Observations from the Auditor General’s Fall Report
On Tuesday of this week, Canada’s Auditor General issued his fall report. Problems with the Phoenix pay system, lack of timely access to call centres at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and wrong responses from the CRA 30% of the time, captured the headlines.
But beyond the headlines, there is a broader story that we should be concerned about. The Auditor General commented that again he was concerned by the fact that departments don’t consider the results of their programs and services from the point of view of the citizens they serve. In the opening remarks to his report, Michael Ferguson commented “I keep delivering the same message that the government doesn’t understand its results from the citizen’s perspective.” These comments come at the same time the government has stated its desire to tell a performance story to Canadians on the results it is delivering.
Earlier this year, the government released an independent report that commented on the Phoenix pay system disaster. One of the report’s observations was that some involved in the project did not feel they could speak “truth to power”, more specifically some were fearful to challenge areas where they felt the pay transformation was not proceeding properly. People were discouraged from giving briefings that contained bad news.
Not Enough Leaders Worth Following
It would be unfair to suggest that there are no leaders in our public service. However, the comments above do suggest that there are not enough of them worth following. This is at the root of many of the problems referred to in the Auditor General report and something that Canadians ought to be concerned about.
Why Canadians Should be Concerned
There are a number of reasons why Canadians should be concerned about the broader theme of ineffective leadership that underlies the Auditor Generals report. Here are some examples:
- An absence of strong leadership raises a concern that the types of problems cited by the Auditor General will persist until the leadership challenge is addressed.
- In February 2016, Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, was quoted in the press that the next “golden age” of Canada’s public service will be led by millennials. That means that the federal workplace needs to change to attract highly valued workers under age 35. One has to wonder if the desired candidates can be attracted to a workplace with a leadership challenge and a demonstrated inability to pay its staff accurately and on time.
- Klaus Schwab is the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum. In commenting on the fourth industrial revolution that we are now living in, he has said that “There has never been a time of greater promise, or greater peril.” He is concerned that a lack of leadership may be one of the greatest risks that could prevent the world from fully and equally sharing in the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution. In Canada, like many countries, we look to our government institutions for leadership and at a time when strong leadership is needed more than ever, the comments from the Auditor General’s report suggest that it is lacking.
What are We Doing to Make a Positive Impact
Many years ago, when reading a blog post from John Maxwell, I noticed an event called Leadercast. I had always wanted to find something unique that we could do that was in line with the mission of our business of helping organizations to make their business stronger. Obviously strong leadership is a critical part of that equation. At the same time, I wanted to find something that could make a charitable impact. I brought the idea of organizing a local Leadercast site in Ottawa to our team and that resulted in the beginning of Leadercast Ottawa. Over the years it has grown beyond the OTUS team to a community of leaders dedicated to bringing Ottawa’s leaders together at least once each year to help make a difference in an important challenge: we need more leaders worth following. And all the net proceeds from Leadercast Ottawa support the important work of the Ottawa Mission.
The hope of those who work so hard to organize Leadercast Ottawa is that our collective efforts will make a positive impact on what seems to be at the root of many challenges like those contained in the Auditor General’s 2017 Fall Report.