I’ve been working on a number of posts over the last few weeks, and while many are still in development, one thing I’ve noticed about many of the initiatives within the PS tend to be things I’ve learned from blogs and twitter. Now, while this may be a good way to get information out to those who are looking/paying attention, we need to start getting people involved earlier. Getting new public servants on GCpedia, GCconnex, and more importantly, into the mindset that that is how government is going to function is a key part of a strategy to getting everyone on board.
Yet, unless your manager happens to be one of the plugged in people, you may never know about it, learn about it later on, or be sure how to contribute in a meaningful way. The PS is a big machine, and navigating your way around as a newbie can be a daunting experience. No matter what, you’ll also be at the mercy of your manager to a certain extent. Terrible managers are out there, as are fantastic managers, and depending on what one you happen to get, it will have an impact on your initial experience within the PS.
Tools like GCpedia and GCconnex only work if it becomes part of our culture to utilize them and share information early on. This issue becomes two fold: Technological and Cultural. In order for these (and other) initiatives to achieve greater success, both of these issues need to be addressed.
I admit upfront — I can identify a computer correctly 7/10 times. I’m not technologically inclined. I don’t understand coding, programming, etc. It needs to be simple for me to understand it. For me, then, the technological problem is that I need something simple.
GCpedia actually does a fairly decent job of making things easy, assuming one knows how to copy and paste. While I can’t do any fancy formatting, I can add to a page without screwing it up and might be able to start a new page.
As someone who works in policy, I’m not necessarily looking for the latest in technology. To do my job I only need two programs (word/power point or their equivalents) and the ability to do research. The latter is where GCpedia can really help out (and has on a few occasions), but I find that the search tool on GCpedia isn’t intuitive. It needs to be as simple as possible. Whether it’s through particular naming conventions, tagging, etc. (which of course, only work if everyone is playing by the same rules).
In order for the search tool to be effective, we also need information to be, well, shared. This leads us into the second, and perhaps more complex issue.
I worry when we talk about culture shifts, mostly because it tends to be used as an excuse. “A culture shift”, the argument goes, “doesn’t happen over night.” From what I can ascertain so far, it becomes an excuse to not push forward.
To me, a culture shift isn’t an event — it’s ongoing. Culture is constantly shifting. To say we shouldn’t push/do something because it requires a culture shift is entirely counterintuitive to the notion of a shift of culture. The shift is already happening, sometimes we just need to push just a bit more. Saying we’re going to do nothing, as it will require a “cultural shift” is walking away from the problem (or more often, walking away from the solution).
In the context of GCpedia, we need to try to engage all levels, but let’s start to engage the newbies. I’ve talked to countless colleagues who, in their first year or so in the PS, profess to being bored and not given anything to do. Let’s use these people. The question is: How do we get them on GCpedia?
A few months ago, I attended the Orientation to the Public Service. A mandatory one-day course, run by the Canada School of Public Service. While an interesting course, I think it could’ve been enhanced by the inclusion of such things like GCpedia and GCconnex. An explanation of what everyone’s role is in contributing could be key to getting people on board. Especially if some of these new public servants of spare time, why not hope that they take the time to write about what their group is doing?
The follow-up here is that managers need to be comfortable sharing information not only within their department, but between departments as well. There need to be people who are dedicated to keeping this information up to date. While we have volunteers right now who do this, it doesn’t seem to be institutionalized yet. Let’s capitalize on those new to the PS.
I think there is often an attempt to separate the cultural and technological issues (I know I someone else mentioned this idea to me, but can’t remember who — many thanks to you, anonymous friend), and we need to deal with both. While trying to get senior management is necessary, it is not sufficient for these tools become central to the way we do business. For these tools to become central, we must address both sets of issues and get those who are new on board as well.