Culture shift: New report touts public service makeover

Destination 2020 priorities:

Innovative practices and networking: Along with an “innovation hub” and “change labs,” public servants will use social media and “Dragon’s Den”-style pitches to shape and promote new ideas.

Process and empowerment: A red-tape “tiger team” will be created to examine the snare of rules and processes that slow down operations, approvals and decision-making. Deputy ministers and their employees will connect better, for example using job-shadowing programs, reverse mentoring and Tweet Jams, moderated Twitter discussions.

Technology: An improved directory of federal public servants will include employee profiles and search functions.

People management: Job descriptions will be simplified, and new “learning tools” will help public servants keep their second-language skills up.

Fundamentals  of public service: This emphasizes the role of the public service as laid out in the code of values and ethics. New employees will get orientation training in these values.

Culture shift: New report touts public service makeover.

And some of the initial commentary:

Donald Savoie, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the University of Moncton, has sounded the alarm to reform the public service for a decade, particularly its fundamental role as policy adviser to government and clarifying its muddy relationship with ministers and Parliament.

“Until you deal with the role of ministers, the role of Parliament and their relationship with public servants … the vision will be only sentences in a report,” he said.

“Forgive me if I am being skeptical but I have been down this reform road too many times before and so have public servants … The report won’t go there. It would be groundbreaking if it does but I would be terribly surprised. And it’s not the clerk’s prerogative to do this, it’s the prime minister’s, and no prime minister has been prepared to do that. This is unchartered territory.”


“The clerk is trying to ensure the relevance of the public service at a time when many are questioning it,” said David Mitchell, president of the Public Policy Forum. ”He wants to strategically re-position it as the vital part of governance it traditionally played while recognizing social media, generational change and technology created a huge shift in the skills and competencies needed.”

Mitchell also believes the role of the public service has to be “refreshed” but to reflect the values of today rather than “turning back the clock to idealized version of the public service’s golden age.”

I tend to be somewhat cynical about these efforts, given the mixed results of previous efforts (and to my knowledge, no systematic evaluation has been done of the outcomes and results of previous initiatives, which in itself says a lot). And what will be the performance management framework and outcomes, and how will they be measured this time?

New plan for the PS of the future


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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