Last week, I wrote about understanding your business environment and developing a strategy that takes advantage of the levers you can use to succeed. I hope you were able to take a few minutes and reflect on the questions that I posed, and I hope that some of you found comfort in having some positive answers to those questions!
Following our framework for organizational excellence, today’s post is all about planning. Good planning practices create a bridge between high level strategies and operational realities, here are some key questions to reflect on when you think about how you might take this transitional opportunity to strengthen your planning practices:
Strategic Plans can provide the long-term direction required to succeed, including a vision, mission, values, objectives and approaches for achieving those objectives.
- Does your team have a rich understanding of your business environment, your vision and your mission?
- Have you described the key goals that will lead to “Mission Accomplished”?
- Have you identified specific objectives that will help you achieve your goals?
- Have you described the approaches and resources that are required to achieve your strategic objectives?
Operational Plans provide a medium-term road-map for work groups to operationalize a strategy and achieve specific objectives.
- Does your team have a clear understanding of your strategic objectives?
- Have you described the short and medium term operational milestones that will lead to the successful achievement of strategic objectives?
- Has your team worked together to identify a sequence of activities, dependencies and timelines?
- Do team members know their roles and responsibilities to complete work and deliver on milestones?
Project Management provides ongoing support to project teams involved in specific initiatives that aren’t part of your organization’s typical business process. This could include marketing and communications campaigns, organization improvement projects, “tiger teams” addressing specific issues or risks, or research projects.
- Are projects proposed and approved in a consistent manner?
- Are approved projects planned and initiated using a common and accepted approach?
- Do project managers use a common suite of tools and supports to execute projects?
- Are projects reviewed to identify opportunities for improvement?
Communication and Coordination of your plans is critical for the successful achievement of your mission, strategic objectives and individual projects. Effectively engaging with the right people, regularly communicating expectations and signal checking on your plan can maintain focus and increase morale and performance.
- Do you engage with the right people to develop your plans, programs and projects?
- Is input from stakeholders, management and colleagues incorporated into your plans?
- Are approved plans effectively communicated to appropriate players internally and externally?
- Do you regularly signal check with your team and other stakeholders on progress?
Hopefully these few thoughts help you to reflect on opportunities that can help you along your journey to excellence. Please get in touch or leave a comment if you have any further thoughts that you’d like to share on these ideas around planning.
A friend of mine recently retweeted Justin Trudeau’s Open Letter to Canada’s Public Servants that was released back in September.
Given the number of retweets and shares that I saw on my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds, it appears that public servants have engaged with this letter and are anticipating some big changes now that Mr. Trudeau will be assuming the post of Prime Minister.
At Delsys we’ve been trusted partners and advisors to Canada’s public service for many years. We focus on helping governmental organizations deliver world-class public service.
As Mr. Trudeau notes, the business of public service has been changing rapidly and citizens are expecting better service from their government. His letter declared that a Liberal government’s approach to providing high quality service to citizens would include new performance standards for services offered by the federal government.
We’ve worked for many years on sharing our knowledge, tools and methods with Canada’s federal public service. We’ve collaborated with public servants across many portfolios to innovate and improve performance in their organizations and to foster a culture of continuous improvement.
As the public service turns a fresh page and begins thinking about how to raise the bar of performance, here are some initial questions to think about:
It all starts with your Environment:
- Do you regularly and proactively engage with appropriate senior executives?
- Do you know who the key players are in your business environment and do you regularly engage with them?
- Do you have a current understanding of the key drivers and dynamics at work in your public service environment?
A Strong Strategy: So what are you going to do about it?
- Is your strategic direction, including the mission, vision, values and goals periodically reviewed and revised according to your understanding of the evolving public service environment?
- Are political and other stakeholders involved in the development of your organization’s strategy and management system?
- Do executives and senior managers in your organization demonstrate leadership by committing to continuous improvement and public service excellence?
What are some of the key questions you’ll be thinking about as we transition to a new government in the coming months?
At Delsys we continue to research and develop leading models for Public Service Excellence and to help our clients continuously improve service delivery in their portfolios. This week we started things off by considering how to respond to your environment with an effective strategy. Stay tuned for more key questions to help you on your journey to public service excellence!
The Canadian Public Sector Excellence Fair takes place November 17th, 2015 at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Craig will be hosting a talk show at the event with senior executives from the Privy Council Office, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Canada School of Public Service.
Find out more about the talk show, the other exciting speakers and registration at www.cpsen.ca.
The road to excellence is a continuous reach for innovation and performance.
In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, organizations must stay ahead of client needs and expectations.
Average isn’t enough.
So how does an organization excel? You need to stay one step ahead of your clients. You should deliver better service than they’re expecting, and do it faster.
What will striving for organizational excellence really do to help?
Ultimately, excellence is about constantly improving how your organization works, not just focusing on what you do from day to day. It’s about empowering your people and pushing them to innovate ways of working smarter.
At Delsys, we set down a path to excellence using a common sense model that we call the QMPAS™ – Quality Management and Program Administration System. Everyone wants to work better. QMPAS shows you a path to deliver on that innovation and improvement.
We work together with our clients to create powerful tools that support each of the following ten QMPAS elements of organizational excellence. By working through the QMPAS approach, organizations can find better ways of working together. QMPAS works by having your team collaborate in developing and maintaining these ten elements:
Regularly study, review, understand and communicate the dynamics at work in your business environment.
Based on a shared understanding of the business environment, develop and communicate your vision, mission and strategy to provide clear and measurable direction for your team.
Work together to carefully plan the implementation of your strategy. Communicate action plans through an integrated suite of planning materials.
Clearly outline roles and responsibilities, functions, and decision-making frameworks to maintain consistency and quality in product development and service delivery.
Business process documentation is the root of operational performance. A common understanding of work-flow among team members enables review and improvement ‘where the rubber meets the road’.
Be obsessed with performance. Identify, monitor, report and take action on key metrics based on your QMPAS framework.
Cultivate innovation through systematic experimentation supported by knowledge management, collaboration, best practices and bench-marking.
Change is the single most challenging aspect of business administration. Be prepared to work together to implement changes on a cyclical basis.
Documents and software tools don’t improve organizations, people improve organizations. Be bold through communications, capacity building and recognition to cultivate a commitment to continuous improvement.
10. Strategic Resources
Building and sustaining strategic resources is the fuel that powers your competitive advantage. Align the right people, materials, equipment, knowledge and financial support at the right time to take performance to the next level.
Taken together, these ten elements of excellence form an integrated platform for assessing and improving your organization. It is a system. In a system, success in one area will often depend on strength in other areas. When all of these elements are strong, your organization is empowered to respond to risks and opportunities that emerge in your business environment. When they are weak or out of date, organizations run the risk of reeling from crisis to crisis.
Take a moment to think about these ten elements.
Does your team have all the tools they need? What are they missing? Most importantly, can you prove it?
Our team has helped dozens of organizations achieve their excellence goals and overcome challenges in each of these ten areas. We thrive in complex and fast paced business environments, and we are experts at strengthening communications and coordination. We are always happy to sit down to chat about your excellence goals, the challenges your team faces, and how Delsys might help.
So, how many consultants do you know that have a song written about them?
Craig Marchand is the Leader of the Policy and Research Practice Group at Delsys. He’s a whiz at strategic planning, process improvement and applying an integrated approach to ensuring quality in the delivery of public services. But what most of our clients don’t know is that Craig used to be a professional snowboarder. He was based in Whistler, B.C., (still his spiritual home) but has travelled over the world snowboarding and teaching.
Why is that important? Because the characteristics that made him an exceptional backcountry snow-boarder also make him an exceptional consultant:
- He has an unerring sense of balance.
- He’s willing to take risks, which means…
- He’s not afraid to try something new, which means…
- He’s willing to venture off the beaten track (as long as he can find his way back).
- He has a dedication to perfecting his technique through a combination of strength and agility; and
- He applies the mental discipline required to achieve superior performance on a consistent basis.
We like Craig a lot, but there’s one small problem. Craig LOVES winter. When the rest of Ottawa is groaning and complaining about the cold and ice and snow, Craig is loving it! He never wants it to end. And, we all blame him when it seems to go on forever.
Craig wants winter to last well into spring so he’ll have good conditions when he takes his annual holiday at Whistler. And, for reasons we don’t yet understand, he seems to have great success in achieving that result.
Anyway, last year, after a particularly long, hard winter, Delsys staff unanimously called on him to cancel his holiday in hopes that spring would eventually return to Ottawa. Craig responded in characteristic fashion, arguing that only by taking his vacation would winter come to a close. And, to make his argument resonate more, he couched his argument in some kind of strange snowboarder language.
The exact text of his email response to all Delsys staff was used as the spoken word lyric in the middle section of the following electronic dance music track, which has been played extensively at the New Rave Revival scene in the U.K. and the Sunshine Coast. (OK. That part is not true at all.)
With a response like that, who do you think prevailed?
Answer: Winter. As usual.
When I sit at my desk in the morning, I am greeted with a cup of coffee and the charming sound of my Mac starting up… along with a large metal cup of bright coloured pencils next to a sketchbook. Past my monitor into the open-concept office area are two sketched-up clear boards filled with client notes and drawings – they look very much like the ones you would see in CSI New York. And through the plexiglass walls I can see, on the glass table in the centre of our common area, a Scrabble board, Play-d’oh and Silly Putty. There is often an ongoing scrabble game and little sculpted creatures sharing the table.
I work in a creative and innovative environment.
At Delsys we embrace digital tools. We are cutting edge around here, and we telecommute, teleconference, Smartboard and e-collaborate with the best of them. We are fast and experienced Mac jockeys, and all Delsys employees carry iPads, and use them – a lot.
But we never forget where we come from, or what we really do. We tell stories — visual stories. Let’s face it, the best tools in the shop are the tools you actually use, and technology is only as good as the story you tell.
This is why the combination of technology and “old-school” techniques make our work place so engaging. We not only merge the new with the old, we encourage our clients to do so as well.
Although it can be tempting to run to a computer and polish a sketch up into sleek lines immediately, my first go-to is a stack of grid paper and a Sarasa Zebra jet-black ink pen. I can feel my fingers twitch with anticipation before pen touches paper, and shapes come to me as I listen to the back and forth in a client session. I doodle and am encouraged to colour outside the margins – I’m the storyteller.
Enter our boardroom in a meeting at Delsys, and along with the coffee and cookies, sure enough one of us will put a whiteboard marker into your hand and ask you to sketch out your ideas along with us. It really doesn’t matter if you can draw or not. You know your story and Delsys is a place to express yourself in a creative way.
Our tools and toys aren’t the only things that help get the creative juices flowing. The staff at Delsys have the most amazing hobbies: we design jewellery and pastry, we garden and feng shui with crystals, we write mystery novels and knit, we shred the slopes and ride motorcycles, we sing karaoke and square dance, we have a secret life as a music producer. Each member of this group leaves to a rich and fulfilling life, because that is what we crave.
Working in teams, we brainstorm together. Both designers and the research team sketch out ideas together; no light bulb is left off in this place. It’s sort of a mini-crowdsourcing. The best ideas are brought forward, and the design team regularly has internal competition on design briefs to give each product a unique look and feel.
Our project workflow and processes are organic and iterative, and we draw from the differences in creative thought and disciplines of each team member. A paragraph written by one of our analysts may shape the look of a piece, and the reverse often happens when graphic form lends inspiration for a clearer analogy in the writing.
The way we interact, that energy we have among ourselves, and the encouragement to pass along cool things we’ve seen or hobbies we do… the Delsys atmosphere is charged with innovation and bursting with ideas, and clients know it when they walk in. It is our culture.
We recognize the place that creativity has in the process of getting a client to their destination. It is a fundamental component of the whole. Without its moorings — rigour, attention to detail, engagement and excellence — creative thinking can dissipate into nothing. This is why our research is thorough, our disciplines are well-grounded, and our relationships with clients are so vital.
(Although nothing stretches the imagination so much as trying to make a Scrabble play using one X, three Ns and a J.).
I heard a voice coming out of the corner office yesterday encouraging me to write a blog before I leave for my summer vacation. The voice was that of our CEO, Natalia. I smiled thinking to myself of the growing list of things I needed to accomplish before signing out of my Mac and heading out for my time off. The tone of her request reminded me of Mrs. Smith, my grade 5 English teacher, requesting one final essay to be completed before the school term ended. So in honour of Mrs. Smith, today I will write about why I need a summer vacation.
It’s not that I don’t love my job. I love the whole experience of working in a creative place like Delsys. I like every minute of my professional day from waking up and choosing the right bowtie to wear, picking up my daily chocolate cupcake and coffee, to turning on my mac and immersing myself with graphic design problems and riddles for a variety of clients. I love the interaction of a dynamic workplace where we work in teams to come up with visual solutions that match the carefully crafted content of our analysts. But as much as I like being here, I need a break!
This vacation away is going to give me the chance to do a lot of things to replenish my soul. I plan to:
Recharge and pamper
Oh yes, I plan on sleeping in! My brain needs a break. Everyone needs to be able to step away and come back with a fresh perspective. I plan on spending the first 3 days in a hammock just watching clouds go by – raspberry lemonade in hand. I’m going to explore my epicurious side and eat really well. I have a jaunt to Montreal planned with my sister for spa day where I plan to rest, eat to excess, and have my stresses massaged away.
In a creative field, we find inspiration almost everywhere, but a vacation takes you out of your daily routine. It takes you on roads you haven’t travelled before surrounded by the sights and sounds you would normally miss. I love a week day off in my own city. The experience is totally different because the focus isn’t to get to and from work. Ottawa is made for vacationers and has countless attractions. I know it’s just up the street from Delsys, but I plan on a visit to the National Art Gallery to see the exhibit of The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2015. That is sure to inspire me!
Drop the Tech
The final thing that I hope to accomplish is to get away from technology and focus on the real world for a few days by heading out to camp in Quebec. While the campground offers WIFI (mother nature would be shaking her head), I have decided to opt out and leave my laptop, and iPad at home. I have been trained to react to the ding of a email coming in or a vibration in my pants pocket with every text that comes in. I go to bed reading celebrity news my Flipboard app and wake up to cat videos on Facebook. Now don’t get me wrong I plan on plenty of selfies while I’m away but I’ll wait to post them until I return.
The second half of my vacation will be spend tickling, laughing, and playing with my four children. For me, vacations have always meant a chance to bond in meaningful ways with family. We’ll be taking day trips to grandma’s and hiking in the Gatineaus. Time off with those you love gives you that extra time to share an experience and build memories that will last a lifetime for you and for them.
I need this vacation, I have a lot to accomplish. And, when I return, I plan to be revitalized and ready to take on the world. Maybe I’ll write a follow up blog when I return on the grade 5 standard “How I spent my summer vacation”.
Our clients are the reason we exist, and when we get feedback from them, we take it very seriously. The following results were received in a survey conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, after a very productive two day session facilitated by Natalia. So… how did she do?
There seems to be a shift happening. Can you feel it? What I consider to be the “Oprah Effect” seems to be taking hold out there. You know what I am referring to… everyone seems to be looking for that special purpose or that desire to give back and pay it forward, and this purpose has found its way into our communities from coast to coast to coast. People are stepping back and evaluating their lives and realizing that maybe the Audi in the laneway and the million-dollar home just aren’t giving them that same buzz anymore. People are reevaluating their priorities — shifting their focus from the big salaries and all the accoutrements that come with the high profile job — and embracing volunteerism, paying it forward and giving back to the community. People are combining profession with mission, vocation, and passion… finding a sweet spot that pulls all of the pieces together in rewarding and powerful ways.
According to StatsCan, the number of volunteers in Canada is growing at a faster rate than Canada’s population, and 93% of volunteers have said that their primary motivating factor for volunteering was to make a contribution to their community. Studies have shown that those who do volunteer show an increase in their health and happiness. It helps combat depression and increases self-confidence… so who wouldn’t want to jump on the bandwagon with payoffs like that?
This trend of paying it forward is also popping up in the drive through lines at Tim Horton’s, where patrons pay for the order for the car behind them. For very little money you can change the course of someone’s day. How cool is that? The current record for the continuous number of orders “poured forward” stands at 228 orders at a Winnipeg shop. Wouldn’t you love to be a part of that?….and who would want to be number 229 in that line up?
The news is littered with similar stories, where tips are left to the hard working waitress at a coffee shop, and anonymous donors step forward to assist families in dire straights. Volunteering and paying it forward does not have to mean the outlay of cash or time. Giving back can be the simple act of holding a door or addressing the clerk in a store by the name that is so visibly pinned to their blouse. Take the time to notice people, make eye contact with people, and smile! Be the act that changes a bad day into a wow day, because I can tell you that what you put out there in the world comes back to you in unimaginable ways. By changing someone else’s day, you may just end up changing your own in the process.
Delsys Research is proud to support the Canadian Public Sector Excellence Network and would like to invite you to join us at the chapter meeting next week where we will be discussing recent changes to ISO 9001. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other public servants and learn about organizational excellence. It’s a free event that is open to everyone with a hot breakfast and you can register here. The network is very much open to new participants and members, we look forward to seeing you there!
For more information view the attached pdf, CPSEN NCR Chapter Event Jun 23 2015