There is a resurgence of quality in the public service. It has many labels: excellence, continuous improvement or citizen-centered quality service. Governments at every level recognize its value for improving employee engagement, improving service and strengthening public trust in government.
The number of departments or agencies winning awards at the annual National Quality Institute Canada Awards for Excellence shows this resurgence – none in 2005, nine in 2006 and ten in 2007. The Toronto Transit Commission’s IT services department received the gold trophy this year. The Canadian-Ontario Business Service Center, Alberta Seniors and Community Supports, the City of Prince George, and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, received silver awards.
Celebrating its tenth year, the annual Public Sector Quality Fair was held in Toronto in September. Co-chairs Claude Andre, Ministry of Government Services for Ontario, and Joanne Woodward, Ontario Federal Council, described it as “the biggest public sector quality fair ever!” There were1,200 participants and 76 exhibitors: 15 federal, 36 provincial, and 25 municipal.
Many organizations are working on their quality journey. The Regional Municipality of Peel (the 2006 gold winner), the Town of Markham, the City of Kamloops, the Greater Victoria Regional District, and a number of others, are each on their own quality journeys.
Those who have begun a quality journey will tell you that doing so has resulted in a culture change across the organization. The very notion of achieving a level of excellence previously thought to be beyond them has resulted in spectacular achievements. If one adds the opportunity for independent and outside recognition, the public servants – and the populations they serve – are bound to feel satisfied by their achievements.
Some are using the National Quality Institute’s Progressive Excellence Program (NQI PEP). Another concept that is rapidly gaining ground is the NQI Healthy Workplace program launched jointly by the National Quality Institute and Health Canada. The recent addition of mental health to the NQI excellence criteria has contributed significant value. Healthy Workplace takes into consideration health and lifestyle practices, workplace culture, a supportive environment, the physical environment, and occupational health and safety. A number of organizations, large and small, are actively pursuing the Healthy Workplace model with great success. Two organizations, the Public Service Commission in Nova Scotia, and the Ontario Ministry of Labour, have achieved recognition. Statistics Canada continues to be a role model among government agencies and departments, achieving an Order of Excellence in 2007.
While the quality improvement schemes available today frequently recognize the importance of people, the Healthy Workplace program takes this to a whole new level. As a means of producing an optimum solution, NQI has several NQI PEP frameworks that now include both the Quality and Healthy Workplace Criteria, which some would characterize as the best of both worlds. The NQI Quality and Healthy Workplace programs now exist for health care, municipalities, and soon, for the public and private sectors.
The mission of the Canadian Public Sector Quality Association (CPSQA) is to provide leadership, support, and networking opportunities for individuals and organizations; to promote quality practices; and to research, model and share quality practices. Its members are drawn from all levels of government.
Look for the Ottawa Public Sector Quality Fair, February 7, 2008 and the “Training for Quality Day” on February 6. The events are co-hosted by CPSQA and the National Quality Institute. For more information visit: the Public Sector Quality Fair (www.psqf.org), Ottawa Public Sector Quality Fair (www.ottawapsqf.ca), CPSQA (www.cpsqa.ca) and NQI (www.nqi.ca).
Vic Pakalnis, P.Eng, is the Ontario Public Service Amethyst Fellow at the School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, and immediate past chair of the Canadian Public Sector Quality Association.
Don Wilson, P.Eng, is Executive Director, National Capital Region for the Canada Awards for Excellence and the National Quality Institute, and Co-Chair of the Ottawa Public Sector Quality Fair.