Quality of Life and ADMs

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Notes for an Address by
Mel Cappe
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

at the
ADM Forum
October 18, 2000
Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery


Introduction

  • Good morning everyone.
  • I should point out that I actually prepared two speeches for today.
  • The media told me that Canada would be in an election campaign by now — and who was I to doubt them?
  • So, in this pocket is my speech on the role of a non-partisan public service during an election.
  • Unless something has changed dramatically in the past 10 minutes, I'll save that for another day.
  • So, on to the speech that is in my other pocket — on the concept of Quality of Life and the role of ADMs.
  • Quality of life is a concept that comes right down to the heart of your role as leaders.
  • And it is an especially good day to talk about quality of life.
  • Why? Two words. Economic Statement.
  • And two more words. Auditor General.
  • Today, you're going to take part in a lot of discussions on quality of life and it will be very easy to assume that everything we do helps improve the quality of life of Canadians.
  • After all, we're a "public" service, right?
  • Certainly, we can draw some ideas about our contributions to Canada and Canadians from the economic statement.
  • Canada's economy is doing well and the government's fiscal state is very healthy.
  • It didn't just happen, we have helped to add to the strength of the current economy through work across our departments in all regions.
  • But we have to balance that pride in a job well done with the sharp reminders of the Auditor General.
  • The AG comes along every now and again to remind Parliament, Canadians and us that the how matters.
  • So the AG's work should remind us that:
  • Wanting to improve quality of life is not without a lot of challenges along the way; and
  • We should temper our legitimate pride in what we do with a consistent willingness to look for ways to do better.
  • But no criticism of this program or that service obscures my main message to you today, and that is:
  • As senior leaders in the Public Service, you can and do make a difference in the quality of life for all Canadians.
  • You are Assistant Deputy Ministers – and the Minister in your title means that you have a responsibility to think more broadly, over the horizon with your heads above the clouds, while keeping your feet on the ground delivering results.
  • Therefore, to make the most positive difference, you and the teams you lead increasingly have to do three things and do them well:
  • Think big;
  • Think ahead; and
  • Think people.

Thinking Big

  • Let me start by the value of thinking big when it comes to quality of life.
  • There is no nice, neat definition of quality of life.
  • The United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index is one approach to measuring and comparing quality of life.
  • It is based on a wide variety of indicators centred around standard of living, health and life expectancy, and literacy and learning.
  • And who are we to quibble with that approach or its methodology, as the country with the number one ranking for seven years?
  • But, that is just one perspective; there are others.
  • You heard Michael Adams talk last night about social values in Canada and what Canadians expect.
  • You will hear a lot of other perspectives on quality of life from the panellists this morning and at the working lunch with DMs.
  • So, clearly, quality of life involves different things for different people and it is a comprehensive mix.
  • And why we can all take pride in the fact that Canadians have achieved one of the best levels of quality of life in the world.
  • It happened, in part, because our people are taking action on social and economic issues, because our people are addressing environmental challenges and international links, because our people are making sure that the necessary supports are in place for our policy and program operations to function well.
  • It happened, because you and the people you lead, helped to make it happen – over the years, leaders in the Public Service of Canada have shown the benefits of thinking big.
  • The challenge now, is for you to show even more leadership as our frame of reference expands and becomes more complex so that Canada can continue to build quality of life through the 21st century.
  • Thinking big means seeing the big picture. It means being able to conceptualize broadly, seeing the linkages among and between issues, as well our changing frame of reference.
  • It means engaging your people in building a vision that inspires others to stretch, even if it seems just beyond our grasp today.
  • We see thinking big in action as public service leaders take up the government's commitment to find ways to ensure all Canada's children can live up to their full potential.
  • Leaders are supporting the policy research we need.
  • Leaders are helping shape the policy development of options that mean a complete package.
  • Leaders and their teams are working with colleagues from many departments, other governments, the private and voluntary sectors to see beyond today's situation and today's boundaries to where we can be.
  • That is thinking big, thinking outside our traditional boundaries.
  • Thinking big is about being « fonctionnaires sans frontières » – leaders at all levels who look outward and see issues in a broader, horizontal context.
  • We are thinking big by finding new and better ways to deliver services and information, including achieving Government On-line.
  • We are seeing a fundamental shift from thinking "little", with people as clients of this one program or seekers of bits of information.
  • To thinking "big" by asking citizens what they want and then using that to define clear goals for improved service delivery.
  • To get there, leaders, at all levels, are looking beyond what their department or their branch or their region can do – to think big for citizen-centred service delivery, whether through Service Canada or getting behind our service quality commitments.
  • And we are thinking even bigger as we begin to work more closely with other governments and other service providers.
  • These are only some examples of how we are supporting the government in its commitment to improve Canadian quality of life by thinking big.

Thinking Ahead

  • Thinking big is matched by "thinking ahead".
  • When I say "thinking ahead" I mean seeing beyond our short-term policy, program and service delivery agenda and looking over the horizon.
  • As difficult as it can be amidst the daily demands on an ADMs time, it is important to look ahead to the emerging environment.
  • Through the Policy Research Initiative, we are identifying and assessing long-term social, economic and international trends that will impact on the quality of life of individual Canadians.
  • After a series of consultations with Deputy Ministers, the Policy Research Initiative has identified three overarching issues as the centre of their research efforts over the next three years:
  • North American Integration, Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development.
  • And many of you may have been involved in looking ahead through your input this Spring in the medium-term policy planning process identifying forces, tensions and opportunities facing Canada over the next 5 to 10 years.
  • Those are major guideposts to keep in mind as you think ahead.
  • However, I want to focus on two other factors for you to keep in mind as you think ahead:
  • First, the move to comprehensive national performance measurement and reporting on quality of life – which is a lot of the future of what Canadians and the Government will expect us to do.
  • Second, the world of E-Government – or the future of how Canadians and the Government will expect us to do it – and I talked about this at the last ADM Forum.
  • So, first, let me "think ahead" by talking about measuring and reporting on Quality of Life government-wide.
  • When I challenge you to think ahead, I'm not talking pie in the sky dreams, I'm talking about a definable difference between where your policies, programs or functions are today and where they can be soon.
  • Last year, as part of the medium-term policy planning process, a team of Deputy Ministers focussed on how to define, measure and report on Quality of Life.
  • They recognized that Parliamentarians, Canadians and our social union partners want to see a better definition of expected policy and program results – in the broadest but still realistic sense.
  • They want a clear sense of the outcomes and impacts that we are aiming for in our activities, matched with transparent measures and the feedback loops so we can use actual results to improve our policies and programs.
  • We're now moving toward a comprehensive national performance measurement and reporting process to integrate three streams of reporting:
  • reporting on societal trends, for example quality of life;
  • reporting on the program results and service delivery performance of federal programs; and
  • reporting on the outcomes achieved on shared societal goals, such as those encompassed by the Social Union Framework Agreement.
  • The leaders who can deliver on all that are leaders who are able to do more than just sketch out a hazy vision of a better future.
  • They are people who can show what that future would be like in clear ways.
  • So, that is where our thinking ahead challenge lies, it is a commitment to measurement and reporting that is already in action.
  • The First Ministers agreed to measurement and reporting when they signed the Accords on Health and Early Childhood Development last month.
  • They know Canadians are unconvinced about big, general claims.
  • They know it now comes down to accountability to Canadians for how all governments are improving quality of life in these two key areas.
  • The same is true for our own operations.
  • Every one of you should be familiar with the commitments set out in Results for Canadians, which outlines a modern management framework for the Government of Canada for improving service delivery and management practices.
  • All of this will take place in the context of an E-Government revolution, which brings me to the "how" of thinking ahead.
  • To say technology is changing how Canadians live and work is too obvious to mention anymore.
  • So why mention it?
  • Because what is perhaps less obvious is how new technologies are likely to challenge our traditional models and ways of thinking about public policy and program options.
  • I talked about this at the last ADM Forum, and now I want to build on some of my points.
  • As we enter the realm of E-Government we have to do a whole lot more than digitize services, or put forms, tools, databases and even transactions on-line.
  • We have do more than run programs to get Canadians and communities on-line or link all Canadians to a high-tech economy and society.
  • E-Government means rethinking how we work and interact with citizens – and each other – based on the new world of technology.
  • E-Government could, should and almost certainly will trigger a major transformation in what we do for citizens, how we work with citizens, how we support Parliament, how we are organized and how our people do their jobs.
  • Just picture the organizations that are already using technology to make corporate information and knowledge more accessible to their people.
  • And then ask how you can do the same – managing multi-disciplinary teams – working in real time, not committee time – to define and get results.
  • Just picture the organizations that are already using technology to eliminate roadblocks to improved service or to accelerate the process of making decisions.
  • And, once again, ask what will happen when Parliamentarians and citizens expect you to do the same, while still protecting the public interest.
  • To be thinking ahead is to be thinking about where we can take the E-Government idea to ensure a high quality of life for all Canadians.
  • It means as leaders, each of you will have to be more than comfortable with using new technologies.
  • You will have to be open to creative thinking on how your operations can draw on the new tools to remake what you do. This does not mean that you should be driven by technology, but that you should use your role and capacity to help identify places where technology would help you achieve your goals.
  • It also means understanding that the "E" in E-Government is not simply "electronic", but that the "E" stands for "enabled" government
  • A truly modern institution that is fully capable of meeting 21st century challenges.

Thinking People

  • The impact that deserves the most attention as we look ahead to an E-Government world is its implications for the people of the Public Service.
  • Which brings me to the "thinking people" portion of my remarks this morning.
  • Why is it last on the list, after thinking big and thinking ahead?
  • Because thinking people is most important in the long run.
  • It is where you need to encourage everyone to get their head above the clouds and encourage everyone to keep their feet on the ground.
  • One of the first lessons we learn as leaders is that we can't do much by ourselves.
  • It's especially true for ADMs, and even more so for Deputy Ministers.
  • Your ability to get results is going to be largely influenced by your capacity to engage your people in thinking big and thinking ahead.
  • Your leadership will be demonstrated by your success in encouraging your employees to be "fonctionnaires sans frontières".
  • Your leadership will also be demonstrated by your success in enabling people to build workplaces that operate in more innovative ways to get more results.
  • And make no mistake, I'm not the one who is expecting this half as much as your people are.
  • The Public Service survey said objectively what many of us knew in our gut.
  • People are looking to ADMs as key members of their management team for leadership on the issues that matter to them.
  • They want to be engaged, they want to be part of something that produces benefits for Canada and Canadians, and they want you to help them get there.
  • They listen to leaders who take people issues very seriously and whose agenda clearly involves taking action on those issues.
  • They are a lot more likely to show the kind of creativity and leadership that we know we want and we know we need, if their ADMs are men and women who model creativity and who model innovative leadership.
  • The first step is close attention to our people and workplace issues.
  • Your management style must reflect a Public Service that is more diverse and more fully representative of the Canadians it serves.
  • You can act on recruitment, retention and learning so our workforce can keep up with a world where knowledge and ideas increase faster than ever.
  • As you know, I have made people issues central to my management agenda as Head of the Public Service.
  • We face an unprecedented workforce renewal challenge at a time when there is growing competition.
  • We need to keep the skilled people who are already in the Public Service but who are actively being recruited by other employers who value their expertise.
  • We need to develop the skilled people who are going to replace each and every one of us sooner or later.
  • Why? To ensure that the Public Service of Canada continues to have the capacity to serve Canadians now and in the future.
  • We need to do a better job of making sure our workplaces support the diversity and well-being of our people.
  • The DMs of tomorrow will include those ADMs of today who lead the way on workplace issues because you can't think big or think ahead, if you don't liberate the potential of the people around you.
  • So, look after your people and they will look after you.
  • Frank Claydon, Chair of the Committee of Senior Officials (COSO) Sub-Committee on Workplace Well-being, recently released a report entitled Workplace Well-being – The Challenge.
  • That group drew on the results of last year's Public Service Employee Survey and its own consultations and discussions to find ways we can all revitalize our workplaces.
  • It recognized that despite the difficulties of the past few years, many departments, branches, regions and teams are taking action to improve their workplaces.
  • Many of you are adding to the best practices from which we can all learn.
  • The Sub-Committee identified four priorities for immediate and long term action:
  • Workload – the key issue;
  • Fairness in the selection process;
  • Career development and learning; and
  • Harassment and discrimination.
  • The goal is far more than making people feel better about their work and workplaces.
  • It is about providing the tools, the means and the right environment for public servants to be successful.
  • We want to create a climate that helps to foster excellence in service delivery and policy development.
  • We want to ensure that we have the quality of life in our workplaces that makes it easier for us to help improve the quality of life in our communities.
  • So what do we need to do?
  • And more specifically as senior leaders, what do you need to do?
  • To begin with, as I pointed out in my covering letter for the Report on Workplace Well-being, no one can sit back and wait for central agencies.
  • Certainly the centre is part of the solution.
  • But there's a lot that can be done right now, and many of you are taking action.
  • Ask yourselves
  • How can you streamline the work processes in your organization and cut out self-imposed red tape – while respecting the rule of law and our public sector values?
  • How can you show leadership on the issues that your people believe are important to getting their jobs done well?
  • There are lots of ways.
  • You can do things as simple as taking workplace safety, healthy working environments and clean air seriously.
  • You can encourage a social environment of respect, teamwork and support that helps to address and minimize the natural stress of any job.
  • You have the power to make sure your people are part of the E-Government world.
  • After all, if we are going to meet our Government On-line goals, it makes sense for our people to be as connected to the Web as people in remote communities such as Nunavut are already.
  • That includes giving our staff the basic technological infrastructure, tools, training and developmental opportunities they need for a knowledge economy.
  • It means making sure that all our people have access to the Internet and to tools to get the most out of it on the job, not just the 50% who do today.
  • Of course, we also need to address the fundamental issue of workload.
  • We need to promote a more reasonable balance between the demands of our workplaces and the needs of our families.
  • Something all of you understand, no doubt because the stresses of balance on ADMs are among our highest.
  • There is no magic solution.
  • But DMs and ADMs can do more to decide what they and their people cannot and will not do.
  • By deciding where to draw the line when setting priorities and being clear on what the limits are.
  • That is the kind of leadership – and yes risk-taking – that really starts the ball rolling.
  • Workload is the kind of issue that will call on the same kind of innovation that we expect in our policy, program or operational work.
  • And it is about reshaping our workplaces, where the results will be obvious and where everyone is encouraged to think big, think ahead and think people.

Conclusion

  • The fact is, if we want to contribute to an improved quality of life for Canada and Canadians, you must continue to provide strong leadership.
  • As I said at the start, it doesn't just happen.
  • A few weeks ago, during the reviews of the Trudeau years, it was suggested that those days were much more exciting for public servants, especially at the senior levels.
  • It was, we were told, a time of endless possibilities and often the money to pay for them.
  • Today, is certainly different – but not in the way that a lot of commentators claimed.
  • Today, as leaders we face a more demanding job and justifiably so.
  • The expectations are higher because the issues and environment are more complex and the pace has changed.
  • It's a world that calls for sophisticated, thoughtful and results-oriented leaders.
  • Frankly, the kind of leaders that we have here today.
  • Leaders who know that the route to the future is through employees who understand where we want to go and who see how they can contribute to reaching those goals.
  • It is a world that calls for leaders who can show tangible progress toward improving the quality of life of Canadians.
  • And for leaders who can keep their heads above the clouds by thinking big, thinking ahead and thinking people, while keeping their feet on the ground by taking concrete and real action.
  • If doing that was simple anyone could be an ADM – but just anyone can't.
  • As ADMs, you are the people who have proven your capacity to think strategically, to lead and to get the job done.
  • This forum is an excellent opportunity to learn and exchange ideas on how to achieve our objectives.
  • It is an opportunity to challenge each other in positive ways and towards even more positive goals.
  • So think big, think ahead and think people.
  • Keep your head above the clouds and your feet on the ground – this is a tall order.
  • And remember, that you are the leaders in the Public Service who will truly "make a difference" for the quality of lives of all Canadians.
  • Thank you.