Public Service Reform: Starting at the Apex

So I’ve just sent APEX a copy of my speech – I actually never write out my speeches so I literally had to go back through it in my head – anyway I will post here soon as well.

For me, one of my favourite parts revolved around the APEX logo (APEX is the organization that represents all the executives of the Canadian Federal Public Service). I asked the conference attendees to take off their name badges, look at them, and tell me what they saw. Most saw it right away. The Apex logo.

Symbols matter. So, when you look at this symbol what do you see?

After a day and a half of hearing speaker after speaker talk about creating a public service that was more open, more innovative and less hierarchical, I wanted to draw their attention to the symbol the Public Service Executives use to portray themselves to the world.

Could one imagine a symbol that conveys hierarchy, control, and dominance more effectively? (I love that it is not just a pyramid, but that its angled so you have to look up at it). “Were on top! Guess where you are?”

Do we want a different public service? It will take a lot of work and changing symbols won’t get us there. But it is a start.

At this point I like to briefly say thank you to Michel Smith for inviting me to talk – he invited me to come and speak and I thanked him by dismantling his organizations logo… he deserves better.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to propose an idea based on something the president of Scandinavian Airlines once talked about in an article he wrote (where, I don’t remember). After much reflection he flipped his organizational chart upside down so as to place him at the bottom, understanding that his role was to support everybody above him, so they could, in turn, support the front-line workers who actually touch the customers. Maybe we could flip the APEX logo on its head? Can we imagine a public service executive that thinks the same way?

Now, if only we could come up with a better acronym… Any suggestions? (Remember it has to work in French and English).

7 thoughts on “Public Service Reform: Starting at the Apex

  1. Chelsea

    When I first saw the logo it looked like a bunch of cubes (or cubicles) in a pyramid. The hierarchy point struck me, but not as much the notion of being stuck in your own cube within it.

    Don’t just stop by turning the pyramid on its head. Get outside of those boxes too.

    Reply
  2. Chelsea

    When I first saw the logo it looked like a bunch of cubes (or cubicles) in a pyramid. The hierarchy point struck me, but not as much the notion of being stuck in your own cube within it.Don’t just stop by turning the pyramid on its head. Get outside of those boxes too.

    Reply
  3. Steph D

    Awesome viewpoint David. If you want to take Chelsea’s point on the cubes even further, you can look at the facts that:
    – they barely touch the ones above or below them
    – there is NO contact between cubes on the same level
    – there are major holes within the pyramid on each level
    – in terms of structure, that seems like one of the least stable possible

    Actually, with the current state of the Federal Public Service, I’m not sure we should be changing that logo after all.

    Reply
  4. Steph D

    Awesome viewpoint David. If you want to take Chelsea’s point on the cubes even further, you can look at the facts that:- they barely touch the ones above or below them- there is NO contact between cubes on the same level- there are major holes within the pyramid on each level- in terms of structure, that seems like one of the least stable possibleActually, with the current state of the Federal Public Service, I’m not sure we should be changing that logo after all.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: The Straw Man: Angela Majic on Public Service Sector Renewal

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