The Stewardship of Service Excellence at the City of Vaughan

This case study examines how to recognize the desire for change and harness that energy to build and steward the development and implementation of a Service Excellence Strategy that yields concrete results and sustains the momentum required for long term success.


The Stewardship of Service Excellence at the City of VaughanThe City of Vaughan embarked on a six-month transition process called ‘Building Capacity and Focus’ to design and implement an innovative approach to developing a refocused strategic plan aimed at fostering a shared vision and culture of Service Excellence throughout all City services and operations. At the end of this process, the City of Vaughan achieved the following critical milestones: unanimous council approval of the Service Excellence Strategy; a shared mindset and commitment to Service Excellence; and an organizational design and alignment of the City’s three-year budget with the priorities and goals of the Strategic Plan, while keeping the tax rate in line with targets set by Council.The City of Vaughan is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Ontario. With the vision of becoming the ‘City of Choice’, Vaughan has committed to a Term of Council Service Excellence Strategy Map focused on delivering council commitments for the remaining term of council. This involves improving citizen experience through service delivery and managing growth; operating more effectively and efficiently,  and improving staff engagement. This transformation journey will take time. It is complex, dynamic, and  requires stewardship, leadership, and management, as well as balancing current fiscal responsibilities and commitments.

Given the short time frame in which these remarkable results were achieved, this case study illustrates the value in capitalizing on a desire for change at the right moment and ensuring the proper leadership team and strategies were in place to preserve the momentum and commitment required for change in the long term. It also stresses the criticality of measuring and evaluating change at each stage of the process.

The City of Vaughan case study provides reflections on the principles, practices, and possibilities of how to successfully leverage the talent, values, and passion of its people to create breakthrough strategies to lead, manage, and sustain momentum through culture shifts and longer-term transformational changes required for success. The Sustainable Leadership Development Framework was used to measure and evaluate the alignment, integration, actions and impacts of the change process. The lessons learned provide valuable insight for the practice of leadership, management and organizational development.

Hunter Harrison and the Transformation of Canadian National Railway

Hunter HarrisonWhen Hunter Harrison joined the recently-privatized Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1998 as Chief Operating Officer, the company was generally acknowledged as one of the worst railroads in North America, highly indebted, perpetually in the red, and losing market share to the more efficient, flexible and newly deregulated U.S. railway and trucking industries. Recruited by Chief Executive Officer, Paul Tellier, for his skills and experience at Illinois Central, Harrison along with Tellier moved swiftly to transform CNR into a “scheduled precision railway” and to introduce needed efficiencies. Soon thereafter the company shed over 11,000 employees and thousands of miles of track.

After Tellier left the company in 2003, Harrison was appointed as his successor. The challenge was enormous. A cultural overhang still existed from the railway’s public sector days when it was more of an employment generation device than a business, complete with regionalism, isolation from commercial pressures, formal chains of command, hostile unions and a culture of entitlement. Would Harrison be able to complete the transformation or would the company sink back into mediocrity? Fast forward to 2008 and CNR was then widely recognized as the most efficient railway in North America. How he accomplished this cultural transformation is nothing short of miraculous.

An effective change leader needs five skills which I call the five Ps: Passion, Plan, Persuasion, Partnering and Perseverance, and Harrison had all of them in abundance.

>> This paper is one chapter from Dr. Carol A. Beatty’s e-book, The Easy, Hard & Tough Work of Managing Change. The complete e-book is now available on our website at no charge: Download

The Importance of Communication for Effective Change Management: A Case Study About the ‘Made in Cogeco’ Change Model

 A Case Study About the ‘Made in Cogeco’ Change Model Working in the telecommunications industry, people assume that we are ahead of the curve in terms of change initiatives and communication practises.  But similar to other companies, we are challenged to come up with our own change management processes within our organization.  Our industry is changing rapidly, and that means we need to change too. In this article, I will share how Cogeco developed a new change model quite quickly to respond rapidly and succinctly to the transformational trends in our industry.

Cogeco Cable Canada is a telecommunications company that operates in Ontario and Quebec, and provides residential and commercial customers with phone, internet and cable services. In fiscal year 2015, we created a “Made in Cogeco” solution in response to the need to enhance service, stay competitive and cut costs.  There were 3 key factors that helped us toward this goal.  The first decision was to hire a Director, Communications and Change Management based in Montreal. Shortly thereafter, we hired a Senior Advisor, Change Management located in our Burlington office. Lastly, the Organizational Development staff was provided with enhanced skill development to become specialized change agents.  The result was that the  HR department, utilizing  this specialized change team was able to create the “Made in Cogeco” change management model.

Developing the Made in Cogeco Model

Applying some of the important principles found in many of the courses at Queen’s IRC such as Change Management and Designing Change, we selected a large project that would impact our business in Quebec and Ontario, and that could be phased in to pilot our approach.  Our vision was to transform how we do business in our call centre and with our field technicians, by increasing first call resolution for our customers and enhance their overall customer experience.  Customer service has always been a point of differentiation for our customers at Cogeco.  We were therefore looking for a new way to enhance that service.

The overall goal of the project was to reduce labour costs while enhancing the service for our customers by focusing on reducing services calls and the handling times of customer calls.  It was important for us to promote top line growth and reduce overall operational expenses.  As we introduced more advanced products out in the marketplace, such as TiVo, we had to get innovative and more efficient in how we delivered our customer service experience.  With the call centre transformation, we wanted to implement a first call resolution program and accelerate our self-care functionality. Out in the field, the goal was to reduce delays to install and improve procedural effectiveness by implementing new standards.  In both the field and call centre, skill enhancement was therefore key.

Our experts in HR change management worked with the operations team to make a plan to transform ideas and vision into action. This included:

  • Diagnosing the need as well as the team for change
  • Guiding the executive sponsor with selecting the right stakeholders
  • Developing the methods for communicating the change effectively
  • Implementing the change to ensure sustainability
  • Assessing and managing any resistance

Tasked with this exciting opportunity to implement the “Made in Cogeco” change model, the team quickly sat down to understand the why, what and how of change.  Working with the VP, Customer Experience and the respective operational Directors, the change team built the roadmap for transformation.  Most importantly, they quickly developed action plans to get input from the stakeholders to get a more informed approach to the change.  In particular, the goal of the combined team between HR and Operations was to erase any resistance, and mobilize commitment to achieve the desired results.

The Communications Framework

A major focus of the change management process was the communications framework.  Of particular importance was the method of communication across a big department that straddled two provinces.   It is well known, but not often followed, that you cannot over-communicate when you are asking an organization to change.  Many organizations come to this realization after the fact, often when it is too late.  We adopted a more proactive approach on this part of the change plan.  We were also clear that the message had to resonate.

For effective communication, there were some key recommendations that we incorporated into this organizational transformation.  The first was to link it to the corporate initiative.  All of the communication was geared toward one of the key initiatives that are the pillars in our five year plan.  The VP, Customer Experience went on a road show to clearly communicate the vision, mission and objectives of the project.  Both he and his Directors, along with the Human Resources Business Partner, worked hard to help people understand how the changes would affect them personally.  They conversed in small groups so there could be open discussion and a chance to ask clarifying questions.

Another overriding consideration was that the communication strategy needed to work through any roadblocks – we knew we needed to communicate the why, why now, and the risk to our organization if the change was not implemented.  We introduced a way to have information cascading both up and down between the front line workers and management within 24 hours.  The first step was to identify a primary sender who represented the corporation direction.  In this particular case, the primary sender was two levels up.  Next, the change team ensured that there was buy-in of the managers by involving them as the secondary sender of information. In turn, the managers would involve the direct supervisors.  The most important piece was to identify the WIIFM (what’s in it for me).  By doing this, the goal was to solidify the buy-in and mitigate any resistance.  The tone and attitude was set at this level because they were the conduit for this directional cascading of information up and down the pipeline.  It was identified that managers also needed a vehicle to ask questions.  By identifying this need, it broke down barriers and mitigated the noise and rumour mills.  The overall effect was that it created transparency.

A change management inbox was also created to receive the ongoing communications and it was accessible to everyone.  Training sessions were held with supervisors and staff by our Senior Advisor, Change Management.  There were two modules that were introduced: Communicating to Drive Change and Coaching to Drive Change.  Reinforcement was done through lunch ‘n learns that were scheduled regularly after these sessions.  During these sessions, staff was introduced to this new model for communicating news and information.  A template was also created to ensure consistency in the message. In particular, the template addressed the link to the corporate initiative, the back story, the why and the why now, how to get assistance, the timeframe, as well as the benefits to staff, the organization, and most importantly, the customer.

The communication opened up the timeframes and identified how and when the leaders would be available to answer questions.  This prevented the front line workers from shopping around for answers and it ensured that everyone was on target with the outcomes of the project.  In effect, the cascading sequence for the release was to approve the communication, send it to the supervisors/managers, allow for a call in option to answer questions, release the information to the front line and track and respond to feedback with 24 hours. The result created energy for the change.


Capitalizing on the success of the change management model for the project, we feel confident that we now have a prototype for change.  With this initial trial, we demonstrated that we were able to create the acceptance for transformation.  We will therefore use our “Made in Cogeco” methodology to apply to other projects and initiatives.  Based on this success, we have also developed a change management module to deliver to all of the organizational leaders within Cogeco Cable.

By applying many of the same principles that are shared with HR practitioners through the Queen’s IRC training, we were able to transform ideas into actions that will continue to propel this organization forward.


About the Author

Erin O'FlynnAt Cogeco Cable, Erin O’Flynn is responsible for providing the full suite of professional and strategic human resources expertise to the Operations Departments in Ontario. She develops, facilitates and implements HR business plans that align with overall business strategies to deliver superior HR services that enable operating departments to meet their business goals and provide a return on investment to the shareholders. Erin is responsible for developing or coordinating all HR programs such as talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, policy development, HR project management, change management, organizational development, establishment of strategic and operational initiatives, training and coaching for managers and executives, management succession and leadership as well as new initiatives for employee development.  Erin has extensive human resources experience in both public and private sector industries.  Previously she was the HR representative responsible for Public Health and Paramedic Services in Niagara Region.  She sat as a member of the strategic management team and was involved with four bargaining units and one non-union group. Erin has a Master’s in International Relations from the University of Toronto, a Certificate in Labour Relations from Brock University and an Advanced Human Resources Certificate from Queen’s University IRC.

About Cogeco

Cogeco Cable Canada regroups the Canadian cable operations of Cogeco Cable Inc. Cogeco Cable Canada is the second largest cable operator in Ontario and Québec in terms of the number of basic cable service customers served. Its two-way broadband cable networks provide residential and small business customers with analogue and digital television, high speed internet and telephony services. Cogeco Cable Inc. is a telecommunications corporation and is the 11th largest hybrid fibre coaxial cable operator in North America, operating in Canada under the Cogeco Cable Canada brand name in Québec and Ontario, and in the United States through its subsidiary Atlantic Broadband in Western Pennsylvania, South Florida, Maryland/Delaware and South Carolina. Through its combined subsidiaries, Cogeco Data Services and Peer 1 Hosting, Cogeco Cable Inc. provides to its business customers a suite of information technology services (data transport, colocation, cloud and managed services, and dedicated hosting), with 20 data centres as well as more than 50 points-of-presence in North America and Europe. Cogeco Cable Inc.’s subordinate voting shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: CCA).

Communicating During an Organizational Change

Communicating During an Organizational ChangeMost experts would agree that communication is a vital ingredient in successful change initiatives, and there is much research to support this assertion. My own research revealed a very high correlation between change success and communications efforts (Pearson correlation r = 0.567, significant at the 0.01 level). Furthermore, it has also been shown that ineffective internal communication is a major contributor to the failure of change initiatives.(1) For example, Sally Woodward and Chris Hendry surveyed 198 employees in U.K. financial services institutions undergoing change and asked them to specify the barriers to change.(2) Two of the six barriers identified were: lack of adequate communications (not being kept informed, receiving conflicting messages, wanting to understand but not being given explanations) and lack of consultation. In my view, expert communication is indispensable when persuading people to support change. Some researchers even claim that the essence of change is communication; that is, that communication produces change rather than merely serving as one tool in its implementation.(3)

Communication efforts during a large change project attempt to persuade stakeholders to adopt a new view of the future, but before they can arrive at this new conviction, three things must be absolutely clear to them: the “why,” “what” and “how” of the change.

The importance of answering the “why” questions is backed by much empirical research. For example, Paul Nutt, in his study of major change at a hospital setting, found that employees were more likely to accept the change if they felt it was justified.(4)

>> This paper is one chapter from Dr. Carol A. Beatty’s e-book, The Easy, Hard & Tough Work of Managing Change. The complete e-book is now available on our website at no charge: Download

A Closer Look at Resistance to Change

Three Categories of ResistanceIntroductory Case Study: Transition to a Flexible Work Environment

In 2001, all non-computer products and services of the Ottawa branch of Hewlett-Packard were grouped into a new company called “Agilant” and moved out of the existing branch office. The remaining one hundred employees at the Ottawa branch office were solely responsible for the sales and servicing of Hewlett-Packard’s latest computer systems and software programs. At the same time, those at the Ottawa branch embarked upon a change initiative called “New Generation Workplace” (NGW), whose objectives were to reduce fixed office space costs by significantly reducing the number of desks and at the same time to move from a traditional to a flexible work environment. These changes had been mandated by headquarters in the United States. After these two changes, the size of the physical office was reduced by 35 percent and employees were encouraged to spend less time in the office by working from home.

Effective in March 2001, the majority of employees in the sales, servicing and marketing departments were no longer entitled to a designated desk space. In exchange, they were offered a choice between two drawers or space in a filing cabinet. A reduced number of workstations were made available by a reservation for a period of one to three days at a time. When they had not reserved a desk, employees were expected to work from home or out of a client’s office.

Initially, this initiative was met with skepticism. As one employee said: “We’ve lost the privilege of calling a certain desk our own, but the whole project hasn’t changed things all that much. I’m not sure if they’ll be getting rid of more desks in the future or not. For the time being, for all the hype there are still just as many people in the office as ever.” Sales members whose quotas were dependent upon team performance were also skeptical of the new approach. One sales employee stated: “By nature, sales people require high affiliation, so it won’t work.”

>> This paper is one chapter from Dr. Carol A. Beatty’s e-book, The Easy, Hard & Tough Work of Managing Change. The complete e-book is now available on our website at no charge: Download


What’s Your Story?

What's Your Story? Helping the next generation imagine their career identities through narrative career coachingFiguring out who we are in terms of our career identity is something that everyone engages in at some point in their work life. Most of the time this begins as a challenge – feeling stuck in the “old me” (the present career identity). What we must do is get unstuck – imagine the “new me” (the career identity we’re growing into). At the heart of this practice of narrative career coaching is the need to confront our limiting story and taken for granted beliefs – our “problem story.” The narrative career coach serves as a helper – helping one let go of the old story and get unstuck; and, ultimately transform the problem story. Finding a new story and living into that story is the full-circle of narrative career coaching.

The following case offers an example of how the narrative frameworks of rescription and re-membering were used in a community college career coaching context – affording students the opportunity to practice with story-based approaches to career transition and change. In the broader perspective, the case offers a view into the human resource development practice of narrative career coaching – helping the next generation workforce imagine their career identities.

The Way Forward in Employment Relations

The way forwar in employment relationsThe idea of co-operation seems to be one that exists only in children’s books with no real place in the business world. However, to survive in the times that we live in, the more successful organizations, and indeed nations, are embracing the values of co-operation. In my thesis, “Social Dialogue: The Way Forward in Employment Relations”, I studied a financial co-operative, whose founding principles are based on co-operation. The study sought to determine the relevance of utilizing the tools of co-operation such as social dialogue in a dynamic setting. The other variables under consideration were the existence of a very militant trade union as the employees’ representative, and environmental factors which were clamoring for a solid response from the organization to determine whether or not it would continue to exist. All of this in a developing country in the sunny Caribbean, with an economy that is dependent on the fickle fortunes of oil and gas.

Case Study Background

The organization at the centre of the study is over sixty years old and has a long history of success through turbulent times and has outlived many more powerful predecessors. Over the years, while other financial co-operatives have developed a more corporate business model, this Credit Union has held strong to the Co-operative Principles. The Credit Union is now challenged by the need to comply with proposed legislation for the governance and supervision of Credit Unions which would require some significant changes to the way that the Credit Union operates. Additionally, fierce competition from other organizations in the financial services sector forces the Credit Union to re-examine its market positioning and determine strategies to ensure its survival. Ultimately, the Credit Union must achieve organizational effectiveness through stakeholder buy-in and participation in order to remain successful.

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

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.

Non-cash Incentives: How Effective Are They in Canadian Organizations?

The current operating environment, characterized by mandates to control costs, challenges organizations to find innovative ways to reward their employees. Motivational and compensation research indicates that money is not an employee’s primary motivation to work; firms, therefore, are turning to the practice of non-cash incentives such as incentive travel. This research examines the effectiveness of incentive travel in a Canadian context. It includes an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of incentive travel from three perspectives: corporate (management/meeting planner), employee, and industry. As well, it considers incentive travel and motivation, evaluates a program at Company X, and discusses practical implications, providing advice on how to design a motivating program.

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