This is part 1 of a 3-part series.
A year and a half ago I posted “GoC Web 2.0 wish list
“. The responses from the post were awesome, especially responses I received in person. Although I’m reluctant to look at that list again, fearing many of the wishes hadn’t come true, I think it’s still a very relevant post. I’m happy that some of the items did come true (DFAIT
is on Twitter!), others half-true (Privy Council Office is starting to come around on Web 2.0
), while others remain still a wish (Natural Resources Canada lost
their pioneering collaborating Deputy Minister Cassie Doyle and the Canada School of Public Service still doesn’t offer Web 2.0 courses).
Part 1: Departments at the center
#1: Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS): make a choice: either Control OR Measure.
As the Government of Canada’s program reviewer and accountability guard of government departments, it plays both roles as coach and judge. If departments are playing hockey, TBS sets the rules and policies on the very ice that they themselves created (through the Management Accountability Frameworks). But the world of public administration is a complex one, and the game continually changes. While TBS can change the rules and adjust the boundaries, they’re also keeping track of the score. Unfortunately they are left with narrower options to both pull departments into compliance and push them into accountability. The usual options are rejecting proposals, reducing options, lowering budgets and limiting discretionary decision-making authority, evident with TBS’ attempts to both control and measure Web 2.0/Social media adoption by departments.
Government departments face tough choices to make on Web 2.0: adopt it and face consequences, or [continue] to wait for policies (and blessings) from TBS, all the while facing ever-increasing criticisms from the cynical populace and hits from TBS on program implementation. TBS both controls and measures departments, and departments either push the barriers, abide and wait, or take risks, venture forth and face the consequences.This pattern risks repeating itself with the next wave of change facing the public service.
What’s the solution? For TBS to make a strategic choice, between control or measurement of departments.
If the choice is to control, then they need to walk quietly but carry a big stick, as the long administrative arm of the Privy Council Office. Penalise non-compliance, reward compliance. Departments didn’t understand the rules? Ask for clarification. Unsure? Ask for clarification. Can’t comply? Ask for permission. Don’t comply? Program is under review next year. Not much different.
If the choice is measure (a better choice, in my opinion), then promote understanding of the policies, promote departments to organically organise to discuss policies, adopt those that are common among the departments, and always encourage collaboration among the departments. Understand that measurement is not a means of control, but a verification of the effectiveness of the policy (under the agreeable presumption that the department seeks to abide by the policies- a much larger discussion). Beyond that, the sky’s the limit, and departments can aspire to do what they can to achieve their mandate for the benefit of the government as a whole and for the Canadian citizens they serve.
Another benefit includes line departments directors in being less stressed when they get a call from TBS.