Opinion
June 12, 2012

Unprecedented change requires transformation

Quote of the week

“The OPS contributes to the economy and provides important outcomes for citizens.”

— Peter Wallace, Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the OPS

Editor’s Corner

Yesterday I chaired a Toronto session, sponsored by IBM, that looked at the challenges facing the OPS as it copes with significant change.

Don Drummond reminded participants of the fiscal imperatives driving the need to reduce costs, and reiterated the challenge he issued in his report: the OPS should strive to produce the best public services, most efficiently, in the world.

Peter Wallace noted that there is political consensus for the need to constrain expenses. He did not mince words to the audience of largely OPS executives: the OPS in five years – 2017 – will be significantly smaller than it is now.  He said that the scope and pace of expected change was unprecedented in modern times.

He went on to warn that even though the OPS is, per capita, relatively inexpensive, there are too many areas of inefficiency that must be improved.

John Lutz, the president of IBM Canada, provided concrete advice from that company’s significant experience with transformation that will resonate with all public servants from all jurisdictions who are managing change.

He said change occurs when you “start a movement.” Whether there is a crisis or whether the goal is improvement, leadership is needed to engage the system to act.

He said that the debate that organizations ask about what services are core or non-core is the wrong one.  They must ask: where can the organization really differentiate itself?

Lutz asked people to think about the number of meetings they had attended which had been disrupted by debates over data, and said you have to get to the point where there are no arguments about the evidence before you can make change happen.

All three speakers agreed on the need to simplify processes through technology, with the proviso that organizations – both public and private – do not have the money to invest in expensive IT solutions. This suggests the need for partnerships with other sectors.

IBM and CGE are holding a similar session this Thursday in Ottawa.

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