Is Change a Good Thing?

Change seems to be everywhere in Canada’s federal public service lately. Everything from performance managementdisability managementsick leave, pensions, and more are under the microscope. An entire national conversation (Blueprint 2020) circles around innovation and change. For some public servants, recent changes were sudden, intense, and life-altering. For the rest of us we feel like pieces on a massive board game – sometimes two squares forward, other times down the slide back where we started.

I love making big positive changes – this is the very definition of innovation. Are all these changes, all at once, a good idea? Can’t we just try to do good work and stop trying to innovate all the time? After all, our institution was built over many decades and has been emulated the world over.

One of the hallmarks of Canada’s public service is that it is comprised of ‘career bureaucrats’, professionals who continue to serve the public regardless of what political party is in charge. Fearless advice and loyal implementation, so the slogan goes. We provide good advice on policy choices, and once decisions are made we implement political decisions as best as we can.

Will the recent shifts drive out experienced leaders or give them cause to stick around and build legacies? Will new hires become terrified of the lack of stability and leave for greener pastures?  Is it possible for the multiple cultures to mesh, adapt, and foster a truly whole-of-government approach?

One thing I have come to rely upon, despite all the changes, is that Canada’s public servants are truly exceptional people. The media often portrays us as lazy slobs, but the reality is that we work as hard as any private-sector employee. For many of us, we work even harder in an effort to prove our worth to our families, our friends, and other fellow taxpayers. Yes, we get paid from your tax dollars, but we try to give back as much value as possible for those dollars. And what’s often forgotten is that every one of us pays taxes too!

What changes have taken place in your workplace in the past few years? Were they improvements or have they made it harder to do great work?


George Wenzel George Wenzel is a journeyman public servant. He’s worked in both legal and information technology roles, but his passion is leadership and management. He’s currently finishing a two-year secondment to the National Managers’ Community as the Alberta Regional Coordinator. You can find him online at http://about.me/georgewenzel and on Twitter @georgewenzel. He also blogs regularly on #GovLife: http://www.govlife.ca.

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