“I wanted freedom and fulfillment for everyone in the (Edmonton) IT office.”
Chris Moore, CIO City of Edmonton
Tuesday afternoon I chaired a session at the Ottawa 2010 GTEC conference in which Chris Moore discussed how he implemented change in the City of Edmonton’s IT department. Though his work in change management has been celebrated before (such as in the December 2009 CGE http://www.itincanada.ca/index.php?cid=311&id=11321) there are concepts applicable to public sector leaders and change agents that came to mind.
One is staff involvement. The Edmonton change exercise wasn’t just a top-down approach. It involved multiple town hall meetings with the department’s 300-odd employees. The staff answered three questions: what are things looking like now (real or perceived)? If things stay as they are, what will happen? What’s possible? The answers framed the future: much of the change was defined from the bottom-up.
There is the notion of service. Chris explained that when he came to the city the IT department wouldn’t support the councillors who had Mac computers. Today the department supports multiple Mac applications, including laptops and iPads, because that’s what the councillors – clients – want.
Another notion is innovation, and I heard of two types. First, management innovation: in the Edmonton IT office, there was an opportunity to choose your boss. And Chris actually got the money to hire coaches to help people with their work and careers.
The other innovative area is product development. Edmonton was the first city in Canada to offer cash prizes for the development of apps to benefit city residents. The apps used data sets from the Edmonton Open Data Catalogue, and winners included an app to check out restaurants and ones to help transit riders locate buses.
Chris admitted there appears to be some desire in the IT office for a return to old comfortable patterns, of good old-fashioned public sector workplace normalcy. It’s not likely to happen: he believes change is ongoing, and that it has to be constantly measured in incremental, step-by-step victories.