Blueprint 2020

Note: Blueprint 2020 is a Canadian government initiative inviting employees to share ideas about changing how we do things in government. This post was originally published on


It has been several months since the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, launched the Blueprint 2020 initiative. It is an opportunity for Public Servants across departments to work together to help shape the face of the workplace moving forward.

Many of us are following the conversation on-line, and participating in government wide conversations internally on GCConnex and externally on Twitter. The amount of information is, at some times, overwhelming. I’m not sure about everyone else but I’m having a bit of trouble keeping up with the sheer volume.

I’ve been around for awhile so I’ve been through a few of these “change” initiatives. But, in my opinion, this one feels different, in a good way. Maybe it’s the fact that we have easy access to information and each other through social media. Or maybe it’s the people involved. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

During the Clerk’s launch something that I never thought would happen did. An internal government event was the top trending topic on Twitter, many who I was watching the event with aren’t on Twitter and didn’t get how big of a deal this was. A Storify of the Twitter stream during the event was captured by Stéphane Tourangeau here: Building the Public Service of the Future Together

Departments have begun launching their own internal collaboration. On Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) launch day a government initiative once again became the top trending item on Twitter. A summary of CRA’s launch was captured by Danielle Donders here: CRA’s Blueprint 2020 Launch

I love the energy and the intent behind it all but don’t envy those tasked with sifting through all of the data to find the best ideas. Judging from everything I’ve seen thus far there are a lot of engaged Public Servants but there is so much information travelling back and forth it might be hard to pick out the nuggets among all the noise.

The good thing is that there is a lot of interest and employees are excited about making change. Senior management is genuinely interested and open to allowing employees to move these ideas forward. I see them sharing information and engaging with employees everyday on-line.

But on the other hand I’m a bit nervous of where all of this will lead us, will the surplus of information just be ignored or will we find a way to tap into it and take advantage of the potential that all these ideas hold. Time will tell, but I’m optimistic that positive change will occur and that we’ll build a stronger more cohesive public service moving forward.

What do you think?

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Mark Hammer

I have absolutely no doubts about the sincerity behind it, but I have my doubts as to whether anything will come of it. For a number of reasons:

1) As you rightly point out, when you ask everybody for their opinion, it takes one helluva long time to sift through them, and considerable wisdom to prioritize them. (I did my part to help out by not offering any opinion.)

2) I suspect a great many who did offer opinions were likely thinking in terms of what cheeses them off within their own job and their own organization. That’s not unimportant, but wasn’t the purpose of the exercise.

3) Folks in the NCR don’t understand folks in the regions, and vice versa. I find initiatives like this one tend to be more than a little Ottawa-centric, simply because the upper management cadre is mostly here/there. That is likely to result in whatever comes out of it at the end to be a bit of a head-scratcher for a great many not working in the NCR.

4) The elephant-in-the-room factors that play a huge role in how the PS conducts itself and its business are things no one can really do very much about. Consider the insanity of what people do to not lapse at end of fiscal (i.e., not use up all of their annual budget in some acceptable/legal manner). Could we switch to, say, 3-year budgets instead of annual, or a more flexible approach to the envelopes provided? Not likely. Consider the “churn” in the upper levels and the effect that has on shifting priorities, and all those “new-guy-in-charge” effects. Could we insist that you can’t be an EX of any level unless you commmit to 8 years in that position? Nah. And so on. Consider the age demographics of the PS. The very VERY best of intentions isn’t enough to override all of that, such that we’re essentially frittering around at the edges. Those edges may well transform your job from a living hell to a sheer delight, but let’s not kid ourselves that we can engage in any sort of major transformation.

5) How quickly does technology and government priorities change? REALLY quickly. Just when you think you’ve come up with a reasonable approach to something, bingo-bango, it’s a different technological universe and everybody is doing and thinking differently. The web played no role in how government works in 1993, and Twitter played no role in 2006.

6) Realistically, how many more years do you see this Clerk lasting? And if Mr. Wouters retires within a year of all this opinion-solicitation being collated, or there is a change of government in 2015 and a new Clerk appointed, what is the likelihood that the exercise will go forward as planned? Who will champion it, and will their goals be the same?

It is a VERY big ship to turn around. If people want to dedicate themselves to revising specific business processes, either across government, or within their home department, I think that would be a better use of effort, good will, and resources. But attempting to somehow rethink how the PS works, at some abstract level, is unlikely to bear much fruit at all.

Rod Gallant

Thanks for the comments Mark. I do agree it is a huge undertaking, and the technology piece (social media) adds a new twist that hasn’t been in play before. So it’s easy to find out what is going on across the country fairly quickly. As you say, it’s not somthing that we can just flip a switch on and change overnight. My hope is that we’ll be able to make many smaller changes that, as a whole, will have a greater impact over time.