Leading Organizational Transformation

What is Organizational Transformation?

Organizational transformation is a fundamental, radical, ground breaking paradigm shift, such as re-imagining an organization’s structure and culture. It involves integrated, synergistic, aligned, system-wide deliverables for which all employees and leaders are responsible, individually and collectively.

For example, it is not about creating a new service, but reconceptualizing how the organization interacts with its customers; it’s not about continuous improvement, but groundbreaking innovation based on a radially different foundation and belief system. Organizational Transformation is about dreaming big, not tinkering with the status quo; shattering outdated beliefs and systems, not trying to adapt them to new realities. It’s like conquering the wild west or setting foot on a new planet.

Download PDF: Leading Organizational Transformation

Canada’s Pandemic Response: Key Learnings for Building our Future

What if the entire population becomes vulnerable due a pandemic? COVID-19 took the world by surprise, then by storm, compelling us to adapt to new realities which considerably impact our individual, social and professional lives. The Canadian Federal Government, responsible for leading the pandemic crisis response, had to take effective and swift action in a rapidly shifting environment, driven by a new and mysterious threat. Implementing a multitude of effective responses across the country during COVID-19 posed a significant challenge for the Federal Government with regards to speed, agility and performance, and they proved up to the task, using an action learning, collaborative and iterative approach.

In this paper, Francoise Morissette explores Canada’s pandemic response, and how this fits into the Compassion Revolution Series. First, she looks at the pandemic response through the lens of the 4D action learning process – Define, Discover, Design and Do. Next, she explores how we are facing the storm in the present, how we have learned from experience and built capacity through past pandemics, and how a blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge. (Sections of this paper on the Past, Present and Future are also available on our website.)

The first article of the Compassion Revolution series explores a new trend: Why so many public and not for profit organizations are transforming their service delivery models to better meet the needs of vulnerable and at risk populations. These transformations require not only organizational and process redesign, but significant paradigm and culture shifts. While the organization featured in the first Compassion Revolution Series article (Peel Region), made a proactive and strategic decision to implement a new service delivery model (and could exercise more control over timing and actualization), this was not the case for the COVID-19 response. During a national emergency simultaneously impacting various sectors and population segments in different ways, multiple strategies are required, which must be implemented quickly and effectively.

Download PDF: Canada’s Pandemic Response: Key Learnings for Building our Future

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3)

Building Capacity

A blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge: one that will involve greater use of interactive technology, system-wide collaboration, widespread innovation, improved systems thinking capacity, and stronger recognition and appreciation of the female leadership brand.

Interactive Technology

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, declared Greek philosopher Plato, in Dialogue Republic, and COVID-19 proves him right. Inventive technology applications are emerging in droves. Here are examples from various sectors.

Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3) The Future: Blueprint for Sustainable Success

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 2)

This is not the first time Canada has faced pandemics. What have we learned from past experiences? How can we leverage these learnings, now and for the future?  How can we continue to evolve and improve? Here’s a summary of our experience so far.


Pandemics: Definition

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries, or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza, and, more recently, HIV/AIDS, SARS and COVID-19.[1]

Pandemics Response: Public Health

Initially, it was about defining Public Health, shaping a national vision for it, and putting in place infrastructures to deliver and manage services:

In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implemented public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.[2]

Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 2) The Past: Learning from Experience and Building Capacity



[1] Bailey, P. (2008, May 7.) Updated Marshall, T. (2020, March). Pandemics in Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 23, 2020, from  https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pandemic

[2]  Ibid.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 1)

Emergencies and crises often create the perfect storm for transformation, as change is primarily driven by the powerful winds of Pain and/or Gain.

Not surprisingly, up to 80% of change is propelled by Pain, a wake up call that pushes us out of complacency, providing opportunities to raise the bar, innovate, shift paradigms, modernize, and make systems work better for more people. Pain compels us to face outdated realities and systems that we are otherwise reluctant to contemplate, infusing us with the courage to do so.


Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 1) The Present: Facing the Storm

Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

The first article in this series focuses on the Region of Peel’s bold decision to pilot and implement a ground breaking approach for dealing with people living with dementia. This model of care has proven effective at dramatically enhancing residents’ quality of life and wellbeing, their family’s satisfaction and involvement, as well as employee engagement, fulfillment and retention, all while reducing the number of incidents, and creating more positive relationships all around.

Key information for this piece comes from an interview with Mary Connell, Project Manager for the Butterfly Initiative Implementation at the Region of Peel.

In the series, we will look at the methodology used by these innovative organizations leveraging the 4D Process – Define, Discover, Design and Do, created by IRC’s Brenda Barker Scott. But first, a look at why today’s organizations are transforming service delivery, and the increasing role that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) play in design and implementation.

Download PDF: Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 2

In 2004, my colleague Amal Henein and I, undertook a pan-Canadian research project seeking answers to the following questions:

  • How is Canadian Leadership different from that of other countries?
  • How effective is the Canadian Leadership brand and how can we expand our capacity to lead?
  • How can we ensure Canada has an abundant supply of capable leaders?
  • How can we strengthen our leadership presence and impact, particularly in the international arena?

To discover a wide variety of perspectives and paint a complete picture, we set out to interview two key groups likely to have expertise on these topics:

  • Successful leaders in all sectors of the economy and regions of the country (295 interviewees)
  • Leadership development professionals in variety of settings and sectors (66 interviewees).

Throughout the research, we ensured regional, linguistic and diverse representation: gender, age, ethnic background, people with disabilities etc. The research resulted in Made in Canada Leadership,[1] published in 2007 in both official languages.[2]

Download PDF: The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 2: Brand Canada

Haven’t read Part 1 yet? Part 1: Branding Context & Impact


[1] Henein, A. & Morissette, F. (2007). Made in Canada Leadership, Wiley Canada.

[2] The French version is entitled: Leadership, Sagesse, Pratique, Développement, Éditions de l’Université de Sherbrooke.

The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 1

We are all familiar with corporate brands, focused on either products, services or the overall organization. Solid brands impact recognition, enhance reputation, promote loyalty, influence behaviour and foster engagement.

For instance, since the start of its Olympic partnership in 2013, Canadian Tire has met with great success with its ‘We all play for Canada’ platform[1] “with heavy emphasis on the idea of inclusivity, play, and the importance of communities rallying together: values-based messaging about something that matters to us as a country.”[2] Check out this moving video [3] about combining play and inclusion.

Brands are shaped by a complex set of interdependent factors such as values, vision, mission, strategy, culture, traditions, performance and aspirations. They evolve over time and fluctuate according to external factors like competitive pressures, and internal factors like crisis management: for instance, recalls in the pharmaceutical or auto industry can harm or restore a brand’s image, depending on how they are handled. In the spring of 2018, Facebook data harvesting and sharing scandal[4], resulted in a brand confidence breakdown, which prompted a worldwide conversation on strengthening privacy protection to safeguard democracy.[5]

Countries also have brands. In the book Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices, authors define nation branding as “the application of corporate marketing concepts and techniques to countries, in the interest of enhancing their reputation in international relations.”[6]

National brands are crafted by design, or happen by accident:

  • When deliberate, they seek to build and promote a country’s identity, manage its reputation, and increase its influence. When brand and actions align, national identity becomes sharper, and trust increases in both the country and its brand. However, when a country’s behaviour clashes with its brand, dissonance sets in, eroding trust and credibility.
  • Meanwhile, accidental brands, not consciously driven by their country of origin, float around, lacking clarity and consistency, and are prone to tampering and takeovers.

Download PDF: The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 1: Branding Context and Impact

Read Part 2


[1] Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited. (2018, Feb 01). Canadian Tire Reminds Canadians that We All Play for Canada. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-tire-reminds-canadians-that-we-all-play-for-canada-672124153.html.

[2] Dallaire, J. (2018, January 23). Canadian Tire forges ahead with ‘We all play for Canada’. Strategy Magazine. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from http://strategyonline.ca/2018/01/23/canadian-tire-forges-ahead-with-we-all-play-for-canada/.

[3] Canadian Tire “Wheels”:60. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFuwUiHo-WI

[4] Understanding Facebook’s data crisis: 5 essential reads. (2018, April 5). Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://theconversation.com/understanding-facebooks-data-crisis-5-essential-reads-94066.

[5] Facebook is killing democracy with its personality profiling data. (2018, March 21). Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://theconversation.com/facebook-is-killing-democracy-with-its-personality-profiling-data-93611

[6] Pamment, James (2013). New Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century A comparative study of policy and practice. New York: Routledge. p. 35-36.

How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation


Currently, organizations, industries, sectors, and communities of all types are seeking to modernize their systems to enhance performance, improve service delivery, and ensure sustainability. This means extensive transformation: paradigm shifts, radical redesigns, strategic resets and culture re-alignment are the order of the day. Evolutionary change is neither potent, nor quick enough; revolutionary, dramatic change is called for.

Meanwhile, society in general is trying to solve large scale, chronic problems such as family violence, poverty, environmental degradation and homelessness. To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope… the winter of despair…. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” (1)

Navigating the rushing waters of transformation requires a bold vision and strong systems thinking, as well as widespread change leadership, not to mention a big dose of courage and transformation resilience.

Alberta takes a stand

Homelessness is often viewed as a daunting, if not a wicked problem. (2) Yet, Alberta has shown the way to solutions that deliver results. In contrast with other Canadian jurisdictions who favour municipal approaches, Alberta broke new ground in 2009 by defining an ambitious vision for the entire province: Ending homelessness in 10 years, instead of simply ‘managing’ or ‘reducing’ it. To achieve this audacious goal, Alberta had to dramatically alter the way it thought and acted about homelessness. Here’s how it began:

In 2007, then Premier Ed Stelmach set out to capture the state of homelessness, as the problem was escalating. What factors were contributing to its rapid growth?

Download PDF: How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation

The Coaching ‘Explosion’: Exploring the Growing Field of Coaching, and the Value it Brings to HR

Have you ever wondered why the field of coaching is growing so fast? Although it has been around for ages, it is currently enjoying a worldwide surge in popularity, on both the professional and personal fronts. So how do we explain this sudden craze?

The value of coaching has never been in doubt as, over the centuries, it has more than proven itself. The difference is that now, more people “get it” and understand how to use it effectively.

Coaching has always been a cornerstone of development, when seeking to turn novices into qualified practitioners. One such system is apprenticeship, first developed in the Middle Ages: “A master craftsman was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour, in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Most apprentices aspired to becoming master craftsmen on completion of their contract (usually a term of seven years), but a significant proportion would never acquire their own workshop.”1

The objective was, not only to transfer knowledge, but to enhance know-how (requiring extensive practice), and sharpen judgment (requiring judicious coaching). For instance, chefs need not only to know a recipe; they must be able to successfully make it, so that it turns out perfect… every time. This implies in-depth knowledge of ingredients’ properties, and mastery of cooking techniques.

Although the apprenticeship system started in trades, it is also used in credentialed professions, such as accounting, law, medicine, and dentistry, where students complete internships to ensure their proficiency in execution.

Today, coaching is not limited to trades and certified professions. It is widely used in workplaces, as employers appreciate its value for development, performance improvement, career progression, and transition support. However, this wasn’t always the case: initially, coaching was unfortunately used for remedial purposes, the last stop before termination for poor performers. As a result, it got a bad reputation, as did the coaches. Fortunately, the marketplace now understands that coaching is not a magical “quick fix”, but a partnership for growth, which requires time and commitment from all parties.

Likewise, the number of individuals hiring personal coaches has skyrocketed, making it a common practice. People find coaching helps them reach their goals, improve themselves, achieve greater fulfillment, and enhance their creativity.

To summarize, coaching is all about optimizing the two Ps: Performance and Potential, a satisfying and worthwhile endeavour for individuals and for organizations.

Origins of Coaching

The English term coach refers to a medium of transport, such as a carriage. The practice of using the term coaching to mean an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University to refer to a tutor who carries a student through an exam.2 Coaching thus describes the process to “transport people from where they are, to where they want to be”.3 The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1861.4

Coaching is now a way of life in sports and arts, where success primarily depends on how talent performs. As a result, athletes and artists benefit from considerable coaching in order to reach their full potential. Athletes might be coached by nutritionists, sports psychologists and fitness trainers; and actors, by vocal, movement and dialect coaches. For example, a gifted tennis player like Eugénie Bouchard received more attention, and at an earlier age than others less gifted.5

The greater the talent, the more focus it gets. It’s not about compensating for deficiencies, but achieving mastery. For instance, when Benedict Cumberbatch was a boy, his drama teacher, Martin Tyrell, called him “the best schoolboy actor he had ever worked with.”6 During his formative years, Benedict’s extraordinary talent received special attention from the UK’s acting development system, eventually turning him into the best actor of his generation.7

Unfortunately, this talent/focus principle is not as well understood in other sectors, where the emphasis is often on improving poor performers, which is a frustrating endeavour for all involved.

American educational psychologist Donald Clifton conducted several studies of top performers beginning in the 1960s. He observed that “people with strong talent in a specific activity can quickly achieve the equivalent of 7/10 performance. They can then build on these strengths to embark on the exponential climb to reaching 10/10”.8

As a result, he challenged the deficit model of development which paid lip service to people’s strengths, focusing instead on deficiencies. Clifton came to the following conclusions:

  • “People’s greatest room for growth is in the area of their strengths. Therefore, ‘investing’ in your top talents will pay off greater dividends than investing in average or minimal ones: people can only excel by maximizing their strengths.
  • This doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses… But ‘weakness fixing’ is about damage control, not development… Damage control can prevent failure, but it will never elevate anyone to excellence…”9

This led to the world-renowned Strengths Finder10 system, based on this simple approach:

Strengths Finder system

Source: http://www.strengthsfinder.com/home.aspx

Identifying talent and investing in its development will result in building a solid strength which will lead to consistent performance. Think Sidney Crosby!!! Coaching works best when developing talent and potential, but not so well when compensating for deficiencies, although it does help.

Not surprisingly, the field of coaching exploded once this connection became explicit. Therefore, coaching’s expansion is firmly anchored in the “early 1970s Human Potential Movement,11 based on cultivating extraordinary potential which lies largely untapped in most people. Fully actualized potential enables individuals, not only to experience an exceptional quality life, but to make important contributions, assisting others and society to release their own potential. Since the mid-1990s, coaching has developed into an independent discipline. Professional Associations such as The International Coach Federation12 in North America, and The European Coaching and Mentoring Council13 have established credentialing standards.”14

Coaching and HR

HR Professionals have been coaching, formally or informally, since the dawn of the profession. Today, coaching is increasingly viewed as a desirable HR skill set for several reasons:

  • Employees frequently seek HR coaching to find a way forward with various issues: solving a problem, advancing their career, enhancing their skills, gaining confidence, navigating transitions, resolving conflicts, getting unstuck, etc.
  • Managers also seek HR coaching to better manage performance and develop potential. For instance, preparing for a coaching session with an employee. This involves growing coaching capability, scenario planning, and rehearsing for the session.
  • Finally, HR pros are frequently involved in performance management interventions which require solid coaching skills.

Other factors contribute to fueling the coaching “burning platform” in the workplace:

  • Enhancing leadership capacity for both designated and distributed leaders before baby boomers exit the workplace. This has produced significant growth in leadership coaching of all stripes: executive, peer, top down, bottom up, and team. For instance, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO)15 fosters community coaching amongst its members. It is a key factor in their considerable success.
  • Dealing with the VUCA world. The US military created this acronym to describe the world of the 21st century: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.16 This fast moving environment requires agile organizations populated with employees who can make the right decisions at the level where action occurs. Coaching is a great tool to build this capacity.
  • Peer coaching is becoming increasingly popular in both formal and informal iterations. For instance, it is widely used by police forces to provide development and support. Cops Coach17 offers a framework which has proven very beneficial in this line of work where emergencies, crises and violence and disasters occur every day.


HR Professionals are pivotal in making coaching a way of life and a culture in their organizations, to increase agility, innovation, resilience and success.

Here is some food for thought from Brainy Quote:18

  • “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage“. Jack Welsh
  • “At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.” Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Every successful organization has to make the transition from a world defined primarily by repetition, to one primarily defined by change. This is the biggest transformation in the structure of how humans work together since the Agricultural Revolution.” Bill Drayton

Queen’s IRC has introduced a Coaching Skills program, which offers hands-on learning opportunities to develop and implement coaching skills for a range of situations in the workplace. Participants will explore several methodologies and their impact, and learn how to apply proven models to facilitate conversation and improve performance at all organizational levels.


About the Author

Francoise Morissette, Queen's IRC Facilitator
Françoise Morissette has been a facilitator at Queen’s IRC since 1994, and was made a Fellow in 2006. She played a key role in developing and implementing the Queen’s IRC’s Organizational Development curriculum intended for OD practitioners, and teaches on the OD Foundations and Coaching Skills programs. As a consultant, Françoise is a major contributor to the field of Organizational Development, with a major emphasis on leadership. Using a range of interventions, she helps individuals, organizations and communities enhance their leadership capacity. She regularly presents at major conferences in both official languages, both in Canada and abroad. She is the co-author of Made in Canada Leadership, a book that is the product of a large scale research project, focusing on leadership excellence and development.





1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apprenticeship accessed October 2014.

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaching accessed October 2014.

3 ibid

4 ibid

5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenie_Bouchard accessed October 2014.

6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedict_Cumberbatch accessed October 2014.

7 ibid

8 http://www.thestrengthsfoundation.org/don-clifton-and-the-gallup-organizations-work-on-strengths accessed October 2014.

9 ibid

10 http://www.strengthsfinder.com/home.aspx accessed October 2014.

11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Potential_Movement accessed October 2014.

12 http://www.coachfederation.org/accessed October 2014.

13 http://www.emccouncil.org/ accessed October 2014.

14 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaching accessed October 2014.

15 http://www.ypo.org/ accessed October 2014.

16 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatility,_uncertainty,_complexity_and_ambiguity accessed October 2014.

17 http://copscoachmembers.com/6.html accessed October 2014.

18 http://www.brainyquote.com/ accessed October 2014.

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