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Innovation Symposium Produces Ideas for Managers
Monday, 12 July 2010 01:00

CCAF brings officials together to discuss innovation, risk and control

How can public service managers improve productivity, reduce red tape and manage risk in the current public sector environment?

Carole Swan

Michelle d’Auray

That was the focus of CCAF’s symposium From Theory to Practice – Moving Forward on the Management Agenda, held in Ottawa on May 28, 2010.

The symposium, attended by approximately 100 senior public servants, was chaired by federal Treasury Board Secretary Michelle d’Auray and President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Carole Swan. It was facilitated by Jim Mitchell, founding partner of the Ottawa consulting firm Sussex Circle.

Among the observations that emerged from the discussion were the following:

Jim Mitchell

  • Challenges such as the global economic crisis and Canada’s demographic situation mean that innovation will be both more important and more difficult than in the past.
  • Responsibility for managing risk is often shared across agencies and jurisdictions, increasing the need to understand the risks others face and to seek opportunities to innovate together.
  • Managers need to develop a detailed understanding of risk and use control frameworks to manage risks and produce results.
  • Managers have the power to create environments and shape systems to encourage innovation and intelligent risk management.

As background for the discussion, CCAF provided participants with the report on its research into Innovation, Risk and Control: A public sector guide to encouraging innovation, understanding control, managing risk, reducing red tape… and delivering better results for citizens.

The report contains four management principles aimed at guiding and provoking thought in management, legislative and audit communities across Canada.

Deputy’s Panel: Neil Yeates, Phil Howell and Michael Horgan

Speakers at the symposium included Michael Horgan, the federal Deputy Minister of Finance; Neil Yeates, Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada; and Phil Howell, CEO and Superintendent of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. Mr. Howell is Vice-Chair of the CCAF Board of Governors.

Mitch Bloom

Anil Arora

Anil Arora, now an Assistant Deputy Minister at Natural Resources Canada, was Census Manager for the 2006 Census conducted by Statistics Canada. He described to symposium participants how the agency introduced innovations in carrying out the Census – the subject of a case study recently published by CCAF.

Mitch Bloom, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, discussed federal public service employees’ views on risk and innovation based on the results of a survey conducted in 2008.

CCAF Chair Ron Thompson said later that the Foundation’s research on innovation, risk and control is being published at a time when the need for innovation is becoming increasingly apparent. “We’re really excited to see that some of the ideas we have generated are making their way into the discussions that public servants are having at the highest levels,” he said.

“I thought there was great benefit in having this kind of thing put on by an arm’s length outfit like the CCAF,” facilitator Jim Mitchell said. “It builds bridges with the private sector and encourages open discussion in terms that make sense in both worlds. You could see from the buzz that there was a lot of talking on the margins that was useful to participants.”

The event was a follow-up to the November 2008 symposium on innovation, risk management and control co-chaired by Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada, and Wayne Wouters, then the Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada and now the Clerk of the Privy Council.

All of the material relevant to the symposium, including CCAF’s research and its case study on Statistics Canada, may be found at: http://www.ccaf-fcvi.com/May2010-Symposium-mai2010/.

CCAF will publish a summary of the proceedings of the May 2010 symposium later in 2010.