Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Hindsight: There Is No Renewal in the Idea of “PS Renewal”

"Culture is the shadow of the leader."
- George Ambler

The provocative title of the paper combined with the defiant title of this section earned me a number of labels: "maverick", "wild card", "rogue public servant", "loose cannon", "troublemaker", "sh**disturber", etc. But underneath the slightly in your face style of the paper lied some valid messages on the importance of people management, as well as a few requests for clarifications to the senior leaders championing PS Renewal. To my delight, most of my requests ended up being answered.

The senior leaders I had a chance to discuss the paper with acknowledged that PS Renewal, in its current version, was not a "be-all and end-all". The four priorities identified in the public service-wide action plan were chosen somewhat arbitrarily; they were not perfect and didn't encompass all the important issues, however they made sense and were a good starting point to force Deputy Heads implement some important changes in their Departments and Agencies. As it has now been explained, Deputy Heads are not limited to these four priorities; in fact they retain the flexibility to go beyond the four priorities. Hopefully, they will give "people management" the consideration it deserves.

While I was initially skeptic about the future success of PS Renewal, most of the concerns I had at the time have now been addressed. The Clerk has shown his commitment to PS Renewal by articulating his vision to a number of different audiences (i.e. at the Townhall in Vancouver, at the Managers' Community Forum, at the APEX Symposium, etc.). Other senior leaders have been following in his footsteps, therefore demonstrating that the "vision" doesn't lie in the hands of a single individual. In addition a number of valuable initiatives are providing feedback mechanisms for public servants to respond to PS Renewal and share what's on their mind. The Future Leaders Forum is one such example. The last Managers' Community Forum in Vancouver also provided an opportunity for managers from across the country to speak up their minds. If we continue in that direction, I think PS Renewal may just deliver on its promises.

At this point, I think the biggest challenges for PS Renewal will be the following:
  1. Keep the vision strong. By that I mean: we must never lose sight of the "why's" behind PS Renewal: Why is renewal essential for the public service? Why is it not "optional"? What are the problems we need to solve? What will be the consequence of not resolving those problems?
  2. Find senior leaders in all departments & agencies AND in every region across the country who understand the PS Renewal vision clearly enough to be able to champion it as if was their own and who can adapt it to the reality of their respective organization and/or region.
  3. Recognize that this must be a long-term effort and keep the solutions and initiatives coordinated around a critical core. We must not fall in the trap of trying to do it all, i.e. launching a whole array of fragmented solutions and other "quick-fixes" that won't be sustained beyond the short-term.
Personally, I would like to see a 5 years plan centered around the idea that people management matters, and see it reflected in national, regional and departmental PS Renewal initiatives. But that's just the opinion of a "maverick"... ;-)

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