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

 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.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3)

 Blueprint for Sustainable SuccessBuilding 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.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 2)

 Learning from Experience and Building CapacityThis 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.

Overview

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]

 


[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)

 Facing the StormEmergencies 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.

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

Brand CanadaIn 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]


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

The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations - Part 1We 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.

[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

How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and TransformationContext

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?

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.

Abstract

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.

The Critical Role of Orientation for New Employees to Your Organization’s Culture

First impressions count.  However in the workplace, organizations often fail to realize that this truism is a two way street.  As much as we form first impressions about the people we interview, hire and welcome into our organizations, the employee is on a parallel journey.  How did we interview them?  How did we invite them to join our organization and how did we welcome them when they arrived?

Traditionally, “orientation” is seen as a static event, one in which we provide an employee with a list of expectations and requirements, a package of information on their benefits, and perhaps some formal welcome session or introduction to the organization’s policies and procedures.

There is much research to suggest the importance of the workplace culture in attracting and retaining highly qualified staff.  In a changing workforce, there is even more emphasis on how to attract and retain a new generation of employees, and with that, a focus on ensuring there are up to date tools and technology. However, much of the research shows that it is an organization’s culture that has the most impact on staff satisfaction and engagement.  Employees, regardless of their age or demographic, consistently stay in workplaces where they feel welcomed and valued, where they are engaged with their teams, where they have a strong working relationship with their supervisor and perhaps most importantly, when they are able to see how their role fits in to the of the bigger picture of the organization; it’s Vision.

Guelph General Hospital is a 150 bed, community-based, acute care hospital that employs approximately 1300 people and hires approximately 250 new people every year. After reviewing our orientation program and staff evaluations and thinking critically about the research around employee engagement and organizational development, we recently decided to shift our orientation’s focus. We moved away from a one-day information (over)sharing session to a highly interactive half day opportunity for new staff members to connect with our hospital’s values and with each other.

We designed our new monthly orientation with a clear end in mind. We did this by carefully selecting our topics, speakers and exercises in a way that would focus new employees on our hospital’s vision, mission and values. We imagined what kind of story we would want our new employees to tell when they got home from their orientation and were asked by their partner or family what their first impression of us was.  What key messages and impressions did we want them to have about Guelph General Hospital?  The answer?  It was clear that it was critical to engage new staff in understanding our values and the importance of their role in achieving our vision and mission. Not only did this focus just ‘feel’ right; it was also aligned with our research regarding what is most likely to engage new staff members during the on-boarding process. Given this focus, we re-designed our orientation program in the following ways:

Welcome from the CEO

We begin the day with an engaging presentation and welcome from our hospital’s CEO. In a short presentation, our CEO is able to eloquently message her desire for new employees to think critically about their own accountability and ability to powerfully impact the lives of those we are here to serve. She points out specifically how valuable “new eyes” are in an organization and how open she is to hearing feedback from people regarding what they are seeing as they come to learn about “how we do things around here.” She takes time to ask each participant about who they are, what led them to choose to work with us and how they hope to impact those we serve here at Guelph General. She reinforces our values by asking staff members to thank our volunteers, understand some of the systemic issues that highly influence and guide our work (LHINs, boards, etc.) and welcomes any and all questions.

Examining our values

We engage staff in an exercise to reflect what the organization’s values (compassion, accountability, respect and teamwork) might look like within each of their respective roles and departments.  It was important to us that from day one, employees are able to understand how to operationalize these values within their own work context, and explore how the hospital’s values lay the foundation for how we do our work. This exercise brings our values to life, ensures they become more than just “words on a wall” and highlights that our vision and mission can only be achieved when EACH of us live them out.

Focusing on the value of teamwork

We create an opportunity for staff to understand the interconnectedness of their roles, and how the value of teamwork assists us in achieving our vision. Participants are paired up and asked to share their current understanding of what their role will be and to brainstorm about how their roles may be connected. It is not unusual for participants to come to orientation without an understanding of other roles/services/departments within the organization. After participants are given the time to share their respective roles with one another, they are given a challenge and asked to explore the question “What are the potential barriers to reaching our vision if we get too comfortable in our silos and fail to understand each others’ roles?”  We have found that participants can easily identify the importance of understanding and removing barriers when the relationship between the two roles is clear, such as between Intensive Care and Emergency Room nurses. However this exercise is more challenging when the need for inter-departmental understanding is not as obvious, such as for someone working in our Sterile Processing Department and someone working in Food Services. Invariably however, the challenge to think broadly and systemically about their role almost always leads participants to find some common ground between their roles and how this impacts the overall care of our patients and the smooth functioning of the hospital. It’s during this activity where we introduce our internal job shadowing program called “Walk this Way.”  By highlighting a program whose purpose it is to allow for better interdepartmental understanding, we also reinforce the hospital’s expectation as it relates to one of our core values, teamwork.

Refocusing essential “information” sessions on patient and staff safety

In order to ensure a more consistent flow between essential staff and patient presentations such as Infection Prevention and Control, Staff and Patient Safety, and Privacy, we spent time with each presenter and asked them to primarily focus on the role each staff member plays in keeping both staff and patients safe. We reminded presenters that our new employees are not likely to remember all of the details of each presentation and that their focus should be on a few key highlights of their program, with an emphasis on where to get the details when it was needed. Most importantly, we wanted participants to feel welcomed by the “experts” so they would know who they could connect with should they need more support or information once they were settled in their new roles.

Creating space for participants to connect on a personal level

Part of our orientation focuses on the unique and vulnerable experience of being a hospital patient or visitor. During this review the floor is opened for new employees to share their own positive or challenging experiences of interacting with the hospital environment. Allowing this free flow narrative provides new employees the opportunity to learn from one another and connect personally with an awareness of the potential vulnerabilities, joys and frustrations that our patients and visitors experience when they come into our organization.  We use storytelling as a powerful bridge to encourage respect and compassion for the patient and family experience, and our power to either support or frustrate the people that we are here to serve.

Reviewing key supports for staff

Key messaging about the programs that reinforce our culture are shared and explained.  Supports such as our Employee Family Assistance Program, Education Assistance Fund, Respectful Workplace and Violence Prevention Framework, conflict management coaching, Crucial Conversations/Crisis Intervention Training and other educational offerings are reviewed to reinforce our culture’s commitment to creating a healthy workplace for our staff so that they in turn can live out our mission:  “To provide the highest quality of care for patients and their families.”

Touring the Facility

We end our orientation with a tour of the hospital to familiarize staff with key departments and support services, such our Occupational Health Services, Learning Centre and multi-faith chapel.

It is important to note that the orientation process does not stop after the first day. New staff go on to be welcomed into their departments and receive department specific orientation.  Additionally, the hospital follows an on-boarding approach with each employee that ensures they meet with their Director twice over the course of their first 90 days for what we call a 30-90 day check in.  The emphasis of this check-in is to further engage new employees and see how we, as an organization, are measuring up to their expectations of what it would be like to work here.

The following participant feedback statements help to reinforce that we are on the right track:

“I felt like the CEO was connected and meant it when she welcomed all of us. She was knowledgeable and welcoming.”

“I liked the story sharing at the end about how people have felt welcomed or not welcomed at a hospital.”

“Really awesome to hear about all the resources available to staff to help us bring our best at work.”

“Great to hear CEO’s personal path to get a better feel for the cultural direction of GGH.”

The culture presentation “…was a great opportunity to learn more about the roles of other health care workers and my interactions with them in my job. A good reminder of how our behaviours can be perceived.”

The confidentiality presentation “…provided excellent scenarios and discussion as to how to handle each…more aware of how to handle various situations.”

Revamping our orientation program to a half day highly engaging session has resulted in a much more meaningful introduction to our hospital. Getting clear on what key messages an organization’s new employees need to walk away with after attending an orientation session is an important first step in ensuring an engaging orientation program that sets the stage for empowering staff to see their role in creating and sustaining a healthy and safe workplace culture.

 

About the Authors

Karen Suk-Patrick, MSW, is the Director of Organizational Development and Employee Health Services at Guelph General Hospital where she has worked for a total of ten years.  Karen’s background as a clinical social worker informs her systemic approach to organizational development and her passion creating a healthy workplace and taking care of the most valuable resource the hospital has – its people, so that they can take care of patients.

Chantal Thorn has been a staff member at Guelph General Hospital for the last 10 years, most recently in the role of Organizational Development Specialist. Chantal completed her Phd in Applied Social Psychology (Organizational Development) in 2007 where her research looked at work life balance supports and systems and their impact on employee commitment and reduction in work life conflict. Her role both within Guelph General Hospital and with her own coaching/consulting company is to facilitate individual and organizational excellence.

Network Mapping as a Tool for Uncovering Hidden Organizational Talent and Leadership

Network Mapping as a Tool for Uncovering Hidden Organizational Talent and LeadershipMany factors influence the way we experience our work today, regardless of the sector or industry in which we work. Funding pressures, constant organizational restructuring, demographic shifts and technology are fundamentally reorganizing our workplaces. In our attempts to address these changes through our traditional organizational structures we often encounter decision making bottlenecks and critical communication gaps that can affect our ability to achieve our business goals. Identifying expertise, talent and leadership amongst staff becomes crucial to succession planning initiatives to support this new work reality.

One way around this is to move from the traditional hierarchical organization chart to a more fluid and adaptive set of relationships and connections that more accurately reflect how our organizations work. This article will focus on the practice of social network mapping within organizations to deliberately leverage and engage these intra-organizational sets of informal connections that are less “hard-wired” than formal organizational working relationships.

Although it is often used when organizations are planning for a large change initiative, network mapping can also be used to quickly identify and visually map internal linkages that have been established informally across organizations. In particular, the article will highlight the applications of the tool to identify hidden talent and leadership within the organization to support succession planning initiatives and diagnose internal communication and decision making blockages.

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