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Jun 2018 | Leadership & Change Management

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief

leadership & change management

Every government today is grappling with change. From demographic shifts and technological advancement to severe weather and crumbling infrastructure, governments at all levels must come to terms with these significant transformative forces. Change management, as a practice, is no longer a tool to be employed by governments only when a major change is taking place, whether that be the transition to a new government or the management of a local crisis. Change is now a constant, requiring change management to be embedded into public sector practices as an ongoing process, not as a project.

Who then is responsible for change management in government? Some larger organizations have the capacity to create offices or departments dedicated to change management. The City of Vaughan, north of Toronto, has an Office of Transformation and Strategy as part of the City Manager’s Office. In addition to delivering Vaughan’s Service Excellence Strategic Initiatives, the Office of Transformation and Strategy is responsible for corporate-wide change management. In smaller local governments, change management often falls into the hands of the City Manager or Chief Administrative Officer. In addition to keeping his or her organization operating smoothly, the CAO must plan for short term and long term change, precipitated by both internal and external forces. But for change management to be successful, leaders throughout the organization must be empowered to contribute to the process. The CAO, or the Deputy Minister at the provincial and federal levels, must demonstrate leadership by providing departmental managers with the tools and resources to plan for organizational change.

The Q2 issue of the Public Sector Digest, themed “Leadership & Change Management,” features contributors from across industry and government. Each author explores a different facet of change management in government – some focusing on a specific issue, like preparing for the impact of the Cannabis Act on local governments in Canada, and others explaining how different types of leaders can contribute to change management, such as an organization’s Human Resources Manager.

Our contributing authors from the GovLab provide an assessment of how a particular competency – in this case data science – can help public servants manage through change and uncertainty. The authors state that, “Institutions are moving faster to recognize the need for data literacy, but they still lack the in-house expertise to turn that data into actionable insights.” Without the ability to collect and interpret data, the modern government is operating blind in making evidence-based policy decisions. In an increasingly uncertain world, data analysis skills – backed by high quality datasets – can go a long way in supporting change management efforts.

As several jurisdictions across North American approach elections this spring and summer, change will continue to be front of mind for the public sector practitioner. Will a change in government bring greater stability or more uncertainty to public sector service delivery? Now is the time for leaders across our government organizations to take stock of their existing capacity and frameworks to manage change. As always, our research and policy team at the Public Sector Digest is ready to assist any public sector practitioner with a review of best practices, jurisdictional challenges, and legislative requirements that might support or impede efforts to achieve corporate goals and mitigate the impacts of change. Our hope is that this issue can serve as a talking point for our member organizations as many of you launch new change management initiatives in the months ahead.  

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest