NRPP, Still Doomed

I have found it extremely difficult to extract information about NRPP from the government. FOIs have come with very large fee assessments, or documents have been completely redacted – you’d think I was out to get them or something.

NRPP, Still Doomed

New flash: I am not out to get them. In fact, they are the best-run IT mega-project I’ve seen so far in the BC government. But that doesn’t change the fact that, like the dinosaurs before them, they are doomed, dooooomed.

Fortunately, the FOI process can be indiscriminate, information can leak out despite the best efforts of the project team, and last month there was great tidbit about NRPP.

Hiding inside an FOI request to the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) were a number of interesting documents.

Who’s On First?

In an email on June 24, 2016, Wilf Bangert, the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) for NRPP, invited the steering committee of ADMs to a meeting to:

define the meaning of ‘sector transformation’ by documenting a model that will enable its implementation.

Or put another way, after three years and $50M, the “Natural Resources Sector Transformation Secretariat” (NRSTS) still isn’t clear on what “transformation” means, and is looking for guidance.

It’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on.

Lacking any operational mandate themselves, NRSTS has been going around looking for partners with operational permitting processes: “come work with us, we’ll re-structure your business work-flow and make it ‘better’ with cool software we haven’t built yet”.

To me, this sounds good (cool software! better!); to NRSTS, this sounds good (re-structure!); to the permitters it sounds like “we’re going to waste a bunch of your (scarce) time in workshops making you talk about abstractions instead of doing your job, then we’re going to upend your office in the service of ‘transformation’, while we experiment with software that is as yet unwritten”.

You know what happened to the guy who had the first human heart transplant? In IT terms, the procedure was a success – he didn’t die on the table. He died 18 days later of pneumonia, with his heart still pumping away.

Back to High School

After asking for advice on ‘transformation’ from the ADMs, Bangert then tells them he needs a “subject matter expert” (at a “decision making level”!) from each of them to attend “several” workshops in the summer and a week-long workshop in the fall. So, presumably a manager or director, whose time is sufficently low value that it can be donated to NRSTS for days at a time.

Model UN

But that’s not even the best part. The best part is the structure of that five-day fall workshop. NRPP is going to be running (has already run?) a “Model UN” process with all these managers and directors.

My favourite bullet points! From the “How Will it Work” section:

  • An unlimited number of delegates are allowed per Ministry. Attendance and pre-work completion is mandatory before and for the duration of the workshop.

Because more is better, and mandatory homework makes fast friends! From “Who Should Attend”

  • Folks who are highly motivated to make the Natural Resources Sector “processes” work better.
  • Extroverted communicators and people connectors.
  • Introverted thought leaders and thinkers.
  • Creative problem solvers.

Great combination! Anyone not invited?

Still, so far we’re just talking about a standard “consultant-facilitated workshop time vortex”, of a sort we’ve all participated in and/or inflicted on others. The bit that is really transcendent is the “engagement model UN process”:

  • There is a general assembly component
  • Only voting delegates attend
  • Voting on resolutions prepared by committees
  • Decision making body for the process
  • Mandatory that voting delegate attends
  • Fixed time for debate and voting
  • A chairperson oversees
  • Process repeats [emphasis added] until all aspects of the work flow have been reviewed, resolution prepared, and voted on.

How could this possibly go wrong?!?

The Smell of Desperation

Once again, inputs:



If a core early problem with NRSTS was that nobody wanted to be the first organization to be subjected to their tender mercies, imagine how they are perceived now, as they come up on the end of their Phase 1 funding and still haven’t even figured out what “transformation” means?

Would you trust your staff time and business process to an organization that looks likely to be blown up in the next 24 months? If so, why?

Addendum: Commenters, please weigh in on whether the recent departure of the Executive Director, Technology to work with major project consultant CGI is (a) a sign of good things to come (CGI positioning to win follow-on work in Phase Two) or (b) a sign of imminent disaster (man-in-the-know getting out while the getting is good).