Category: Change Management

8 Public Sector Transformation Predictions for 2013

First, the Systemscope crew extends a warm Happy New Year to our friends, clients and associates. May the year ahead bring many successes to you personally and in your various endeavours.

Ahead of the maelstrom that is the fourth quarter for the federal government, we took a moment to mark down some of our insights about transformation in the public sector. These predictions come from interactions with our clients, research of emerging business process and information technology trends and our own exploration of new ideas and approaches. And, frankly, our own gut feelings.

Let’s just say it won’t be a quiet year.

The Fog Starts to Clear

      1. Service delivery models will be architected while being engineered.  The gauntlet has dropped.  Transformational priorities have been thrust upon the community, from GC Web Renewal to regulatory service transformation, through to centralized IT and clustered service delivery.  The GC does not have the luxury of time, nor of resources to demonstrate results.  As a result, gone are the days of infinite strategizing, planning, requirements collection, procurement, design, build, implement, operate… all of which are fraught with risk.  This year we expect to see the GC adopt more agile approaches writ large. The successful ones will embrace the innovative mojo the GC once had in order to enter into an effective cycle of plan-do-measure-learn-improve.  By blending business, information and applications architecture into engineering design, through an agile and iterative approach, we will see lower risk, faster time-to-value, and accelerated benefits realization for clients, stakeholders and the GC.
      2. Lead departments, in the execution of IM strategies that focus on maximizing the use of valuable digital information assets, will radically transform the way digital information is stored, accessed and managed in enterprise information management systems. For too long now in information management the focus has been on designing systems and processes that enable information creation and information retention and disposition but do not enable or facilitate information use. Lead departments, taking cues from successful information rich web and e-commerce sites, will develop systems in which leveraging the value of information for the benefit of the organization will dominate the design paradigm, achieving the necessary, but more mundane, records management requirements in the background.
      3. There will be a surge of true enterprise wide transformation management. Although many people believe we have lived through these types of massive changes before, we’re not sure we agree. It seems like today’s large scale transformations are different, and in many ways are presenting us with the perfect storm.  They involve organizational restructuring, client needs and client service redefinition, and a total reinvention of existing service delivery channels.  And within each of these major initiatives, there are people, process, technology, and system changes.  And if that all wasn’t enough, we are continually being asked to work collaboratively with new ‘partners’ and/or people whom we may have never worked with before.
        We believe that 2013 will be the year that we all stop thinking of transformations from exclusively the project management (PM) perspective.   We are fast learning that they must be approached as enterprise-wide programs that impact each and every individual within an organization.  A PM approach is simply not created for that purpose.  So 2013 (and beyond) will focus on the creation of new enterprise-wide program tools and techniques that will provide the ‘umbrella  approach’ necessary to better weather that perfect storm!

Deadline Schmeadline

      1. ROT will be removed in 2013 whether you like it or not. Some think that ROT is done and gone, but the reality is that the initial thrust has passed with dismal results. I’m seeing 2-3% of content identified as redundant, outdated or trivial which is a far cry from the 40-60% being targeted. That’s not a prediction, just a fact. So where will go from here? I think we will see two different paths followed this year. First, communications branches will start to take the bull by the horns, and rather than trying to get program areas to identify the ROT, Communications is going to do it for them. Comms will start owning the problem, making the decisions, and removing the content as needed. The second path will be for those who continue with inertia. Rather than the department being able to identify their ROT and dissect their pages tactfully with a scalpel, someone is going to come along with a machete and do it for them. While it may end up being efficient, I’m not convinced this will be optimal for departments or users.
      2. GC Web consolidation efforts will initially meet a wall, and then overcome it. The pressure to start implementing “something” in 2013 will produce some initial strategies for information architecture and governance. But with the challenges of handling this huge effort by committee and not by a dedicated team, odds are that progress will be minimal by Q2 and anything visible will not feel like a transformation, but more of the same. Rather than let the momentum falter, there will be a rethink at the drawing board and a better plan that looks more keenly at an enterprise model and sustainable, iterative development. Governance will be framed around the role of content owner and the supporting, centralized mechanisms that must deal with the issues of user experience design, interoperability and performance.

What’s in a Name? That Which We Call…

    1. Intranets will be reborn as digital workspace. Intranets will gain prominence this year, but under the guise of a new “digital workspace”.  Intranets, as we have known them in the past, are outdated, dull and in many departments, a useless junk drawer. I think we’re going to see a new push to turn this around and create useful, effective and efficient digital workspaces for staff, of which the intranets are a component. Why now? There are a few GC priorities and cultural influences that are all now converging, leaving us in a position where we can’t help but look to our digital workspace as a new priority. These include:
      1. The evolving internet renewal driven by TBS priorities: a lot of the good ideas from these are also going to be viewed as good ideas for internal web presences).
      2. Workplace 2.0: with an eye to working differently the collaboration and communication spaces used by staff will need to evolve if there’s to be any success with “working smarter”.
      3. Enterprise Information Management, TBS RK compliance and GC Docs are all going to require some sort of interface and document collaboration space and the internal web space will have a critical role here.
      4. Departments will start to evolve to developing “digital workspace” strategies, rather than IM/IT strategies, to keep pace with public and employee expectations for the delivery of open, efficient and effective government.
      5. A cultural shift in departments where the DRAP ideals of efficiency are now not just being applied to the web sphere, but a driving force behind the scoping and management decisions for our web spaces.
    2. We start caring less about social media but more about mobile. As mobile device ownership overtakes desktop and laptop computers, anywhere anytime access to web content via a smartphone or tablet will be expected by both citizens and government employees. Social media will simply be a component of a basic communications strategy instead of a separate stand-alone channel. Mobile media, however, and the features untethered web access allows for such as location-based services or augmented reality, as well as the mobile wallet, will require clear understanding of user contexts and close alignment of GC-wide enterprise needs to prevent duplicate mobile services and multiple similar-use apps.
    3. Task-based design starts to turn towards transaction-based design. The new TBS standards for the Web have put the concept of “task-based design” in the lime light. Departments are cutting huge swaths out of their websites (in theory) based on defining what tasks users are trying to complete, and what they are not. This isn’t going to go away in 2013 and nor do I think it should. However, I think some of the struggles we have in delivering on this task completion due to internal capacity and alignment of mandates with user needs will give way to a new focus on “transaction-based design”.  As departments get increasingly serious about streamlining their websites this year, I think we will see transactional concepts emerging as the definition for not just “what’s really important to users”, but more so the intersection between important to users and useful content or services that can actually be provided.

7 Valuable Lessons in Change Management

Practising change management in the private sector taught me much about what to do and what not to do.  I believe the lessons learned are applicable in many different sectors and business environments.  Although I carry these lessons with me always, sometimes they need to be put aside for a moment.

For the purpose of this blog, I am sharing the lessons learned primarily through my experience working within the public sector.  I have noticed some trends that appear to be common across many government departments and agencies.  These observations formed the basis for this blog and the 7 lessons learned presented below.

1. Assemble the right team of experts, including Project Management (PM), Change Management (CM), and Communications

  • Create strong (and integrated) working relationships across PM and CM roles
  • Think differently about communications, be strategic in its application
  • Assign dedicated project management, change management and communications resources sooner rather than later
  • Strive for CM rigour in the same manner as PM rigour

2. Start planning early and continually integrate all efforts

  • Planning is an on-going process and needs continual time and effort to keep it relevant
  • It also requires an integrated and enterprise-wide approach that is also surprisingly agile
  • It will take time to define the details and once you do, the entire enterprise may shift towards a new direction

3. Do not over-saturate your organization with many concurrent major changes

  • But if you do … assign dedicated resources to coordinate and integrate all concurrent projects
  • The corner of many desks is usually not the way to go …
  • Be sure to plan extensively to avoid collisions and manage inter-dependencies
  • Adopt creative thinking around resources and work assignments

4. Be mindful of your enablers, partners, and stakeholders and engage them in the process early

  • You have more dependencies than you realize, you need support from enabling functions (HR, Finance, Legal, Procurement) in order to be successful
  • Start working with partners early to benefit from the identification of opportunities to work differently
  • Horizontal collaboration is the new normal and we need to strengthen our existing channels for working together

5. It takes time to reorganize and redesign org structures and working relationships

  • Always write team mandates and clarify people’s roles (using a RACI format)
  • Never under-estimate organizational history and culture
  • Recognize that your people cannot even begin to think in terms of integrating services until they understand the process of integrating themselves and their people
  • People are invested in the current state and don’t ‘believe’ things really need to change

6. Be mindful of your governance and approvals processes and streamline them wherever possible

  • Executives and Sponsors should communicate endlessly to senior management committees and governing bodies to bring them along in the process
  • Change is complex enough without factoring in lengthy delays caused by governance
  • Define a diligent but streamlined process for gaining approvals for critical decisions

7. Accept that operational requirements will always trump change agendas

  • Get ahead of the curve and communicate to clients that it is not business as usual
  • Set new/modified expectations with clients for the duration of the change process
  • Manage the concept of trade-offs and reset expectations as required
  • Set new/modified priorities with staff for the duration of the change process
  • Avoid calling everything a priority at all times, as staff need clear priorities when caught in the daily demands of heavy workloads

All of these lessons learned are either foundational pieces or they are related to the importance of setting realistic expectations during times of change.  Perhaps a general acceptance that there will always be trade-offs associated with any major change is a great place to start.  Those trade-offs inevitably require us to respond by doing things differently.

After all, when has the adoption of any major change ever afforded an organization the luxury of operating their business as usual?  Instead, let’s embrace it for what it is.  Let’s start taking more concrete steps to better lay the foundation required for everyone to be successful in their own change management process.


Communicating strategically during times of change

We all know communications are important, especially during major change. But the Government has a different context. It’s a context where the very basic communications approach during transformation – of planning, then announcing, then implementing – is not always possible. They have communicated a particular way in the past, and now that has become a habit. read more

If Sun Tzu Were Consulting for Government, He Might Say…

Know your enemy, know yourself, and opportunities multiply as they are seized.  Wise words for those about to live through one of the most significant transformations the Government of Canada has undergone in a generation.

For over 9 years, Systemscope has been a proud GTEC sponsor and offers presentations that showcase Systemscope’s collective approach to helping federal government departments and agencies find efficiencies and deliver better outcomes.  As part of 2012’s presentations, Innovations from the Systemscope Lounge was a journey though each of Systemscope’s different practice areas united by a theme of “Thinking in Threes”.

Think in Threes

In my introduction to this unique presentation format, I discussed how GTEC’s theme this year – innovation and collaboration to make a difference for Canadians –  is part of the message that we who work in or with federal government receive.  Innovation and collaboration, however, are ideals that have to be translated into the current context of our actual working environment.  We all form perceptions of the current environment through newspaper headlines announcing job cuts, through the Administrative Services Review or the Deficit Reduction Action Plan.  How then, can we, as stated in the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee Report, “Get used to a new world”?

The habitual response is to rely on theoretical approaches and survey best practices or conduct environmental scans.  The useful response is to bring and share with you insights founded in lived experience.  If you’ve lived through major government or departmental changes and been part of transformation at all levels, you might agree that the useful response trumps the habitual one.  Our first seminar aimed to highlight the multi-faceted experiences from our various transformation architects and equip you with practical and applicable information.

I was proud to see each of our Systemscope presenters provide our audience with knowledge, whether from Denis’ personal experience with brain surgery and transformation to Kathy’s outlining of how to harness all efforts to enable change or Linda Daniels-Lewis’ Blinding Flashes of the Obvious about Electronic Data Records Management Systems (EDRMS) and Denise’s view on the new Treasury Board Web Standards.

Seemingly disparate in topic areas, each of the eight presentations were views into how many different components of any organization are involved in transformation.  My conclusion, and one I hope the audience walked away with, was a call to action to understand the true message and opportunity that innovation and collaboration bring as concepts for all of us.

I framed this call to action with three guiding Sun Tzu principles:

  1. Know yourself: Understand your own limitations, your organizational culture and capabilities and how you deal with the personalities around you.  Also know your strengths and use these effectively to build and maintain momentum.
  2. Know your enemy: Consider the enemy within – your fears, not just of failure but of success; mistrust; inertial attitude, e.g. “it’s not my job”; understanding real vs perceived barriers.
  3. Opportunities multiply as they are seized: Each of the presentations offered opportunities to innovate and collaborate.  By seizing those opportunities, you will be able to demonstrate value and success, which in turn will bring you more opportunities.  You never know what’s around the corner unless you journey to the corner.
Ultimately, what all of us have to decide is whether the glass is half-empty or half-full (yes, I know, not a Sun Tzu quote, but I’m sure he would agree).

I would like to extend a sincere thank you to our GTEC audience.  GTEC is a meaningful and significant event at Systemscope as it offers us the opportunity to collaborate and celebrate our long-standing relationships with our federal government clients.  We appreciate your support and look forward to our continued innovation and collaboration together.

By Stephen Karam, Partner and Practice Lead, Government Service Excellence (

Transformation: Harnessing All Efforts

As an experienced change management practitioner, I have always felt that the premise of change management involved an organization moving from a current state to some future improved state.  We would then utilize an improvement-based methodology (i.e. Lean, Six Sigma, TQM) to identify waste or opportunities, and their ultimate removal would deliver improved business results.

So what is the premise of transformation? Is it the same as change management? I believe it is not the same, or at least, not always the same.

Transformation:  The Premise

Transformation seems to be more about doing things differently, and that is inherently not the same as merely improving things.

This transformation stuff feels like a real game changer to me.  So I think it will be important to start harnessing our collective efforts in new ways.  And what better way to do this than to adopt some new principles to guide us on our journey through this new reality.  I am offering three for your consideration, basically I just want to get the ball (and conversations) rolling.

Transformation: The Principles

  1. Bury the Past (and Present)

Transformation Principle:  Spend less time discussing the past/present state and more time defining and moving toward the future state.

This first principle arose after witnessing the copious amount of time that SME (subject matter experts) spend reviewing, documenting and analyzing their current processes as an initial step to defining a yet to be determined future state. It simply struck me as a step that could be shortened or entirely eliminated if an organization is seeking innovative solutions or looking to do things differently.

The reason for this is simple:

  • The past/present is not necessarily the basis for the future
  • People will take forward their expertise but not necessarily their practices
  • People will need to learn to apply their expertise differently and find new ways of doing their work

In order to be successful, people will need to let go of the past/present and accept that the future will be an entirely new reality for everyone.  Basically we all need to leap (i.e. leap of faith towards a yet to be determined future state) in order to actively contribute to this new reality.

2. Leverage People’s Strengths

Transformation Principle:  Assign fewer tasks with the intent of stretching or developing people and more tasks according to people’s strengths and intrinsic wiring.

This second principle came to light after seeing so many of our clients asking some great questions about the future, and being motivated to do things differently,  yet struggling to come up with the answers required to move forward.

I believe that many of us are not overly comfortable with abstract and conceptual tasks. Sometimes I refer to these tasks as blank page exercises.  We are either wired for them or not.

Where possible, in this new reality, we will need to fight our tendency to ‘just’ delegate, and embrace the concept of the ‘right’ delegation.

The reason for this is simple:

  • People will need to accept that some are intrinsically wired for strategy and innovation, and others are not
  • People will need to stop delegating strategic tasks to technical experts (and vice versa) (wherever possible)

And if we do decide to stretch and develop our people:

  • We need to provide them with the structure and tools necessary in order for them to be successful
  • We need to support them more and plan for the additional time it takes to build new skills and competencies

In order to be successful, people will need to better understand their team’s strengths and employ their resources to the best overall effect.  Let’s face it, in this new reality, or at least in the race toward the new reality, time is of the essence.  It just makes sense to play to people’s strengths and get things done well in a timely and efficient manner.

3. Trust People’s Instincts

Transformation Principle:  Spend less time on absolute risk elimination and more time following people’s instincts.

This third and last principle is a recurring thought I have during many meetings that I attend. We have become accustomed to silencing that inner voice we all have, and have not practiced enough the necessary art of saying what we think (and what we already intuitively know).

I believe that we need to take more personal risks and cut through the lengthy discussions by making more recommendations that require concrete decisions.

The reason for this is simple:

  • People will need to accept that absolute elimination of risk is counter-intuitive to achieving innovation.
  • People will need to take more personal risks and make more clear recommendations for decision.
  • People will need to get everyone pulling in the same innovative (and intuitive!) direction.

In order to be successful, people will need to trust their instincts more and better harness their collective energy in new and different ways.  But the catch here is that everyone needs to adopt this principle, otherwise some brave individuals will find themselves on the end of some pretty strong opposition.

Transformation:  The Conclusion

In closing, I think that we should all adopt some shared principles to guide our transformation journeys.  I have offered three for your consideration, and I hope that they may inspire you to have these types of conversations with your own teams.  Transformation is indeed a new reality for us all, so our ability to harness all efforts, and build momentum and enthusiasm will not only increase our immediate chances for success, but it will better prepare us to deal with the next major change or transformation that is surely lurking around the next corner.

“When people see and feel the buildup of momentum, they will line up with enthusiasm.” (re: The Flywheel Effect from Jim Collins, Good to Great)


GTEC 2012: Presentations Available

Systemscope returned to GTEC this year on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Thanks to all who joined us for our two informative sessions focusing on collaboration and innovation in an environment of constant change.


Session 1: Innovations from the Systemscope Lounge

During a single session, through a set of fast-paced presentations, Systemscope consultants presented a series of provocative principles that challenged assumptions while providing practical gems to spark your imagination, stir your curiosity and inspire the innovator within.  Download individual presentations by title, or download all presentations in one pdf.

The treasure trove of Systemscope gems covered the following topics:

Session 2: Preparing for GCDOCS

Systemscope’s Enterprise Information Management professionals gave a rousing presentation to a packed audience on preparing for GCDOCS. Owing to the Directive on Recordkeeping and its 2015 compliance date, departments are hurtling towards EDRMS adoption at a rapid rate without a coherent plan, without being adequately prepared and without knowing what adequate preparation would involve.  Is EDRMS a technical tool? An RM tool? or is it the new electronic working environment for the entire enterprise?

The “Info-Lins” of Systemscope explored various EDRMS visions and strategies, what organizations need to know before beginning an EDRMS implementation, common challenges of EDRMS implementation and more. Download Preparing for GCDOCS.


5 Misconceptions About Change Management

With the amount of transformation currently underway in the Government, it’s no big surprise that Change Management has been a popular topic of conversation. What has been interesting across the sum of these conversations is the wide range of definitions and perceptions about what Change Management is. Here are the 5 most common misconceptions that we are seeing regarding Change Management.

  1. Change Management = Communications: When talking about change management activities within a project, we often discuss which resources are being tasked with leading the CM activities in a transformation project. A common answer is “oh, we have a Comms person on our team already, so change management is taken care of.” It’s a start – constant and consistent communications are critical to any change initiative – but there is more to effectively managing change than communications. Just because you tell people about the change, that doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.
  2. Change Management = Project Management: There is a difference between these two streams of activity and areas of expertise, but it’s not always a distinction that is well understood. Project management is an area of practice that largely focuses on ensuring that the activities and milestones are undertaken in a way that allows a project to be completed on time and on budget. Change Management is more focused on the people side of change, working with all levels of staff to ensure that they are willing and able to make the change. You can hit all of your project milestones, but if the staff in your organization don’t change their actions, will the transformation really be sustained?
  3. Change Management = Checklist of Deliverables: This misconception is sometimes a subset to the previous, where “change management” is a line item in a project plan with a handful of associated deliverables, such as a communications plan and training plan. These deliverables are important to complete and should be used by the project team as a way to guide their actions and communicate plans with others in the organization… but there’s the rub. Far too often the creation of the deliverable is where the activity starts and ends, with good thinking and planning being little more than a tick on a checklist of deliverables. Implementing change successfully is about working closely with those who need to change – the deliverables are but some of the tools that enable this collaboration.
  4. “It’s an IT thing”: Change Management is best known by our clients in IT, while many clients in program areas or business lines often tell us that they don’t need change management because change management “is an IT thing”. The way we see it, change management is about working with the people in an organization to ensure that they not only know about a change initiative and its merits but it’s also about working closely with staff, managers and executives to ensure that everyone is willing and able to make the necessary changes in their skills, actions, behaviours and attitudes.
  5. It’s about the group, not individuals: In large and complex changes, the number of different teams and staff that need to be engaged can be overwhelming. An easy way to short cut some of that work is to aggregate your change management activities – dealing with targeting 3 branches is easier than targeting 1,500 individuals, right? While this can indeed find some efficiencies, it brings risks too. Teams are made of individuals, each with their own challenges and barriers about implementing the change. If these aren’t addressed at an individual level, there is greater risk to having the change successfully implemented. This is even more dangerous to the success of a project when it comes to resistance management – dissent and resistance can ruin a project if left unmanaged. So if you find yourself batching together your CM efforts, never forget that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

If this is what change management is not, then what is change management? Ironically, “all of the above” isn’t a bad place to start. It includes all of what is listed above, just not in isolation. Successfully managing change does indeed require communications and project management, and good documentation goes a long way. It does have a place in IT, but also plays a role in any project where people need to change. It is definitely about teams, but it is also about focusing on the individuals that make up the team.

In addition, though, there are more pieces that are true change management activities that need to be integrated into any change initiative:

  1. Change Characteristics – understanding the size, scope and complexity of the change in order to define concrete steps to mitigate any potential issues or risks
  2. Organizational Attributes – recognizing the organization’s past experiences, organizational tendencies and cultural influences related to change in order to define concrete steps to mitigate any potential issues or risks
  3. Transformation Team – defining the right individuals with the right competencies, and the right relationships to the project team and sponsors to drive the change management efforts in order to define concrete steps to mitigate any potential issues or risks
  4. Sponsorship Team – defining the right  individuals with the right competencies, and the right relationships within the organization to effectively sponsor the change in order to define concrete steps to mitigate any potential issues or risks
  5. Risk Assessment – defining the risk levels associated to the project in order to define concrete steps to mitigate any potential issues or risks
  6. Special Tactics – bringing all of the above together in an integrated and highly customized set of special tactics that ensure that people are willing and able to make the change

Change management is about managing the people side of change; not just to complete the project, but to ensure that the people in the organization are willing and able to make the change, and to ensure that the change sticks.


As one of the newest consultants to join the Systemscope team, I can honestly say that I feel as though I am up to my eyeballs in new terminology and acronyms.  Mastering this lingo is like learning a new language, and as a consultant one of my roles is to translate, clarifying areas of confusion to ensure that everyone is talking about the same thing.  As I have come to understand, one client’s “framework” is another’s “strategy,” “action plan,” etc.  One of the key things I have learned in my time at Systemscope is that discussion and setting expectations at the outset of a project – including defining the terminology that will be used in order to ensure we are all “singing from the same hymnal” – is so important.

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