PS Renewal and Hierarchy

I have to say that the last month or so has seen a lot of interesting movement in the PS Renewal Movement. I’m particularly excited about a lot of them, because they move towards cultural change, rather than simply having a few projects scattered out. What I like about this change is that senior management is leading by example — the notable example being the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters.

So far, in the past few months, he was present at a #w2p mixer, collected feedback on “Renewing the Workplace” on GCPEDIA, launched his own website, and joined twitter. I think the big message with this is that PS Renewal isn’t like our typical program/policy/regulatory files — in this case, it’s okay to break down the hierarchy.

Hierarchy is a weird thing for me. As a teenager, I was involved in the Canadian Cadet Movement, which of course is based on a hierarchical system. In part because it taught discipline, in other ways because it was efficient with regard to information/taskings. In government, having a hierarchy, properly used, can allow everything to do their jobs better. Our senior managers are potentially managing thousands of files and have many competing priorities. To break down hierarchy entirely can reduce everyone’s ability to do their jobs effectively. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t share information and have it accessible to everyone, but for a number of reason I understand why hierarchy exists within the Government.

Renewal, though, is different. It can’t be summarized into a two page briefing note. As I mentioned before, it’s about starting the conversation. Want to know what new recruits are thinking? Talk to new recruits. Want to know what people want in their workplace? Ask them. That’s the approach the Clerk has been taking, and I’m anxious to see where it goes.

With the type of accessibility that he is offering, in many ways more accessible than many DMs, he’s showing his senior managers and the PS as a whole that access can be good and that renewal is one of the initiatives that where in many ways we should break down that hierarchy in favour of hearing what Public Servants think about renewal the Public Service (makes sense to me).

Not only does this approach, in my mind, bring better ideas to the front — it also makes us involved more directly in renewal efforts. So long as this is meaningful consultation, I’m all for it.

The Clerk’s awareness also encourages me to blog more. Whether or not he reads this, he’s at least aware of the medium and seems to be okay with public servants engaging with each other in the public sphere. Hopefully I’m correct in this assumption, which will lead to advice like this (given to Chelsea) handed out less often.

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One thought on “PS Renewal and Hierarchy

  1. Is is hierarchy of information or hierarchy of control for efficiency (being able to manage more files)? And who knows more in quantity and importance, the person at the bottom who works on the project every day and is touching it or the person at the top who talks to the other people at the top who make the decisions about which projects live and which wars we go to?

    I think that’s an interesting debate even in the military model. Should the people at the bottom really know how much trouble and how much potential there is in something or should they just know that they listen to one rung up and that’s it, that’s all? Can they do more good and/or harm if they know more or less?

    And, what does hierarchy have to do with whether or not you blog? Seems to me that the question of being judged by one’s public posts presents pros and cons no matter at what level you are at – now, of course, what the judgment impacts is different in different contexts. Since, of course, context is king.

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