Change Management
October 31, 2014

Life, space and buildings: CSE’s organizational transformation

Change is difficult. The psychology of loss aversion means we are hard-wired to preserve the status quo. Paradoxically, we also desire to improve. But it is impossible to be better without also being different. This applies to organizations as it does to people. When we succeed in improving, it is because we have succeeded in becoming different.

I work at the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). We’re Canada’s Cryptologic Agency. We protect critical Canadian information infrastructure, and we provide foreign intelligence for the safety and security of Canada. This is a complex mission, influenced by geopolitics and technology. Consequently, we have had to change repeatedly to remain effective. While our track record for individual change is good, we know we need to be stronger at creating and sustaining change in general.

In 2009, we began planning a new headquarters facility. Our leadership decided that this new facility would act as a stimulus for change. It would enable all the ways of becoming better that we had been talking about for many years. The design would support agility, collaboration and innovation. It would enable us to become a cohesive and determined community.

A workplace is not a field of dreams, however. If you build it, it does not mean they will come. So we also needed to address our organizational culture. The best definition of organizational culture I know is the way we do things here. We wanted to change the way we do things here.

Organizational culture is hard to talk about. You need to be able to discuss the elephants in the room. Our first step was to introduce transformational leadership, not just to our leaders, but to all our staff. One outcome of this program was to make the behaviors that support or inhibit collaboration and agility part of our common vocabulary. We know the frustration of being in a meeting where the real issue is not addressed because of fear, impatience or a lack of useful vocabulary. We used this program to push through that.

Only when you can talk about elephants does it make sense to talk about actions. Our next step was to create a transformation program, mirroring Blueprint 2020, and led by our deputy head and ADMs. Our leadership realized that they need to be present and visible to make the change real. And by being so, they also set the example of engagement for the entire executive cadre. We now have executives fostering working-level initiatives to create flexible teaming, an innovation framework, and a new leadership development program, among other change initiatives. We have made it clear that being a steward to these efforts is fundamental to being a leader.

We are adopting crowd-sourcing as much as possible. In the public service we tend to entrust the design of new processes to the same people who created the old ones. That’s not always a good idea. We are giving the creative lead to the people who have to implement the processes. Consider performance management: it’s one of the most difficult and yet important things we do. Our team leaders are the most important element of performance management, so, under the stewardship of HR, we have invited them to create a new system appropriate to our desired future.

We must remember that diversity of attitudes and opinions is a source of our strength, and social engineering tends to result in disaster. We tread a fine line between directing change as a corporate whole, and allowing differences among teams, professions, and personalities to self-determine the ways they can become better. One of my colleagues says that “leaders help people to see.” We need to help our people to see the possibilities in becoming better, and how to balance organizational and individual needs to achieve these possibilities.

For some people, things aren’t happening fast enough; they’ve seen us try and fail before, and they are cynical. Okay. I used to smoke. Then I stopped. I’ve quit a few times in my life. But each time I started smoking again, it did not deny the fundamental truth that stopping was the right thing to do. Failing to quit didn’t mean I should give up trying. These attempts to become better provide an opportunity for learning, and the self-knowledge we gain is not the same as being cynical, but rather can help us understand why change is both difficult and also necessary. This way, knowing who we are now allows us to become different.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Change Management
 
The “Magic Loogie” scene is vintage Seinfeld. It is a pastiche...
 
Welcome to the fall edition of CGE. Since our last issue,...
 
We risk missing out on the potential “Artificial Intelligence” has to...
 
In the 5th century BC, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem....
 
From research to policy implementation, Canadian public servants possess the knowledge...
 
We all ask why governments fail, often spectacularly, to carry out...
 
Citizens are embracing technology as it rapidly changes. The experience that...
 
Federal efforts to increase the use of data to inform and...
 
Emerging technologies are getting faster and smarter. Cognitive capabilities, robotics and...
 
Canadian Government Executive is honoured to have Michael Wernick, Clerk of...
 
On a recent visit to Ottawa, I had the opportunity to...
 
Does your organization have a very narrow view of what digital...
 
With businesses and government agencies increasingly operating in a highly information-based...
 
Canadian Government Executive media through its upcoming TechGov event is providing the...
 
The answer my friends is blowin’ in the wind … BOB...
 
There’s no shortage of organizations claiming to have a digital transformation...
 
Laskey Hart guest hosts CGE Radio this week with a summary...
 
Rules and accountability are helpful in developing and standardizing processes but...
 
Canada’s top soldier said the Armed Forces continue to be locked...
 
It’s a common notion that young workers born in the mid-1990s...
 
In order to find out which strategies and priorities CFOs are...
 
A small but rapidly growing number of businesses have started hiring...
 
As populations grow and age, the demand for services increases. As...
 
Computer software company Adobe, has migrated more than 11 million pages...
 
Here’s some bad news for organizations contemplating projects that have something...
 
The facility of a top-secret military communications group in Borden, Ontario...
 
As the adoption rate of big data technologies among Canadian companies...
 
By Craig Killough In March of this year, the Prime Minister’s Advisory...
 
Written by  Roxanne Descôteaux When I first became a manager over...
 
Every four years, on average, Canadians elect a government from among...
 
It’s no secret that LEAN has demonstrated great success in the...
 
There have been a great number of change initiatives in the...
 
If you ask any municipal Chief Administrative Office (CAO) across Canada...
 
Change is difficult. The psychology of loss aversion means we are...
 
After serving in the public service for 24 years, Norman shares...
 
The federal government, through Shared Services Canada, is focusing on integrating...
 
The Centre for Creative Leadership has published a paper called Public...
 
“Finding efficiencies” might be an overused cliché, but allied defence forces...
 
Are you overwhelmed by your to-do list? Does so much of...
 
The idea of a merger of DFAIT and CIDA is not...
 
If your internal planning and reporting systems seem “archaic,” how do...
 
Strange as it may seem, a majority of us would opt...
 
What characterizes successful change management? Six leaders and leadership teams will...
 
The British Columbia Public Service is vying for talent in an...
 
In times of change, middle managers make the difference. Sandwiched between...
 
Once again, Policy Horizons Canada has prepared exclusively for CGE a...
 
Like an athletic coach, an independent project reviewer understands what it...
 
In October, Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council, received CAPAM’s...
 
As young public servants, members of the national Federal Youth Network...
 
Canada’s North is at the forefront of unprecedented change and the...
 
Public sector reform can be like falling down a rabbit hole...
 
Transforming Government for the Future...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.6 June 2007 Learning and development are best achieved...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Peter Harder retired recently. He served...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Karen Ellis est vice-présidente de la...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Many leaders view change as an...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 The 2005 centennial celebration of the...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Crown relations with First Nations...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 How will Canada keep on top...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 So you think you’ve got it...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Consider the following recent history: Ontario...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 “On any journey, it is important...
 
« Toutes choses étant, par une puissance immortelle, de près ou de...
 
Half a millennium since first contact between Aboriginal peoples and European...
 
In terms of performance measurement, incentives for success and penalties for...
 
Changer la culture des employés un outil à la fois Le...
 
"All things by immortal power, Near and Far, Hiddenly To each...
 
The Internet is a key channel for public service delivery. Recent...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 When new policy collides with entrenched...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Youth…still wasted on the young. It’s...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 When Pat Collins left Ottawa in...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 By: Guy D’Aloisio, Mchel Laurendeau, V....
 
Quote of the week “We manage our books really well and...
 
Quote of the week “What was clear when you visited some...
 
Quote of the week “(P)ublic service should be a career of...
 
Quote of the week “Government can’t simply step into the void...
 
Quote of the week “…civil servants may be intractable points of...
 
Quote of the week “…thinking government is necessarily the solution to...
 
Quote of the week “If there is gravy at city hall,...
 
Quote of the week “The IPAC DM/CAO survey…provides insight into your...
 
Le problème actuel n’est pas seulement le départ à la retraite...
 
It’s not just that executives are about to retire – it’s...
 
Au cours des derniers mois, de nombreux fonctionnaires fédéraux ont dépoussiéré...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Most observers will be acutely aware...
 
Don’t trust anyone over thirty, Jerry Rubin pronounced in 1967. Jerry,...
 
A strange paradox has emerged in the quest for Gov 2.0....
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 Julius Caesar left us with one...
 
While the focus in recent years has been on Web 2.0...
 
How can an organization work seven times faster when it knows...
 
The 2011 federal election has focused on policy and leadership. But...
 
Unless you have been working in a silo, it is obvious...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 The biggest challenge facing government executives...
 
Wondering why it sometimes seems so blankety-blank hard to get anything...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Not long ago, an energetic web...
 
À titre d’employée de la fonction publique de l’Ontario (FPO), j’ai...
 
As an employee of the Ontario Public Service, I’ve been looking...
 
À l’instar de nombreux autres employeurs, la fonction publique de l’Ontario...
 
Like many employers, the Ontario Public Service (OPS) has a sizeable...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
The “Magic Loogie” scene is vintage Seinfeld. It is a pastiche...