Tagged: innovation

Lessons from the Field: Intrapreneurship in Action series

In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Dylan Sherlock, Policy Analyst for the Natural Resource Sector Transformation Secretariat. I have had the great pleasure of working with Dylan to establish our intrapreneurship network in the BC Public Service.

Dylan beautifully exemplifies the mindset of the next generation of public servant. He is a talented policy analyst, masterful collaborator, clever strategist, and respected community change agent. Dylan demonstrates what audacious and promising leadership looks like in the up and coming ranks of the BC public service.

Here is a snapshot of Dylan’s experience and accomplishments:

Dylan SherlockDylan Sherlock is a Policy Analyst in the BC Natural Resource Sector Transformation Secretariat where he provides cross-sector strategic policy advice to support the BC government’s Natural Resources Permitting Project. Previously, he entered government through contract and auxiliary position work in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Dylan holds an Honours B.A. in Pacific and Asian Studies from the University of Victoria and is working on completing his final project of the Masters of Public Administration program at the University of Victoria. Before joining government, Dylan worked in the not-for-profit sector, where he maintains strong ties, including volunteering as the Treasurer of the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria.

I asked Dylan what brought him into the public service and here is his story…

“I lived in China for two years during my undergraduate degree, learning Mandarin and at the very end of my time in China, I was interning in Beijing with an international environmental NGO that aims to foster environmental values with university students who were being groomed for positions in the public service of the Chinese state. It was particularly interesting, because I was meeting (hopefully) a future generation of leaders who were determined to confront the serious environmental challenges that China and the world faces.

Getting a window into the challenges of another country, especially China, was an incredible experience for someone of my age. I had a powerful realization that I was deeply engaged with people doing inspiring work but I still felt like an outsider. I realized that I didn’t want to just be an observer or academic studying change; I wanted to be hands-on making change happen.

I knew that if I wanted to have real impact, I would have to go back to my own country. This commitment to focus on change within my own community was life-altering. I left China and shifted my studies to public administration. I also became involved in student politics and became the Director of Finance of the student union, which gave me a taste of responsibility in a medium-sized non-profit and a chance to contribute to the sustainability of the campus and broader community.”

Dylan laughed, shaking his head, “it sounds kind of crazy, but I really just wanted to learn how to be the most effective public administrator I could be.

The UVic Masters of Public Administration program led me into the public service, though just barely! At the time, it was nearly impossible to find work in BC Government at the time due to the hiring freeze and a lack of coop opportunities. The last week I was going to be in Victoria before heading off to another province, I received an offer to do a research contract on natural resource policy. I am still so grateful to my boss for wanting to give opportunities to graduate students. From there, I moved into an auxiliary and finally a permanent position.”

I asked Dylan to describe what an intrapreneur in action looks like to him…

“Anyone can be an intrapreneur. The meaning of the word entrepreneur comes from French, meaning someone who someone who undertakes, but also literally a “between taker”. I think this is a great way to also look at the meaning of an intrapreneur. As I’m trying to be entrepreneurial in government doing inter-agency work, I do feel like a between taker. Most of my time is spent seeking input and ideas from different sources. The exercise of pulling all of these different pieces of information together to see new possibilities is what intrapreneurship means to me. And it’s not just about seeing the connections and opportunities, it is also the act of weaving possibilities together to create something new and exciting.

I also think I have a somewhat higher tolerance for risk and acceptance of making mistakes than most which helps me try different approaches in my work. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have direct supervisors who allow me to try and fail – a process that enables fast learning. You need that support to help you grow. This is what makes work worth getting up for in the morning.

Lately, I have been thinking about the importance of the ability to speak truth to power. If you recognize problems as they emerge, it is so important to have the confidence to push these problems up the organizational hierarchy. As long as the advice is given honestly and non-judgementally, as analysis of the issue, it is critical that decision makers hear it, even if it isn’t what they want to hear. There is a perception among many young public servants that senior public servants aren’t willing to listen to inconvenient truths, but fortunately I have found that my supervisors and executive team demand this kind of honesty. I suspect and hope that this is mostly the case across government, but I think the missing piece is giving lower ranked staff the confidence and ability to know how to succeed in speaking truth to power. Without that missing piece, a lot of insight and innovation stays untapped.”

Dylan describes an example of executive creating the right conditions for entrepreneurship…

“One of the most powerful examples of executive creating the right conditions was our Assistant Deputy Minister making a speech the first major meeting of our new secretariat where he highlighted that NRPP is a flat organization in which employees are expected to take initiative, make decisions and take responsibility for their activities. What people often don’t understand is how important that type leadership is in encouraging people to innovate. I raise this example because I know I am having a very positive experience in government and this is not always common for most people at my level and age. Leaders play a critical enabling role for those of us at the analyst level.”

Dylan shares his principles and practices when it comes to addressing challenges innovatively in his day-to-day work…

“I believe you have to collaborate to innovate. Trying to get things done without the explicit authority to do it takes creativity! It also takes lots of patience.

If you are missing the authority – collaboration is the best end run you can do – it’s through good collaboration that you find the authority.

Some changes come from on high as political or corporate direction, but most of what the public service does originates at the lower and mid-levels. The real rich opportunity space for innovation that hasn’t been mined enough is in-between ministries. There is so much we can do if we work together. Once we step out of the silo world, just by virtue of collaborating, we will solve problems – often by accident. This is what makes this space so exciting.

Magic happens when people who don’t normally talk to each other start talking.”

Here Dylan shares how he thinks about solving problems in a cross-sector context:

“I think about the people who I am trying to serve. I look for the clear line of authority within the hierarchy. Often, that clarity is not there. This means you can’t just drive forward unless you can do everything inside one agency, which is rarely the case in my work.

As soon as you have to do things across ministries, you are going to face major challenges because we have so many sub-cultures and capacity challenges within government. This is where you need to develop a good plan on how to best engage other ministries.

Many different factors drive people and inviting them to work together can be very hard. Some questions to be taken into consideration are: What is the other ministry’s workload? What are they going to get taken to task on by their Minister? What do their stakeholders want?

One of my defining moments as a public servant was when I was up in Fort St. John facilitating an inter-agency workshop. I saw two groups come together when they themselves weren’t sure collaboration was possible – there was a perception of a huge cultural gulf that in the end mostly disappeared. In large part, it came down to creating the conditions for them to reveal the similar challenges that they face in their work and realize that they had more that was similar than different in how they operated. The end result of the meeting was front-line staff from the two agencies proposing solutions that went beyond anything what we had originally proposed.”

Dylan shares some of his key insights, success factors and lessons from the field…

On learning from social movement-building and civil society: “II’m a big believer in the Marshall Ganz method of movement building. You can learn a lot from this when it comes to public policy and human behaviour. One of his key ideas is one-on-one coaching – the coaching developmental method. I like this idea because my position is not one of perceived power – it’s a position of building towards common goals of creating public value and fulfilling our role as public servants.

This one-on-one concept is applied well when it comes to policy development. You need to have a lot of conversations with your team, stakeholders and key advisors. These meetings are so important, particularly if you have four or five agencies you’re working with. You need to work with each individually in order to understand where an issue falls in their priority list. You need to find out how much people care about the issue that you are addressing and work from there.”

On giving credit to his supervisor and his leadership team for providing him opportunity to grow: “My director, Stewart Guy, has been a fantastic coach and mentor. He constantly encourages me to understand the organizational and human context of issues and he also takes the attitude of throwing me into the deep end to learn to swim. I am both grateful and frustrated to see friends and colleagues at the same level who aren’t provided the same opportunities to grow.

And the rest of the leadership team is no different – my executive director loves to engage us in open discussion about big policy ideas, which is amazing. My manager involves me in decision-making. When doing analysis work I feel like I’m an equal member of the team. Sometimes I’ll say the wrong thing because I don’t have the experience to provide the right advice, but that’s okay because I get the advice and the support I need to succeed in the end.”

On the challenges with problem solving in government today: “When I talk to my peers in government, many are frustrated and concerned that proper policy development processes are not being followed. People are feeling that they are not able to do careful analysis of a policy issue and its implications, or even to question if there could be more than one way to solve a problem.

There is a tendency that someone who has a lot of experience and expertise will say, ‘I know the solution, let’s just go and do it’, sometimes without even a clear problem definition. The ‘analysis’ work is relegated to justifying the intuition. While this is problematic, I would note that often the intuition approach actually works. Intuition of experienced leaders can be completely solid – and on the flipside, structured policy process can be time consuming and expensive. Nonetheless, we still need to try harder to be more thoughtful about how we solve problems.”

On using visualization to improve policy discussions: “Shifting from outputs to outcomes is so important. People are driven by what they are being measured on and if we’re driving towards the goals, we’ll get the wrong results. Logic models are an underused, but powerful tool to help flesh out our thinking of cause and effect in public policy development. In general, visualizing policy issues in different ways in a powerful level for shifting thinking. Even just using the smart art function on Microsoft programs can completely change a conversation. When you get a logic model or other visualization right, you can feel the impact that it has on people in the room.”

I asked Dylan what he thinks the next generation of the public service will look like…

“At a high-level, we will have a lot more internal capacity to solve problems. We will have greater knowledge, distributed (or “matrixed”) lines of accountability, network-based teams and a much bigger policy tool box to work with.

We have such a high volume of people leaving the public service with so much expertise and experience that entire business areas are going to need to be redesigned. This is daunting for government, and a common challenge facing many sectors today.

We are going to have to do government differently. We are going to have redesign and redefine our roles as public servants. To deliver better outcomes, we will need to become more audacious in every way.”


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

Intrapreneurs: How System-Changers Think, Design and Act

In•tra•pre•neur•ship (n) 1. Successful adaptation of entrepreneurial attitudes and strategies inside of a bureaucratic organization. 2. Implementation of start-up practices within a large organization, producing valued innovation.

Intrapreneurs are institutional entrepreneurs. Their approach to problem solving is innovative and collaborative. They are game-changers, who seek to deploy change through consensus-building. Gifford Pinchot said that intrapreneurs are dreamers who do. They are the people who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind within an organization as they work purposefully.

We believe that intrapreneurs represent the future of public service.

The role of the public servant is changing in the 21st century. Increasingly, the public service has been shifting towards a more citizen-centered and accountable format. While dealing with ongoing challenges posed by a smaller workforce and limited budgets, the public service is now more than ever having to address problems that are complex and sticky, which requires an unprecedented level of cooperation, collaboration and innovation if there is any hope for success. We believe that by empowering the intrapreneurial way of thinking, we would be able to mobilize considerable human capital along with the underutilized resources that are embedded at all levels of public administration.

By definition, innovation requires change. Intrapreneurs see change as a necessity when it comes to their approach. They often bring a tempered approach to designing for change because intrapreneurs act based on a set of needs. They want the organization of which they are part of to be better, and they want to see that the organizational mission and processes are reflective of the organization’s deep seated values and vision. The intrapreneurial focus revolves around a deeply collaborative and multilateral set of activities.

They will encourage organizational-wide involvement by insisting on truth and honesty about what’s working, what’s not, and why. In the process, they will catalyze creativity and seek new ways to do business. Key ways of doing so will include empowering, enabling and encouraging others within the organization, focusing on building networks, and rewarding and showcasing intrapreneurial thinking in others.

If you asked us to lay down a few points to describe what intrapreneurship is all about for us, our response would be based on these following assumptions:

  1. We HAVE an abundance of potential and creativity alive yet locked in the public service.
  2. We BELIEVE that government can deliver on innovative products and services.
  3. We KNOW we can do a better job of tapping into collective intelligence across government.
  4. Intrapreneurship is NOT about undermining direction nor the rules of our institutions – effective change agents operate within the system – it is about creating the processes and vehicles to enable robust policies and improve outcomes through building a collaborative culture.
  5. We MUST challenge our own perceptions of how change happens – it happens small and within our own spheres of influence.
  6. Innovation IS happening all the time, all around us – we need to get better at how we discover, share and celebrate ingenuity at all levels!

Ultimately, though, we can say that intrapreneurship is a way of thinking, designing and acting for change. The public sector is often criticized about its resistance to change. While building coalitions, managing risk, and developing a shared understanding of both problems and solutions are important steps in making change acceptable, a strategy of intrapreneurial change management is important.

Over the past few months, Colleen has engaged some of Canada’s exciting government innovators in a series of interviews and dialogues to explore how they tackle the challenge of being intrapreneurs. She asked them to share their methods and strategic approaches to enabling change during their career. Some elements have appeared time and again during these interviews and we are going to share them here with you with the caveat that all intrapreneurial activity is going to be unique because even when we deal with similar problems and similar organizations the details, the history, the access to resources, the clients, and the windows of opportunity are going to be different enough that a one-size-fits-all approach is sure to fail.

Relationship building: all intrapreneurial activities are about relationship building. Innovation in organizations is always about challenging certain organizational cultural norms. This is certainly true – often more so – in the public sector. It is also the case that intrapreneurs ‘build a case’ for the change that they want to see occur; coalitions of like-minded people and of stakeholders are created and expanded over time. Intrapreneurship is inherently multi-lateral and cooperative.

Having a champion/political support: the intrapreneurs with whom we have spoken unfailingly mention that that having political support in their organization was a critical step in being able to engage in innovative thinking and in being able to implement that thinking. This relationship is one based on accountability and honesty. Intrapreneurs must be able to exercise a high degree of both in their connection with their champions.

Fairness and transparency: The activity of anyone who is interested in achieving change through cooperative behaviour must rest on a foundation of trust and openness. This approach extends in a 360 degrees fashion towards all who are affected by the process.

Speak truth to power: this is an extension of the previous point. There is no doubt that honesty and openness are critical characteristics for intrapreneurial action. They are at the basis of building solid change coalitions, just as they are necessary to improve the capacity of the organization to explore its limits and its opportunities.

Seize opportunities: do not shy away from difficult challenges. The intrapreneur must be able to take on difficult challenges because those are often those where the most opportunities for innovation are extant. Often they will require new ways of approaching the issue and almost naturally they tend to discourage people who use ‘status quo’ thinking and approaches.

The power of intrapreneurship doesn’t lie in a formula or a leadership competency. It lies in the creativity one takes to their relentless pursuit of excellence, regardless of the task at hand. Thank goodness we still have thinkers, policy designers and doers in the public service whose obsession with excellence and hunger for greatness reminds us that we can’t continue to accept the limits of our past thinking. The people who have pioneered a path to great progress in the public sector have always been system-changers – intrapreneurial minds who understood the “need for and how to” change thinking from within.

By recognizing and rewarding the intrapreneurial mindset and spirit, the talents of public service innovators might just lead us down the path to that much desired culture of innovation many of us are dreaming about.

This article was co-authored by Colleen McCormick and Andrea Migone. It was originally printed in the Public Sector Management Journal, Volume 25, Issue 3, September 2014.


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

Tapping into Our Collective Intelligence

Wanted: Government Intrapreneurs

If you’re interested in exploring our collective capacity as collaborative leaders of change, and eager to share stories from the field on how big things get done in government, I encourage you to connect with like-minded thinkers in government and help us build a grassroots network of intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneurs are dreamers who do. Those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind within an organization as they work purposefully. These institutional entrepreneurs often see constraints as opportunities to better design strategy, seek out supportive mentors from all levels of the organization to surround themselves (formally or informally) with a good leadership network, and navigate uncharted waters with intuitive skills.

To demonstrate our collective innovative capacity, a community of intrapreneurial practitioners is growing as people come together to co-create a field guide for public servants on practical ways we can tap into our expertise, service commitment and relentless creativity.

The only answer to more problems is more problem-solvers. For us to seed a new intrapreneurial culture in the 21st Century Public Service, everyone needs to play a role – the new, the discouraged, the seasoned. Let’s get on with our commitment to the messy business of change-making in government and share our bold ideas, lessons and passion around the most important aspect of leading collaborative transformation – “the how” we do it together.

Join our growing community of intrapreneurs. Connect with socialinnovatorsnetwork@gmail.com to learn more.


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

Summit Speaker Profile: Louise Levonian

The question confronting the Canadian public service today isn’t whether it’s possible for the service to be exceptional without solid leadership, but what type of leadership is necessary to maintain, or even recapture, this status?

“Leaders of the public service will need to set the tone and guide by example,” said Louise Levonian, Associate Deputy Minister for the Department of Finance.

“In this dynamic environment, leadership will be increasingly important to finding fresh ways to uphold the tradition of excellence that is the hallmark of Canada’s public service,” said Levonian.

Recruitment of key talent will be vital to the Service’s success, according to Levonian. These future leaders will need to deal with issues such as an increasingly connected society, massive transformation of global and domestic economies, increasingly complex policy issues, an aging population and, of course, rising citizen expectations.

“Building the public service of tomorrow requires a culture change and therefore must take place from the ground up by empowering our employees,” said Levonian.

As the Chair of the Sub-Committee on Public Service Engagement, Levonian is leading the public service-wide engagement efforts surrounding Blueprint 2020.

“Blueprint 2020 has proven to be the ideal vehicle to engage employees on how we can strengthen and improve our capacity to contribute to Canada’s successes and better serve Canadians through the delivery of excellent services and policy advice,” said Levonian.

Those interested in contributing to the Blueprint 2020 process can do so here.

Levonian will be participating in a panel at our Leadership Summit, titled Leadership Challenges and Bluprint 2020, along with Kevin Leahy, RCMP inspector and chair of the National Managers’ Community; Andrew Treusch, Commissioner and Chief Executive of the Canada Revenue Agency; and moderator Karen Ellis, President of the Federal Economic Agency for Southern Ontario.

Registration for our 2014 Leadership Summit is now open. If you wish to attend the event, please visit our leadership website to register.


Jeff MackeyJeff Mackey is an intern with Canadian Government Executive, Vanguard and WRLWND magazines. Before joining us, Jeff worked with the Canadian Press in Toronto and Metro News in Regina. Now, back in his native Ottawa, Jeff is excited to cover everything from the public service and the military to today’s modern technology.

Manitoba recognizes health care innovation

Innovation is a big deal when it comes to service delivery. Public servants are increasingly being asked to do more with less – so it lifts the spirits to see so many departments and agencies coming up with new ways to deliver service. And it’s even better when they get recognized for their work.

Last week, the province of Manitoba recognized health care innovation by honouring six projects carried out by front-line health care workers and community groups.

The six projects are as follows:

  • Assigning a nurse to improve ER patient flow at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital;
  • The introduction of home teams to help patients continue to live in their own homes, thereby reducing the number of ER visits;
  • A partnership between the Northern Regional Health Authority and Speechworks to provide Manitobans living in remote areas with access to speech pathology services and post-stroke swallowing assessments using Telehealth and iPad technology;
  • Providing better access to care for Winnipeggers who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • Providing community-based psychiatric services to mental health patients to reduce the risk of re-hospitalization or suicide; and
  • The introduction of a Winnipeg project that uses new tools and methods to better manage patient flow in the Womand and Child Program at St. Boniface Hospital.

Additionally, the province presented Jeanne Strutinsky with the Enid Thompson Award for Health Care Innovation for her 30 years of service to Manitoba’s children and families.

The Mino Bimaadiziwin Innovation Award for Healthy Living was also awarded to two organizations: the Gambler First Nation Health Centre and the Portage la Prairie Friendship Centre.

More information on the award recipients can be found here.

“We are always looking for ways to improve care and ensure patient safety while maintaining dignity and compassion,” health minister Erin Selby said at last week’s Health Innovation Conference.  “These award-winning projects were initiated by staff members and are excellent new ways to provide innovative care that will benefit patients and ensure a high-quality, sustainable health-care system.”


Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine. You can connect with her at amya@netgov.ca.

Transition Stress and Innovation

I’ve written previously questioning whether change is such a good thing. Even significant positive changes – innovations – require a period of transition before they become the ‘new normal.’ Managing those transitions is key to ensuring lasting change, but it isn’t easy.

One of the challenges of change management is that the leader’s change wave leaves everybody else in its wake. Even if everybody agrees that the change is a good one, the transition stresses have an impact. It takes a long time to get through to a feeling of ‘normal operations’.

At the National Managers’ Community, I contributed or led several innovations: a new website, a new registration system for events, a new tool for managing email communications, and so on. Everybody in the organization agreed that these changes were useful, positive, and beneficial – but implementing them was still difficult.

I understood the changes and was leading my colleagues through them, and there was a great deal of resistance; questions like, “Why is this harder than it was before?” and “This just doesn’t seem intuitive – why can’t it be like it was?” were common.

The culture of the organization had shifted. There were new ways of getting the work done, and new ways for people on the team to connect. Those changes were quick – one day we used the old system, the next day we used the new one. The transitions, however, took a great deal of time. It took patience, a lot of listening to concerns, and some calm explanations to help guide people through to the other side.

The danger in the public sector is that we never get past the stress of transition – it’s one change, followed by another, followed by another. We aren’t able to ground ourselves in a feeling of ‘normal’ and this makes it very difficult to get anything done. Productivity drops, people are frustrated and angry, and stress rises. Sometimes we need to slow things down, focus on one change at a time, and ensure that we aren’t leaving our people behind in the mad rush toward the future.

As a leader in an organization that’s changing, what are you doing to mitigate transition stress?


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 recently completed a two-year secondment to the National Managers’ Community as the Alberta Regional Coordinator and now works for Justice Canada. You can find him online at http://about.me/georgewenzel, http://www.govlife.ca, and on Twitter @georgewenzel.

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.

Mel Cappe and the Changing Face of Policy Creation

Mel Cappe, former Clerk of the Privy Council, was at the University of Ottawa on Monday to give a lecture on the supply and demand of ideas and how it can affect the policy-making process.

The lecture, presented by the Public Policy Forum, was the first in a series that will take place at universities across the country.

In his lecture, Cappe touched on the nature of the problems that public servants face when it comes to crafting policy in this day and age: namely, that the issues needing resolution are complex and have no obvious solutions. In past decades, policy was more about building railroads; now policy is about fighting terrorism and eliminating poverty.

As a result, there is greater need than ever to include different viewpoints in the policy sphere.

“We need evidence-based policy, not policy-driven ‘evidence’,” Cappe said, adding that decisions on policy cannot be made quickly – discussion and respectful challenge is needed first.

To make this happen, according to Cappe, the supply and demand of ideas must be in balance. Decisions must be made based on evidence and analysis, not on the ideologies that are brought into the policy sphere.

“If we hire more good people, or invest in the training of officials, we can shift down and out to the right supply of ideas,” Cappe suggested.

Have you experienced the challenges of policy making today? What do you think about his ideas? Let us know in the comments.


Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine. You can connect with her at newsdesk@netgov.ca.