Change for thee, but not for me?

Hit and Miss #323

It’s been a very full week! We hosted our first few meals in the new place—none fancy, but we’re not particularly fancy people anyhow. We also got in some nice time outdoors and away from home, which hasn’t happened as much since the move (though we’re now much closer to opportunities for “daily outdoors”, so that balances out nicely).

A huge chunk of the week, in terms of time and headspace, was spent at FWD50! It’d been a few years since I last attended in-person, and was there as a speaker this year.

Our talk likely won’t be released in recorded form, but if we know each other I’m happy to give you an informal version :) The main point, on my end, was sharing a more nuanced appreciation and respect for the significance of compliance. For digital government work, I think this means paying a close attention to why rules and processes have evolved, and seeing if it’s possible (and reasonable) to satisfy their intent, maybe in a new or different way—but not to blithely ignore them.

The conference itself was very well organized, as always—huge shoutout to Rebecca, Alistair, and the whole crew putting it on. Highlight sessions for me included (in order on the agenda):

Among many others!

Me, I’ve been left reflecting—inspired partly by Daphnée’s discussion of the “transformation tax”, the cost borne by people experiencing and conducting transformation work—on the change digital transformation teams or initiatives expect of others, in light of how they manage their own changes.

It’s no secret in this community that CDS, where I worked for quite a while, has undergone some significant change in the last year, with more recently announced and underway. I’m on Interchange from CDS, so won’t comment much on what’s currently happening there.

I am reminded, though, of an uncomfortable realization that Sean and I once had. When CDS moved to its then-new office at 219 Laurier, we found a set of four desks and took two of them. In the years while Sean and I both worked at CDS from Ottawa, we never moved from those desks—despite each being part of several other teams, with their own clusters of desks around the office, during that time. From those desks, we wrote proposals and policy documents galore. Roadmap 2025, as an example, remains a seminal document (which I can’t claim to have written, having only played a small part in publishing the night before its release), outlining the thinking within CDS at the time on what a more digital federal government might look like.

We wrote documents like the Roadmap, calling for enormous system change—yet, we once realized, we couldn’t bring ourselves to give up our desks, our comfortable positions and all they gave us. Not to blow it all out of proportion: we still worked on those other teams, even if not from their desks, and our “remoteness” likely had other benefits (not least that others were saved our incessant chattering). But it’s a good symbol, I think, of the risk of asking or pushing change for others, without being prepared to accept and live through change of similar import ourselves.

All those kinds of change carry a burden—a tiring that may contribute to exhaustion faster in these trying years than in those past. Leadership, in this work, whether as an individual, a team, or an institution, involves recognizing and easing that burden, keeping the people at the centre of it all in mind and supported, without losing sight of the value and importance of the change.

No easy feat, but I suppose that’s the work we’ve signed up for. FWD50 was a reminder of how excellent are the people in this space, and how important the work—I’m looking forward to getting back into it, after this sojourn of mine wraps up.

Rapid-fire round of links!

All the best for the week ahead!