The Leadership Challenge in a Modern Public Service

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Notes for an Address by Mel Cappe Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet at theAssistant Deputy Minister's Forum

Ottawa, Ontario
October 23-24, 2001

Check Against Delivery


Introduction

  • This Assistant Deputy Minister Forum is taking place in a very different environment - the aftermath of September 11.
  • On September 11 and since, we have seen renewed appreciation of the essential role that government and the public service play in ways that benefit Canadians.
  • Within the Public Service we have seen remarkable responsiveness and commitment in the face of:
  • a major tragedy; and
  • deep concerns about potential threats to Canada and our allies.
  • I cannot predict the choices that the Government will make across the whole of its agenda.
  • But I can say that the importance of strengthening and modernizing the public service has never been clearer.
  • And let me just say how enormously proud I am of the Public Service.
  • I am proud to be a Public Servant.
  • Let me just say, that I am proud to be a Public Servant dedicated to the public interest.
  • I can also say that the importance of leadership in the public service is now more pressing than ever before.
  • So, today, I will focus my remarks on three themes:
  • Leadership that creates more leaders.
  • Leadership that creates a change in culture and a culture of change.
  • Leadership and human resources modernization.
  • My core message for all three themes is:
  • We are in a time when leadership in the Public Service is essential both to dealing with our immediate challenges and to modernizing the Public Service to meet tomorrow's challenges - and I am challenging you to be the kind of leader who helps make change happen.
  • You are the leaders of change!
  • When I say leaders who help make change happen, I'm talking about leadership that goes beyond our Deputy Minister and Executive communities.
  • I see fostering a leadership that people at all levels of the Public Service can show.
  • I know that it was leadership that people at all levels did show in the aftermath of September 11.
  • As we got word of what happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the Public Service went into action.
  • The spirit of collaboration reigned when so many public servants responded to the fall-out of the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
  • Departments showed leadership in many ways:
  • Transport Canada declared that no aircraft, commercial or private, would be permitted to depart Canadian airports.
  • At the same time, the Canadian aviation system immediately began preparations to accept 247 planes with over 43,000 passengers previously destined for the United States that could no longer land in that country.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Policy has intensified its policing and threat assessment activities as well as its assistance in responding to requirements and requests from within Canada, from the United States and abroad.
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada moved quickly to tighten border controls in response to this incident. Citizenship and Immigration Canada also assisted in the processing of the approximately 43,000 United States bound passengers who arrived at Canadian airports.
  • The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency increased the level of vigilance at all border points. Customs officers are increasing their examination of persons and goods entering the country.
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade established a 1-800 telephone number for Canadians who may have relatives and friends affected by the attacks on America. The Operations Centre has responded to approximately 24,000 calls. Consular officials in the United States and elsewhere were instructed to maintain emergency services on a 24-hour basis in the aftermath of the attacks.
  • Environment Canada is using its expertise in border inspections, working with United States agencies to address potential emergencies.
  • When the wireless and wire line networks in New York and Washington became overloaded and physically damaged, Industry Canada provided assistance to facilitate mutual aid response between Canada and the United States.
  • But that was only one side of this important equation.
  • We saw leadership in other ways, such as the almost spontaneous work to organize the ceremony on Parliament Hill.
  • The day before, Ministers met at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the idea, Deputies met at 2:00 p.m..
  • Half an hour later, I looked out my window to see Public Works and Government Services Canada's scaffolding come down off the front of the Centre Block to clear the way for the red carpeting and the stage, while Canadian Heritage organized the event at the same time.
  • The next morning, everything was in place for 100,000 people who saw a moving ceremony as the bell in the Peace Tower tolled.
  • And there were many other examples.
  • As you know, work is continuing.
  • We have seen the first of a series of legislative measures to combat terrorism.
  • Morris Rosenberg and his team in Justice and across other departments deserve special mention for their extraordinary work to prepare the "Antiterrorism Act" and reflect the unique balance of rights of constitutions.
  • These and future measures should reinforce our horizontality and teamwork in addressing public security issues.
  • Morris Rosenberg did an extraordinary job by helping.
  • These recent accomplishments demonstrated both the commitment of our people, and of our values and ethics.
  • All of this points out that Canada's Public Service has unique roles that Canadians rely on us to do well.
  • And in particular those roles resulting from the September 11 attacks can be summarized in five key areas:
  • Keeping terrorists out;
  • Finding, prosecuting and removing them;
  • Making the Canada - United States border work;
  • Supporting international initiatives; diplomatic, development assistance; and
  • Ensuring emergency response and protection of critical infrastructures.
  • It shows the importance of the horizontal leadership in times of crisis.
  • What do we have to do to ensure that we have the capacity to answer in a crisis situation?

Leadership that Creates More Leaders

  • Of course, leadership is not merely a response to an immediate need.
  • It has to shine through in everyday efforts and in our commitment to consistent improvement and positive change.
  • We have to nurture more leaders at every level.
  • Nurturing people towards new thinking and new approaches.
  • Demonstrating that our people have the talent and opportunities to be leaders.
  • That is a message that I keep hearing from my Youth Advisory Committee (YAC).
  • They must have heard the George Orwell quote that is especially true of what we've seen over the past six weeks.
  • "When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic."
  • They want to contribute and not just today but for a long time to come.
  • They want to work for leaders who will nurture their abilities as leaders, too.
  • They want to keep learning, they want to keep growing, professionally and personally.
  • Most of us know this from our own experience.
  • We can all point to leaders we've worked for who did more than just issue orders.
  • Even in the Public Service, we all have known leaders who chose not to define themselves and their opportunities for results by the constraints we all face - especially public scrutiny.
  • We've all worked for people who gave us opportunities to stretch our skills and pick up new ones.
  • People who have challenged us to be the best we can be.
  • That's the kind of leader each and every one of us should aim to be.
  • What does it take to be one of those leaders?
  • One important quality is the belief that you can always learn from the people around you.
  • That means more than just an open door policy, although that's a start.
  • I've found that an open door policy works best when there's an open mind on the other side of that doorway, too.
  • And the real test of this is when we accept leaders who are not just junior versions of ourselves - we need a diversity of ideas.
  • It's better to work with people with different leadership qualities that complement our own.
  • Another leadership quality is that we believe in what we're doing and that we can inspire others to believe as well.
  • This happens when our values and ethics shine through in the tough choices, when our commitment to citizens is clear from our action.
  • I would also like to remind you about the consultations Janice Cochrane and Scott Serson are leading on the Principles of Values and Ethics of the Public Service of Canada.
  • As leaders of the Public Service, your input is valuable but even more valuable is the leadership you demonstrate by encouraging your staff to be part of the values dialogue.

Leadership that creates a change in culture

  • This is not just about individual leadership styles or work within one team.
  • It is visible, daily commitment to fostering cultural change across the board.
  • It is a commitment that you and I can make and need to make to open the way to more improvements in their own organizations and across the Public Service.
  • So, the questions are both simple and tough:
  • How will we create the dynamic for change in our organizations?
  • How will we identify and work with the change drivers that exist within our organization?
  • How will we create a climate that encourages our people to be leaders in making change happen?
  • A lot of this will depend on your personal commitment to openness and accountability, in addition to your commitment to change.
  • We know that people's trust depends on seeing evidence that we are affected by change as much as they are.
  • We know that people expect communications and openness.
  • These are tough demands on leaders.
  • In my experience, this has meant showing that you are willing to hear things that are not easy to hear.
  • Not just about someone else's ideas but about your ideas, about your leadership.
  • It also means a hard and frank stock-taking.
  • After all, if we don't take the well-being of our people seriously, it shouldn't come as a surprise that they are less committed to the well-being of the Public Service.
  • If you look after your people they will look after you.
  • It also means recognizing that actions must, as much as possible, live up to words and promises.

Leadership and Human Resources Modernization

  • Leading change has to happen in many ways and one of the most obvious has to be through human resources modernization.
  • During the Outstanding Achievement Award Public Service ceremony last week the Prime Minister reiterated that since September 11 a modernized Public service is more important than ever.
  • I raise this point because in a climate of some uncertainty and changing priorities, some may think that modernization could be put on a slower track.
  • Not only are we going ahead, we urgently need a modernized Public Service.
  • We need leaders who do more than create cultural change - we need leaders who create a culture of change.
  • Why are we doing this, because it contributes to the renewal of the Public Service, to better serving Canadians and better service to Ministers.
  • The events of September 11 and since have underlined, with stark reality the need for responsive and effective human resources management.
  • How else can we mobilize and motivate people effectively to meet unforeseen needs?
  • So we will keep moving on the legislative side of the modernization priority.
  • And we will keep moving on the non-legislative side of that priority, too.
  • For example, I have recently obtained authorization for external recruitment for the Privy Council Office. This is one example of what is available with the existing system.
  • I want to take a few moments to comment on that non-legislative work, the Track Two activities and I want to start by looking at what is happening and what needs to happen in context.
  • When I met with my Youth Advisory Committee, someone asked, "If these problems have been around for 60 years, why hasn't there been any changes?"
  • My answer to them is something we all need to keep in mind - there have been changes, just not enough of them.
  • Look at this event.
  • Assistant Deputy Minister Forums, and Deputy Minister Retreats are increasingly focussing on management issues, not just on policy.
  • That shows how compelling these issues are to producing results on the rest of the agenda, policy or operational.
  • So the context completely changed, paving the way for the changes in the second part which have been made to date.
  • Departments and agencies have been reporting back to me on their success with Track Two activities.
  • Clearly there is movement: a cultural shift has begun; good people management is seen to be an integral part of good management.
  • For example:
  • Industry Canada has established a "People Management Fund" that provides funding for new initiatives in support of Human Resource goals in the areas of recruitment, retention and learning and Career Development.
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada established a Senior Human Resource Team and an Inclusiveness Team with a goal to ensure that people issues are a top priority in the department.
  • Many departments now have an integrated planning approach to recruitment, retention and learning.
  • Departments are increasingly seeing the benefits of working more horizontally. Several departments have formed partnerships in order to meet their needs collectively. For example:
  • Veterans Affairs Canada is working with Department of National Defence to hire medically-retired military members who were injured on duty. This is an innovative way to draw on these expertise and strengthen employment equity representation within Veteran Affairs Canada and the Public Service.
  • Health Canada partnered with six other "science" departments to examine ways of increasing Aboriginal involvement/employment in the science and technology fields.
  • Natural Resource Canada targeted Employment Equity.
  • Departments are also taking action on some specific priorities.

Recruitment

  • For example, on recruitment, we're seeing results in attracting both young people and members of employment equity groups.
  • With the recent flexibilities introduced by Central Agencies, Statistics Canada started an innovative program that matches the skills of retired Statistics Canada employees with projects requiring scarce resource in terms of corporate knowledge, wisdom and experience called the Alumni Program.
  • Fisheries and Oceans is moving from a risk-averse, vacancy-by-vacancy approach to a planned and strategic approach, supported by a new Recruitment Centre of Excellence.

Retention

  • On retention, we're seeing results in addressing the issues that have discouraged people from staying in the Public Service or in particular roles.
  • Some departments have introduced wellness programs that assist employees in finding the balance between their professional and personal lives. Canadian Custom Revenue Agency has a new dispute resolution system to address employee concerns.
  • Many departments reported that they have developed recognition awards to promote the importance of people management. For example at Canadian Heritage 26 individuals received People Management Awards.

Learning

  • We are making progress in moving towards a learning organization.
  • Canadian International Development Agency now has a formal Knowledge Management Approach, which is designed to connect people across the Agency so they can create and share the knowledge that Canadian International Development Agency needs to be continually more effective.
  • A lot of work is horizontal; the Department of the Solicitor General is partnering with Health Canada so its employees can get access to Health Canada's many career management and other learning programs.

General

  • There is in the letters to Deputy Ministers much more going on than that, of course, but what comes through is the progress in how our managers see people - as an investment in the organization, not as a cost.
  • We are seeing a new type of leadership emerge.
  • Canadian Custom Revenue Agency says that the single most important attribute of their recent changes to Human Resources Management is "leadership". Their changes were not led by Human Resources but a strong leader and a management team.
  • It is necessary to show leadership through out the Public Service in order to obtain results.
  • Leadership is not easy at any time, and it is tougher when expectations for results are high.
  • Human Resources modernization is the launchpad for all the results that Canadians need and expect.
  • We have to focus on engaging the enthusiasm and brainpower of the people we already have on our teams and the people we want to attract to those teams.
  • Your role as leaders is to sketch out the picture of the future we all want to see:
  • and then, point the way and provide the needed support;
  • and - as I said earlier - be willing to hear what you may not want to hear;
  • engage people to share and shape the future by making them part of these changes.
  • What we, as leaders, need to do is what Warren Bennis describes as learning "to create an environment that actually embraces change, not as a threat but as an opportunity."
  • And that means opportunities for everyone at every level and everywhere in the organization.

Conclusion

  • Events of September 11 and all that followed showed once again - what governments decide matters, and what people in the Public Service do clearly matters.
  • What we do for Canadians for our employees, and for people in other countries is very real and has an impact.
  • September 11, showed also leadership by public servants - individuals in leadership roles were able to see needs and then work with and through their people and their partners to take action.
  • Leadership occurred at various levels as our people stepped up to the plate when they saw what needed to be done.
  • No one had to tell them what to do. In a crisis its our values that will guide us.
  • We share a set of values and ethics that point us all in the same direction and that is honourable in every way.
  • We can take immense pride in what we do and who we are.
  • As Kevin Cashman points out in his book, Leadership from the Inside Out:
  • "We lead by virtue of who we are".
  • And Canadians saw who we are during those difficult days.
  • Our task now is to spread the leadership - to widen the circle of leaders.
  • We want to create a climate within our organizations in which people understand the bigger picture, and what they are trying to accomplish as part of that picture; and that we give them the support to make that happen.
  • We want to create learning organizations that opens doors and that brings out the best in those we work with.
  • Before I end, I want to challenge each of you.
  • I want each of you to take a moment - right now - to identify one thing you can do differently when you get back to your organization.
  • One thing that will demonstrate change in your leadership and in your commitment to change in the culture.
  • One thing that you can tell the people in your organization and be held accountable for and live up to with pride.
  • Investing in our own youthful leaders by coaching and mentoring them, helping them perform also helps us get to know ourselves, define ourselves, who we are and how we are by providing this leadership.
  • There are three elements of leadership that are important:
  • Leadership that creates more leaders.
  • Leadership that creates a change in culture and a culture of change.
  • Leadership and human resources modernization.
  • I have always been a strong believer in our Public Service and this belief has deepened over the past few weeks.
  • I think we can capture that same sense of commitment and determination that mobilizes us in difficult times, in order to help make this the strongest and proudest organization possible, one that is truly capable of making the most of change.
  • And you, as Assistant Deputy Ministers are essential in reaching that goal.
  • When you discuss the future of the Public Service amongst yourselves and the people in your organization keep this in mind "- Its not what you overcome, but it is what you want to become" we must move towards a future of Leadership.
  • Thank you.