Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What has changed?

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

Yesterday morning was pretty mild, but there was a storm watch in effect and a couple colleagues had emailed to say they were working from home. They were the people I’d have meetings with at work, so I set up a videoconference with screen-sharing for later that morning and stayed home too.

That’s not rocket science. Skype came out in 2003, and the Government of Canada has had WebEx accounts since before I joined in 2009. But in 2009 I wouldn’t have had email on my mobile to coordinate the meeting, wouldn’t have had access to documents at home, and I might not have been a contender for a WebEx account. Plus, as recently as last year I had a manager who generally just preferred to have everyone make to the office if they could.

It’s a relatively minor thing. The worst case scenario would have been a teleconference, or a delayed start so that people could get to the office. But it’s something that is simply different, culturally and technologically. Looking back, it’s something that has noticeably changed about my public service day-to-day.

Change isn’t quick

Way back on April 13, 2013, I wrote my first post on, titled What You’re Giving Now? You Can Never Give less. The idea was that today is your baseline for how much you’re contributing to your work, and your contribution is just going to keep getting more important. But you’ll be up for it.

At that time, I had just gone through an exercise of jotting down everything I had learned in the last five years and was surprised at how lengthy the list was. Really surprised. Our experience, knowledge, and competence build almost imperceptibly day over day, like children age, and it’s only when it’s brought to our attention do we realize how much has changed. It’s the same for the public service. For example, we collectively just did this exercise for the history of online communities in the Government of Canada (hat tip to Ryan Androsoff). is about, well, public service renewal. How things keep changing. Sometimes, people talk about change or even make structural changes - and culture eats it for breakfast. Other times, without any particular guidance, things slowly shift and settle into a new equilibrium. Typically on this blog, I dissect those things that I think are changing too slowly. But if we started to list the changes, I think we'd surprise ourselves at how long the list would be.

What has changed?

My original plan was to pose the question purely rhetorically, but I'll add a more tangible option as well. I’ll invite you to add anonymous or attributed anecdotes in this What Has Changed doc, and I’d also welcome stories in the comments.

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