harder to connect to our day-to-day experiences. I’m looking forward to another Ethics of Dissent raucous debate.

What I liked about the book:

  • Exactly what the title and tagline suggest: a history review of recent economic theory and application.
  • The author looked for an easier way to communicate some fundamentally complex economic theories, and stayed away from the use of jargon.
  • There were several moments of wit and humour that lightened the read for me.
  • The author didn't shy away from dispelling some of the widely-held notions about the originality or importance of some earlier economic theories (Smith and Schumpeter in particular).
  • I really liked the easy breakdown of the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008. I think that chapter could be extremely easy to read and understand by anyone without an economics background to answer the “why” of the recent financial problems that took place specifically in the U.S. and some parts of Europe.
  • I enjoy the personal tone and anecdotes the author shared in the book. It made the read a lot more interesting given the dry subject matter.

What I disliked about the book:

  • It heightened the promise of some vast explanation of what we could do that would replace the practice of defaulting to austerity when budgets are in deficit. The book provided one line, in the last two pages, about the proposed way to deal with deficits. The way the book was written made me think there was going to be a counter-theory or at least practical next steps. Even though it did deliver on the “history” part, I still think the author had more to say but refrained from doing so.
  • The book didn't take into account more examples of different economic structures (China, Latin America, Former Soviet Union), which could’ve been interesting as a comparison against the Western method of dealing with deficits.

Overall, I found the book rather easy to read, especially the parts with historic references and arguments about the validity of theories. I did give the book a 6/10, mainly because I felt like the author could have really gone one extra chapter and provided current workable ideas on how to deal with the deficit. I’m not asking for solutions, but I wanted to see easy counter-arguments to austerity that could be tested or at least discussed. 

Disclaimer: I have a small background in economics, and this book was by far one of the easiest reads on the topic I've come across. 


The book will be more useful to some readers than others. Those who have little or no economics background will find the content easy to follow and informative; those who took econ in university may not find much new material. There is some content that should be on the ‘must know’ list of public servants who work in policy (note: I say ‘must know’ and not ‘must enjoy reading’) - namely the earlier chapters explaining what exactly happened leading up to and during the financial crisis and how the US and the EU differed. 

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book but found it unbalanced. Most of the content was devoted to explaining the pitfalls of austerity, and almost no time was given to presenting a workable alternative. Until the author presents (in depth) a policy alternative proven to work better, he will fail to convince policymakers not to go the austerity route.

Blyth dives deep into the economic and political origins of austerity as an idea, explores a number of economic booms and busts over time, and resurfaces with a cogent case of a policy often executed based on philosophical leanings and selective readings rather than its actual effectiveness to stimulate economic growth.
Like George, I was left wondering how Blyth would view the Canadian case in the 1990s. Was it an example of prudent restraint in the name of sound fiscal management or dangerous austerity of dubious effect? 

Economic liberalism’s age-old preoccupation with what Blyth refers to as the “can’t live with it, can’t live without it, don’t want to pay for it” problem of the state persists. Where we land in that debate will very likely shape our outlook on open government and the entrepreneurial state.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Impatience is a Virtue

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

Last July Nick and I spoke at Next Gen Gov about storytelling for professional impact. One of the examples we pointed to was Jon Stegnar’s glove shrine, as told in Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch.

Here’s the long story short: Stegnar worked for a large manufacturer, and noticed an opportunity for huge savings by overhauling their purchasing process. To convince his executives of the need, Stegnar sought out a tangible example, emblematic of the wider process, in how they bought gloves for workers. Different factories were paying different prices for the same thing, in one case buying $5 gloves for $17. So he piled all of the 424 different pairs of gloves the manufacturer was buying on a boardroom table, price tags attached, and invited his executives to visit. Eyes opened, and he was given a mandate for change.

We told the story as an example of the importance of storytelling: knowing your audience and what matters to them, and provoking a memorable reaction - we contrasted the approach to our standard fare of spreadsheets and briefing notes. But I always felt that Stegnar’s glove shrine story was bigger than a lesson in persuasion.

The Bigger Picture

To me, it’s a story about caring deeply about results, and being willing to stick your neck out to see things done right. Stegnar could have written a briefing note, attached a spreadsheet, and sent it on its way. Dusted off his hands and thought, “I did my job.” He didn’t.

Some open data advocates, supported by Code for America, collaborated on a book called Beyond Transparency (Hard copy, or free (and editable) Github version). It’s a collection of reflections, case studies, and future directions for open data and civic innovation. But reading the case studies, the common thread has been that the people driving open data projects were very, very serious about achieving meaningful results in an area new to many people, and they were willing to break parameters to do it (see: When Parameters are the Problem).

One of the contributors, Mark Headd, wrote a blog post about his time as Philadelphia's Chief Data Officer, in hopes that his lessons learned would be “of value to anyone interested in starting an open data program.”

You should read it. In my view, it’s actually a blog post about public service and dedication to results.

The Public Service Paradox

I use my favourites in Twitter as a temporary bookmark system, to shunt links to my evenings to read. But there are a scant handful that I refuse to get rid of:

This is our paradox as public servants: we have to be, simultaneously, incredibly impatient and patient about making progress. And at the same time, we have to look at the many, many people working towards making Canada a better country - trusting colleagues, stakeholders, and citizens to succeed - and still think, “This place needs me to go big.”