Putting Public Servants in the Driver’s Seat - Canadian Government Executive
DevelopmentPublic SectorTransformation
December 12, 2017

Putting Public Servants in the Driver’s Seat

Changing our culture from the ground up to transform the Ontario Public Service for the future.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

This quote from management specialist Peter Drucker should be the mantra for every senior executive. It communicates a simple, yet essential idea: No new strategy will survive within a corporate culture that is risk-averse, resistant to change or simply protective of the status quo. If you want to embrace change and encourage innovation within your organization, the first step is transforming your culture.

And transformation has become an absolute necessity for the public sector in Canada. We find ourselves in the midst of an age of disruption. The demographic makeup of our country is changing, entire sectors of our economy are being upended seemingly overnight by the introduction of new technologies and citizens’ expectations are on the rise while global competition is intensifying. Public services are now expected to do more with less.

The public sector can no longer rely on the status quo to deliver the services our citizens depend on. We have to be ready and willing to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. However, as Peter Drucker eloquently points out, transformation requires a cultural shift. And a cultural shift within an organization must be driven from the bottom up, not dictated from the top down. In other words, if you want to drive innovation, you must be willing to let your employees take the wheel.

The Ontario Public Service has a long tradition of adapting to continually shifting conditions and delivering public services in new and innovative ways. And as the pace of change accelerates, we must accelerate our efforts as well.

This February, we released the discussion paper Transforming the Ontario Public Service for the Future, which was developed following consultations with our staff members in all regions of Ontario. Across the province, we heard the same feedback: we need to transform our organization by collaborating with each other and with stakeholders to create a new long-term vision for the OPS.

This discussion paper launched our Public Service Renewal (PSR) Project. Designed with the goal of engaging our employees from every level across our entire organization, this active employee engagement will drive cultural change to ensure that our workforce has the opportunities, skills and leadership capacity to encourage innovation and meet citizens’ growing expectations of a public service that matches, or exceeds, the service levels provided by our private sector counterparts.

Through in-person engagement sessions led by myself and our Chief Talent Officer, Diane McArthur, internal discussions led by senior leaders and deputy ministers, and our online engagement portal we are building our vision. As of June 30, 2017, we have received over 16,500 web visits, over 260 online submissions and over 2,300 OPS employees have participated in town halls.

The feedback we have received thus far has been very insightful for co-designing the OPS for the future. Our employees have highlighted the need to empower staff to take more calculated risks by embedding risk-management into every level of what we do at the OPS. They want to take accountability for their work and have the trust and confidence of their leaders, and they want to create a working environment that fosters a culture of knowledge sharing, brainstorming and collaboration.

Our employees have also identified the need to create spaces where new ideas can be tested, and welcome innovative solutions that allow for agile course corrections when necessary. They want to establish a more responsive service delivery model based on the public’s needs, they want to leverage new technology to drive smarter decision making and work with entrepreneurs and the private sector to help create a more dynamic and innovative economy.

The early results of these engagements repeatedly demonstrate that our employees are highly motivated for change. They understand the new demands that we are facing as a public service and have ideas about how we should best respond to them. They understand the need to incorporate new technologies to become more efficient and effective in the work that we do. And they understand that a culture of accountability, collaboration and risk-taking is needed to properly embrace innovation.

So as our public service renewal project goes forward, the priority for our senior leadership is to put the policies and practices in place that will allow our employees to execute on their vision for what the public service of the future should be.

This new vision will touch every aspect of what we do and who we are. Our success is contingent on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone is free to bring their whole selves to work. This will impact our talent recruitment and retention policies as we work towards removing unconscious biases to attract and recruit the best and brightest. This vision will also help us transform the way we work with one another by improving collaboration across ministries and with stakeholders to tackle the biggest challenges we face as a province. And it will allow us to apply design principles to put citizens at the centre of the development process as we create policies and services.

Across the OPS, we are putting these principles into practice. Through our Red Tape Challenge, public servants are crowdsourcing solutions from businesses and industry associations to find and fix outdated, unclear, redundant and unnecessarily costly regulations while protecting the public interest.

Our new Ontario Student Assistance Program combines a number of programs designed to financially assist students attending post-secondary education into a single grant. Through the new OSAP, we have simultaneously reduced the complexity of the application process while allowing one-third of all full-time college and university students in Ontario to receive tuition, all without spending any additional money.

And the recent redesign of the Environmental Registry, a legislated web-based tool used by the Government of Ontario to communicate and consult with the public on issues related to the environment, was built around the experience of the registry’s most frequent users. Through research, the Ontario Digital Service team built personas for the registry’s most frequent visitors and beta-tested the site’s design, its language and its interactivity with stakeholders.

These are just a few examples of where our public servants have made the citizen the centre of design and policy. On every team, in every department and throughout every ministry across the entire public service, our managers are enabling employees to take the lead in shifting our culture to become more innovative, more integrated, more diverse and more inclusive.

Through their responses to our employee surveys and our PSR engagement, members of the OPS have demonstrated that they are ready and willing to disrupt the way that public services are designed and delivered in our province in order to create better outcomes for the people we serve.

When it comes to cultural transformation at the OPS, our employees are in the driver’s seat. I can’t wait to see where they take us.

 

About this author

Steve Orsini

In July 2014, Steve Orsini was appointed Secretary of the Cabinet, Head of the Ontario Public Service and Clerk of the Executive Council. Steve has more than 27 years of experience in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) where he has held numerous leadership roles, including Deputy Minister of Finance and Secretary of the Treasury Board, and Deputy Minister of Revenue. He has also held a number of positions at the Ontario Hospital Association, including Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs.

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Development
 
We are excited to share with you the October/November 2018 edition...
 
Ontario Northland is a crown corporation that provides transportation solutions to...
 
Canada’s international reputation for welcoming and integrating newcomers is unparalleled. At...
 
In the three years to 2020, Canada will welcome almost a...
 
Mining embodies progress. Mining provides civilization with the materials required for...
 
On today’s show, J. Richard Jones sits down for a chat...
 
We are excited to share with you the May/June issue of...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones speaks with...
 
As the world grows more digital – and increasingly mobile –...
 
Throughout Canada, healthcare systems are challenged by population growth, aging, and...
 
Over half a billion children live in countries that are falling...
 
According to a recent McKinsey study there is a potential for...
 
On the global scene, technology has revolutionized and automated the work...
 
Today on CGE Radio, we speak with Craig Szelestowski, President and...
 
The adoption of new technologies provides many opportunities, poses unique challenges...
 
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This quote from management specialist Peter...
 
On a recent visit to Ottawa, I had the opportunity to...
 
Professional development is tremendously important to members of Canada’s public sector....
 
Over the last two years, an ever-growing number of organizations around...
 
Ships docked in a harbour may not be going anywhere; however,...
 
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) and CATAAlliance , Canada’s one voice for...
 
Do Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) make a difference? Our evaluation...
 
The design needed and practiced in government departments and the broader...
 
As social media becomes ever-more prevalent in the lives of today’s...
 
Evaluation is performed for a range of reasons:  to improve programs,...
 
Radical candour sounds rather outré as a prescription for government executives....
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones is joined...
 
Behavioural Insights (BI) is a multidisciplinary approach that uses principles and...
 
In March, the Canada Revenue Agency’s website was shut down by...
 
How does a mandate for innovation challenge evaluation? Increasingly, the public...
 
As the face of the Association of Professional Executives of the...
 
One of the writers in this month’s issue started a note...
 
Excellence in leadership is instrumental in serving the public interest. New-age...
 
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) announced last Friday, that George Ross...
 
We are thrilled to offer the July/August issue of Canadian Government...
 
At this time a year ago, the 88,000 displaced people of...
 
“Former Metro banker stole $73,000.”  “Enbridge sues ex-employee.”  “Woman stole $51,000...
 
The recent introduction of the new Government of Canada (GC) IT...
 
So, what can be said about Canada’s public administration as the...
 
The way forward to engaging Millennials in the public sector Passionate,...
 
We are happy to share with you the May/June issue of...
 
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance) is Canada’s One Voice...
 
Since Confederation in 1867, more than 17 million immigrants landed in...
 
In today’s world of heightened focus on good governance and accountability...
 
Orchestrating the transition from present to emergent leadership Millennial is the...
 
As ‘month 13’ for Canada’s Syrian refugee arrivals comes and goes,...
 
As governments around the world move towards the digital transformation of...
 
The way organizations recruit, shape and manage their workforce to find...
 
The promise of web 2.0 was the emergence of a user-driven...
 
Commodity Management (the official term for life-cycle asset management of goods...
 
During the past decade, the international university-level student population in Canada...
 
We have all heard the sayings: “Home, sweet home”; “There’s no...
 
Imagine a Canadian government that shares best practices in service delivery....
 
There is a new buzz in policy circles. Advances in data...
 
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with its 28 independent member countries...
 
The internal audit function in the Canadian public sector finds itself...
 
As Canada’s government agencies strive to improve delivery and efficiency under...
 
To boldly go where no one has gone before STAR TREK:...
 
In recent months, Canadians have borne witness to a new cycle...
 
Professionals, managers, and executives in the cost estimation industry can gain...
 
Canadian Government Executive kicked off its CGE Leadership Series for 2017...
 
The rapid advances in digital technology, demographic and societal shift even...
 
The critical challenge facing the public service is changing its culture....
 
Having the right talent is critical to delivering right results. But...
 
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of the new global “Agenda...
 
An Interview with Larry Ostola, Toronto’s Director of Museums and Heritage...
 
For all its subtleties and mysteries, the Westminster system of government...
 
When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message”...
 
Laskey Hart guest hosts CGE Radio this week with a summary...
 
The non-profit sector is operating within an era of increased accountability,...
 
Earlier this year the Ontario Ministry of Health announced that it...
 
Gladwell made Anders Ericsson famous—or, at least, his research work. A...
 
Canada’s top soldier said the Armed Forces continue to be locked...
 
BC Hydro said it is pushing through with it $9-billion, hydroelectric megaproject on...
 
Yesterday, Federal and Atlantic Provincial Ministers of the environment met to...
 
After writing the book “Megatrends: The Impact of Infrastructure on Ontario’s...
 
Governments around the world are seeking to tap technologies such as...
 
Signaling a realignment of Canada’s involvement with NATO, Prime Minister Justin...
 
As an executive you’ve probably experienced frustration when you ask for...
 
The Public Health Agency of Canada has long been aware of...
 
Dispersed organisations can be very powerful structures. There is ample evidence...
 
By Nicole Verkindt Despite growing up in a small town in...
 
Canada, today, became a full supporter of the United Nations Declaration...
 
A research project at that explores the design and feasibility of...
 
A landmark Supreme Court ruling has paved the way for some...
 
Years and years ago when I was unemployed, being able to...
 
Local job figures blew away expectations as records indicated that 41,000...
 
At first glance, the title may seem counterintuitive. By their very...
 
The Liberal government’s first federal budget laid out $11.9 billion over...
 
The Liberal government is expected to announce on Tuesday a new...
 
A leader’s credibility begins with personal success. It ends with helping...
 
Monday was the final day for Canadians to donate money to...
 
Huawei is bringing back to Canada and expanding its information communication...
 
Many women entrepreneurs in Canada struggle to access capital, technology, networks...
 
Written by Tim Wacker Almost a quarter century ago, when most...
 
Written by  Brady G. Wilson You may not realize it, but...
 
Continuous, life-long learning is the future of the public service. Building...
 
Mega-ConnEX is an annual speed networking event organized by the Health...
 
Canada’s contribution to development and humanitarian assistance is recognized around the...
 
Deliberations and negotiations in the United Nations are intensifying on what...
 
The UN consultations on the post-2015 development framework are focused on...
 
At the turn of the millennium, the international community made a...
 
Budgets are statements of political will and power. They are performance...
 
Decades of reform in developing countries point to four enduring dilemmas:...
 
The Lough Erne Accountability Report states that the G8 has played...
 
While there can be no singular solution for good governance, building...
 
it’s not the most original saying...
 
With the demographics of an aging workforce and a significant number...
 
Shakespeare’s “dark comedy,” Measure for Measure, deals with the issues of...
 
Reform is almost always about developing the capacity of government to...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Assembly of First Nations National Chief...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Before dawn on Monday, 18...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.4 April 2008 “What is a Foreign Service...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 Most observers expect more than 40...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 The Commonwealth Secretariat convened the first...
 
If you want to understand someone else’s position, walk a mile...
 
What makes a perfect mentor? Is it age and seniority? Perhaps...
 
Often, decisions about how to recruit are made based on habit...
 
It has been said that if everything is important, nothing is...
 
The Mosaic Index, by Professor Richard Florida, which measures the percentage...
 
Government policy agendas have long been fraught with complexity....
 
Looking at all the engineering diagrams overlaid on maps on the...
 
Gérés efficacement, les conflits peuvent favoriser la résolution conjointe des problèmes,...
 
Popular wisdom holds that the public service will need to recruit...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.2 February 2008 As I mentioned previously, one cannot...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 What is the toughest job in...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Growth can mean opportunity. Significant increases...
 
The subtitle of this report, prepared by the U.S. National Governors...
 
We can learn from archetypes. They can help us lead, if...
 
Improving leadership development is widely recognized by HR leaders and senior...
 
Natural Resources Canada is accustomed to nurturing, protecting and growing Canada’s...
 
In an increasingly competitive and complex global marketplace, both employers and...
 
The transition from the private sector into an executive role in...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
We are excited to share with you the October/November 2018 edition...