Destination 2020: If you build it, will they come?
On June 24, 2013, Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council, announced Blueprint 2020, a new effort to create a “…clear and shared vision of what Canada’s Public Service should be, now and in the future.” The initiative was well received, with a reported 110,000 federal public servants representing more than 85 departments and agencies participating in the engagement and feedback process.
Last week, Mr. Wouters released the final, 46 page report from these efforts under a new – and crowd-sourced – banner, Destination 2020.
Side note: I recommend downloading the version of the report – it is much more visually engaging and an easier read than the never-ending web page. Also, is anyone in else in the ‘National Capital Region’ aware that the University of Ottawa has been using Destination 2020 as the name of its strategic plan since October ’11?
5 Priority Areas for Action
The themes that emerged from this process are truly forward-looking and far-reaching, with a clear emphasis on the need for the Public Service to embrace new technologies and find new ways to collaborate and work together.
These core outcomes are sorted into five “Priority Areas for Action”:
1. Innovative Practices and Networking
There was a focus on finding better ways to share information and transfer knowledge. Obviously, this is crucial for public interaction, but with respect to operations within the Government, there is a glaring need to reduce hierarchy and break down inter-departmental and cross-government silos.
2. Processes and Empowerment
In what should be a surprise to no one, many public servants complained about rules and processes that are complex, top-down, siloed, incoherent, and lacking consistency. In the Destination 2020 report, employees at every level are empowered to deal with issues where they feel undue friction and red tape.
“Administrative rules and processes respond to the needs of the users—not the rule makers—to make it easier to get things done on time and in the right way.”
3. Modern Technology for a Modern Workplace
Public servants want the tools that they use at home to be made available in the workplace. The use of social media platforms, wireless networking, and desktop videoconferencing are just a few of the examples that allow people to be mobile, collaborative, and connected.
4. People Management
Petrified recruitment and staffing processes are one of the most common points of failure for managers in the Federal public service, and must be a high priority item as this initiative moves forward. In addition, public servants are requesting that more training and skill development opportunities be provided to help build a competent and flexible workforce that is able to adapt to an ever-shifting work landscape in the future.
5. Fundamentals of Public Service
Public servants are proud of their role in serving Canada and Canadians, and they want to be recognized for delivering non-partisan, high-quality service.
If you build it, people will come.
Field of Dreams – one of the most popular sports movies ever. And in the pivotal scene, James Earl Jones tells Kevin Costner, “Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” If you’ve seen it, you never forget that speech!
The quote has been used and misused so many times that it has become a shorthand punch line. But there is a lesson to be learned – people will come. They will come by the thousands, by the boatload, in flocks and in throngs.
But will they stay?
A Great Beginning
Destination 2020 is a great start. There are some real accomplishments described in that report. There are outstanding goals detailed. There is a palpable sense of hope and optimism for the future.
Missing is any real direction about how truly challenging this journey will be.
Business as Usual Is Over
Any initiative of this size and scope is going to require incredibly effective and persistent leadership. Telling employees and managers that they now have the authority to make changes is a nice first step, but talk is cheap. Effective leadership and demonstrable action must emerge from the highest levels of the public service. Change management must become a “core competency” for those EX’s at the top. If it doesn’t, all of those people who showed up for the big party – they are going to leave.
Are these EX’s really going to be willing to cut red tape, to approve changes to petrified processes, to take on the very real risk that some of these efforts will absolutely include failures? More important, are they going to be willing to push their people to continually attack these issues? Are they going to send the message, repeatedly and persistently, that the old, comfortable way of going about the business of government is over? Are they going to hold managers accountable? Because, let’s not forget, middle management is often the most reliable source for entrenched change resistance.
The Big Question
And the big question: how many EX’s are willing to attach at-risk pay to their personal capacity to drive culture change through their organization?
There are hints that these issues are recognized – page 36 is entirely devoted to Change Management – but overall it does not appear that the authors of this report appreciate the crucial place that strong leadership and effective change management practices will hold in the ultimate success of the initiative.
“Moving forward, we all need to commit to action and to take individual ownership for change in this next phase of our journey. Together, we’re all responsible for building a better Public Service We’ve brought engagement and dialogue across the Public Service to unprecedented levels and this will let us continue innovating for years to come. Full steam ahead, no looking back, and straight on to action!”
– Wayne Wouters
The NRC and Kotter's 8 Steps to Change
Everyone Hates Change: 12 Steps to Help Overcome the Fear and Doubt
Leading Change—Modelling Behaviours Is Crucial for Success
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