Queen's University IRC

An Innovative Approach to Fostering a Culture of Service Excellence in the City of Ottawa


Beverley Patwell, Donna Gray, Steve Kanellakos

May 1, 2012

This case study describes how a team of organizational development (OD) and human resource (HR) specialists worked as partners with the City of Ottawa’s operational and shared services leaders to change the way all City employees provide service excellence. Beverley Patwell (an external OD consultant), Donna Gray (Director, ServiceOttawa Department, City of Ottawa), and Steve Kanellakos (Deputy City Manager of City Operations, City of Ottawa) led the change team. The approach taken to successfully develop and implement a large-scale, systems-wide learning and change strategy that helped to foster a culture of service excellence throughout all municipal services and operations in the City of Ottawa is outlined in this article.

The authors contend that our case study is relevant to OD, HR professionals, leaders, and managers for several reasons. First and foremost, it demonstrates how a large-scale organizational culture shift can be successfully implemented, given that more than 70% of change initiatives fail (Maurer, 2010). The change team achieved results quickly, accomplishing in three years what many organizations take five or ten years to complete. OD practitioners may develop new insights on how to successfully partner with external resources and internal business partners and leaders to successfully lead, manage, and implement a major culture change. The lessons learned throughout the process may be applied to any organization that needs to be innovative in its approach to learning and development, as well as leading change.

The case study largely covers the period from 2007 to December 2010, although ongoing initiatives have continued since then.

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