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Collaboration

Managing Change
Managing change was the project’s main challenge. This was the most important aspect of the project, on which the Deputy Minister worked closely with the two co-managers. The managing change team was divided into two groups, one in charge of the human resources agenda and the other responsible for the employee training program. The former had a broader mandate: articulate the vision of the project, develop a communications plan, create the team of champions of change, and manage employee classification, migration, staffing and union relations.

The "champions of change" concept which came from A/A was very effectively used during the project. The champions of change were drawn from field personnel, one from each of the 21 regional offices and, if possible, selected by consensus by their colleagues based on the following criteria: trustworthiness, credibility, communication skills and enthusiasm for change. They travelled to Fredericton every three months. Presentations were prepared to inform them of the latest developments with the project. The Deputy Minister and team managers came to talk to them. Individual meetings were arranged to discuss specific regional problems. A direct line was installed for them. Aside from the work done by the champions of change, other means were used to keep Department personnel informed: memos, surveys, roadmaps, videos, posters, brochures and a direct line.

Project participants also played a vital role. Their strong commitment and enthusiasm got them through the tough, painful times. There were always some who hung in there and never gave up hope when the project was bogged down. At a time when other A/A projects were running into problems, the Alliance for Change partners decided that they would fight to the very end to make the project a success, and made a point of making that clear to the firm’s management.

The fact of working side by side, every day, throughout the project fostered a spirit of helping one another and mutual understanding. This gave participants a chance to get to know each other well, both personally and professionally. Sharing the same living space also reinforced cooperation; it was virtually impossible not to settle differences when rubbing shoulders every day. The partners from the private and public sectors adjusted to each other to such an extent that it was hard to tell them apart. But it wasn’t always this way.

In fact, three A/A managers in succession were appointed during the project’s first year. Their problems adapting to the public domain and, more specifically to social services, largely compromised smooth progress with the project. A/A’ "human resource experts" were summoned to the rescue when the two partners were unable to work together. Andersen tried to impose ready-made ideas on the procedure to follow and failed to understand HRD-NB’s mission of serving the needy. There is a big difference between developing a complex computer system and delivering a public service. The firm claimed to be an expert in managing change, but at the outset had played down the cultural change required of some Departmental personnel as well as clients. Moreover, the internal support and recognition given to its own employees left something to be desired. For instance, the firm had a tendency, at any time whatsoever, to pull people with a very good knowledge of HRD-NB operations out of the project and replace them with others totally unfamiliar with the organization. Conference calls with the firm’s experts were no substitute for their on-site presence, which on numerous occasions created problems. It was the fourth manager appointed by Andersen who succeeded in getting the project back on the right track. This individual, considered very strict, knew how to make the necessary decisions to bring the project under control, both at the Department and A/A, even if it meant stepping on a few toes. Despite tensions, he kept the focus on change.