CGE BlogThom Kearney
September 17, 2013

Colour Me Naive

You know, I have been around long enough to know better, but still choose to believe in stuff like Blueprint 2020, because change can’t happen unless we believe it can. Don’t get me wrong, I am no Pollyanna and healthy scepticism is, well, healthy, but seriously, the first step to making anything happen is believing that it is possible.

Can you imagine an Olympic athlete who didn’t think they could? Do you think they would be any good? It starts with belief.

I choose to believe that the individuals that make up the public service can make a difference. Everyone has a sphere of influence that they affect. Most of us can’t change policy or re-arrange the functions of government, but we can choose how we do our jobs and interact with those around us. When something stupid gets in the way, we can hold up the flag of Blueprint 2020 and maybe stop a little of the insanity.

In his recent post on CGE Blog, (see Does Blueprint 2020 hold Wouters? ) John Wilkins says that authentic public service renewal “…calls for a bottom-up approach, top-level commitment, and continuous improvement.” I agree with his statement; what’s more, I think it could already be here.

A Bottom-Up Approach

I know a bunch of Public Servants that have taken the Clerk’s words to heart and take ownership for implementing good ideas within their sphere of influence. What if they all did?

Top-Level Commitment

I choose to believe that despite their constraints, leaders actually want to the right thing most of the time – but it doesn’t really matter because they have opened a can of worms and will have to do something. It may not be revolutionary, but even a “measured response” (see Blueprint 2020: Raising expectations for real change ) is better than nothing.

Continuous Improvement

Blueprint 2020 discussions are taking place across the public service and some of those discussions must be turning into conversations that lead to mutual learning and eventual improvement. Learning is infectious and when individuals decide to take ownership for their own improvement, the institution either goes along or becomes irrelevant.

There you go, easy as pie. Change is already here, you just have to believe.

Of course it’s not that simple and it’s not that easy, but my point is that our attitude shapes what is possible, and if public servants choose to believe, and I know many who do, then real change is not only possible but inevitable. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Master Yoda has to say.


Thom Kearney
Thom believes in the power of the collective and is an award winning teacher, passionate learner and trusted advisor. A facilitator, change agent and architect, Thom helps clients tell their stories and navigate changing landscapes. He can be found online at www.strategyguy.com or @thomkearney.

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7 Comments - View all

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Colour me naive | NuSum 10:51am on September 23, 2013

[…] post originally appeared on the Canadian Government Executive Blog September […]

7 CommentsX
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Kent Aitken 9:05am on September 17, 2013

“Naive is a charge often leveled by those who have given up on their ideals towards those who have not.” – Romeo Dallaire

Thom, you’ve basically scooped tomorrow’s CPSR post. So the long story short is that I agree, and I thank you for your idealism.

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Patrice Collin 1:36pm on September 18, 2013

As always great food for thought! I will be 1st to admit that I fall in the trap of mistaking belief for naivety..we absolutely need the folks who keep driving forward ideas/initiatives despite adversity. The greatest benefit of having been in the PS for the last 4+ years has been the friendship I have developed with these ‘dreamers’ who taught me a great deal about change and striving for things bigger than ourselves….so thanks to you Thom and to the many others I now consider friends! Bon Courage mon ami!

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Thom Kearney (@thomkearney) 8:30am on September 23, 2013

Thanks Patrice. I think I heard recently that those studying happiness have discovered that people who devote themselves to something bigger than them selves are generally happier than those who do not.

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Colleen sawatzky 10:33pm on September 19, 2013

Ideas are great, bringing them to fruition is another matter. There is no doubt that change is required in the PS, however in order to effect the change of BP 2020, a monumental shift in the organizational culture is required. I haven’t seen much shift in “real” leadership in the past 30 years, but there’s always hope isn’t there…

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Thom Kearney (@thomkearney) 8:32am on September 23, 2013

Very true. The old culture is slow to change. That is why we all have to do what we can to model the change we want. Little tiny steps, or one conversation at a time. The other thought I have is that maybe there has not been much shift in 30 years because it is the same group of executives – most of whom are about to retire.

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