Week 6–The Blessing and Curse of a 4 day week

Why do 4 day weeks feel longer than 5 day weeks?

How is it already week 6 since I returned from parental leave? Does your perception of time keep getting accelerated as you age? What will this be like when I’m 60?

Existential crisis aside, it’s time to both celebrate and dread the end of a 4 day week and soon the start of another 4 day week. I find 4 days weeks are a blessing and a curse mainly because you have to fit 5 days of work in only 4 days.

Onward with the weeknotes!

Regulatory Evaluation Platform Artificial Intelligence Project

In last week’s post I mentioned that the request for proposals for the Regulatory Evaluation Platform was going up. Well it went live the day after my post. For those so inclined it can be found here

This is a major milestone for a few different reasons. First, it is the first procurement to use TBS’ AI Source List, a new procurement vehicle established by TBS to provide pre-qualified suppliers who can provide the Government of Canada with AI expertise and services. Second, it represents a milestone for the regulatory community as artificial intelligence is used to augment analysis. Third, it represents a unique and novel partnership of different Departments and Agencies who have not only provided “support” in the traditional sense (time) but support with skin in the game (money). Collaboration from such a diverse set of Departments and Agencies with money on the table is rarer than it should be. Seeing such a united front in an experimental area such as AI fills my cynical public servant heart (anyone who knows me knows I’m far from cynical).

The experience of putting out the RFP is one filled with lessons ranging from: using the AI source list, what has to be prepared in order to send an RFP out, provisions around intellectual property rights and much more I’m sure could make a post in themselves. I hesitate to dive too deep into any one topic as the RFP process is active but I do promise to dive deeper in future posts.

On Wednesday, we held the bidder engagement session for the RFP. The bidder engagement session provides an opportunity for potential bidders to hear more about the project, ask questions and get answers. The session itself was a full scale event to run itself and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Canada School of Public Service’s AV team and Daria (our project admin). If you want the 101 on how to run a bidder engagement session, I just took a crash course so reach out!

Outputs or Process

The AI demonstrator projects — incorporation by reference and the regulatory evaluation platform are first steps for the policy and regulatory world into the art of the possible. Augmenting human analysis — both in the sense of speeding analysis up and uncovering previously missed insights has the potential to be a game changer for how analysis is done. Beyond delivering better outcomes for Canadians, it could signal massive disruption to how policy and regulations are made.

However, my specific interest lies beyond the output and beyond the immediate impact described in the last paragraph. While the output is significant, there is a lot to learn about “how it was done” or phrased in a different way “it’s about the journey not the destination”. Cynics are quick to point to any number of reasons why innovation can’t work especially at scale in the public sector. Among the many reasons: it will never work, it’s not the way we do things, how can we do it when we don’t even have wifi etc. In my mind, the demonstrator projects show public servants the art of the possible but more importantly it answers the question of “how did you do it” in an accessible and approachable way. It gives others an example they can point to where the new way of working was not only allowed but was successful. It provides the advice and guidance to light the way for those who may not know how to break the red tape. Telling the story of how it was done is the story that many public servants (myself included) have failed to tell over the years.

Our pockets of innovation have produced many wonderful outcomes. Our ability to tell the stories of those innovations in a way that inspires and provides a roadmap for others to follow in our footsteps has been lacking. My weeknotes are part of me trying to tell this story.

With that being said, I’ve been talking with a colleague about how to tell the story of the journey rather than the destination better. I am open to any ideas and encourage you to reach out if you want to chat about this sticky problem

Other Work — Service Community

So I am trying to re-kindle the Service Community of Practice. I am not sure if it is still active nor do I know if there is a community for those few who sit in the service community whether working in service policy, service design or front line service delivery. There is a selfish reason for this. I want to introduce AI to this space. I want to see what the service world is already doing with AI and to see if we can clear up long standing pain points in the service world through automation.

What’s on my mind?

What’s on my mind? Get in touch if you want to chat or have an insight to share.

  • I was reminded this week about the tendency to jump to solutions rather than focusing on problems. In my conversations in the innovation space, I find there is a lack of focus on problem definition. Is that true for you as well?
  • I was asked about how I make innovation appeal to a cynic. My answer was empathy. By empathy, I mean the ability to understand and take action based on a deep understanding of an issue from a point of view other than your own.
  • The public service is capable of truly remarkable feats. Any emergency, natural disaster or other crisis event is proof 100 times over of how capable the public service is. Despite those successes, the public service is also capable of abysmal failure and the public’s trust of it is eroding. Is this a natural consequence of such a large organization (260,000) or is this a sign of a broken workforce? Could the public service be mobilized to solve large societal level problems effectively? Should it?

And with that, I’m wrapping up week 6 of my weeknotes. Go and enjoy your long weekend and I’ll be writing up my notes for the same bat time on the same bat channel.

“If wisdom were offered me on the one condition that I should keep it shut away and not divulge it to anyone, I should reject it. There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.”

Working on public sector innovation one problem at a time. Found biking and hiking on weekends. Father of young baby… what is sleep?