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Chapter 1: A call to action

In June 2013, Blueprint 2020 (BP2020) was launched, setting in motion an unprecedented engagement exercise with public servants about the future of the public service of Canada, with “the goal of ensuring that it remains a world class institution.” During the dialogue that took place in the weeks following the launch of BP2020, public servants reported that…

“Many rules and processes are overly complex, top-down, siloed, and lack coherence and consistency. This often results in a frustrating experience for those trying to do their jobs.”

In May 2014, the Clerk of the Privy Council stated in the Destination 2020 report that simplifying internal processes and reducing internal red tape would be one of five priority areas of action taken to transform the federal public service for now and the future.

To this end, the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) was tasked with establishing a small multi-disciplinary Tiger Team to engage public servants using social media and roundtables to identify “some of the biggest specific irritants.” Moreover, on red tape problems that are complex, the Tiger Team was called to work with departments and agencies to look at all aspects of rule-making in order to find solutions.

A small multi-disciplinary Tiger Team was established at TBS in the summer of 2014. A two-year work plan was developed subsequently. Engaging and collaborating with public servants was at the core of the initiative. The reason was twofold. First, while internal red tape was raised during the Blueprint 2020 engagement exercise, the comments were too general to really identify the specific problems. Second, to achieve the Destination 2020 objective of improving “the experience of those who must follow the rules and administrative processes,”’ it was essential to involve them in the problem-solving process. Instead of consulting public servants with a pre-prepared diagnostic, the team adapted a user-centred design-thinking process by first identifying the problems with public servants.

Project timeline

Launched in November 2014, the internal red tape reduction (IRTR) initiative consisted of two phases:

  1. engaging public servants to identify the biggest irritants; and
  2. exposing root causes in a few areas with relevant departments and agencies.

The broad engagement exercise reached more than 2,000 public servants across the country through discussions and workshops, both online and in person. These interactions helped identify the nature of red tape and where it occurred most often. The results were shared during the first national webcast on internal red tape reduction, hosted by the Secretary of the Treasury Board with deputies from partnering departments in April 2015.

During the webcast, public servants were asked to identify the top three areas where reducing red tape could improve their experiences in a tangible way. Staffing, procurement, and grants and contributions were the most mentioned areas. Subsequently, the Tiger Team convened an interdepartmental forum with a focus on these three areas. Seventy-two individuals from 26 departments and agencies attended this one-day event, where they got to share their current work in any of these three areas and collaborated on solutions by applying design-thinking tools. Following the forum, three interdepartmental working groups were formed. Over eight weeks, each team delved further into one of the three areas with a view to exposing the root causes and ideating solutions. The diagram, “Engagement of Public Service at a Glance,” illustrates what was accomplished through the project. A step-by-step description of the initiative can be found at the end of this report.

A word about design-thinking

As shown in Figure 1, design-thinking puts users at the centre of a problem-solving process. To analyze a problem, this approach centres on understanding it from the perspective of users by listening to their points of view and developing the analysis with them. Once a problem is identified, it focuses on designing solutions with those who will be affected by the solutions instead of providing a solution for them. (See Figure 1.) The methodology for this initiative will be described in the Annex.

Figure 1: The D-School Design Thinking Process
The design thinking process: understand, observe, point of view, ideate, prototype, test.
Figure 2: Engagement of Public Servants at a Glance
A map of Government-Wide Engagement, fed by 2000+ public servants, 105 anonymous surveys, CSPS webcasts, 800+ comments on GCConnex, workshops, a Forum, and more across 80 organizations and 11 communities of practice.