Saturday, December 20, 2014

The McNeil Report - Condition Critical at the BC Ministry of Health

Health is a mission critical portfolio in government - it consumes two out of every five tax dollars spent in the province of British Columbia and faces incredible challenges in the years ahead as increased demand for health services taxes the resources available to meet those demands. It is not trite to say that in order to have a health system that meets the needs of those living in this province, the organization that is responsible for leading the entire healthcare system can not be dysfunctional. Organizational failure at the Ministry of Health will have critical consequences with respect to the Ministry's ability to meet the demands of its mandate. Even an organization that is marginally functional will result in tremendous opportunity costs moving forward. The Ministry needs to be an organization that exemplifies high performance - it needs to demonstrate the kind of culture and workplace that delivers exceptional results for the resources that it has at its disposal. It needs to be a place that attracts (and retains) the best and brightest - a place where that talent is recognized and used to its full potential. A place where people are supported to be their best.

As such, anyone who reads Marcia McNeil's report into the 2012 firings at the Ministry of Health should be deeply concerned and worried about the organizational health (or lack there of) of the Ministry - and the scars that remain from those events. Anyone who reads that report, should be asking themselves about the current state of the organization and its culture. Should be asking about the critical work that needs to be done to repair and rebuild to get the organization from where it is at (after an honest assessment about where that may be), to the place where it needs to be.

The McNeil report paints an awful picture of an organization that lacks integrity. It paints a picture of an organization that prematurely comes to conclusions and then goes on a hunt for the evidence to support those conclusions. It paints a picture of an organization that intimidates those who work for it. It paints a picture of an organization that will do anything to appease the public, even at the expense of its own people and its ability to do the work it must do. It paints the picture of an organization that is reluctant reflect on its own actions and take actions to repair the damage. It paints a picture of an organization, where people point the finger at other people, rather than be held accountable for what was done. It paints the picture of an organization with a culture of "fear and anxiety".

Now ask yourself, is that the kind of organization that is going to attract and retain the best and brightest? Is that an organization that is going to empower its people to do what needs to be done - to speak up when something needs to be said? Is that an organization capable of handling conflict? Is that an organization that will drive engagement? Is that an organization that is going to be high-performance? Is that an organization that exemplifies leadership?

The McNeil report has been criticized for being too narrow in scope - for failing to answer the critical questions of who made the decision to terminate and why. It is true that there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered (questions that deserve answers and an independent inquiry). However, the picture that is painted by the report should not be ignored for what it does show is a horrifying scene of an organization that is in need of drastic intervention, an organization that is in critical condition.

Sometimes a long, hard look in the mirror and an honest assessment about where things are at is all that is needed to start on the road to a better place. Sometimes much more is needed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

From Flubber to Firm - Hopes for 2015

I had hoped that by this time I would be preparing to venture on a new chapter in my life career wise. That I would be aligning who I am with what I do. That my plans for the months ahead would be more concrete - and that I would be excited about the work that was to come in the months ahead.

It is not that steps have not been made, they most certainly have - but that rather than the concrete I had hoped for, I have flubber (for those who do not know, flubber is a Newtonian solid made of school glue and a mixture of water and Borax, in short homemade silly putty). I have to accept that getting to a place where I do good work, that matters (and for which I am paid adequately) - is more of a process. I have to accept that going from where I am at, to where I ultimately want to be will take more. More time. More blog posts. More learning. More relationship building. More thought. More patience.

As such, I have been trying to make the most of where I am at. Identifying the bits and pieces at work that I can work towards changing (and working towards those changes), giving voice to what might otherwise go unheard, and doing good work, even when there are significant barriers to doing so. I know that in the long run, I likely will not remain where I am at - and hopefully by next New Years I will be several steps closer to where I want to be in my career (or perhaps will have made that next step a reality). I am also hopeful that when I leave where I am at - that maybe as a result of the things I do between now and then that I will have contributed to rebuilding a better workplace than the one that welcomed my return from maternity leave in September 2013.

What 2014 has brought is clarity - a clarity of purpose, and clarity around what the next chapter of my work life might look like. Clarity around the things I need in order to be satisfied with the work I do. Clarity around the things that seem to be causing me dissatisfaction.

So as I look forward to 2015, I am still excited about the work in the months ahead (work outside of work, and work at work to rebuild a better workplace). I will spend 2015 doing the more that needs to be done and perhaps when 2015 draws to a close, I will be starting that new chapter in my life career wise. A chapter that aligns who I am with what I do, a chapter filled with purpose, a chapter focussed on doing good work that matters, that makes the time spent working time that is well spent.