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Audits and Evaluations

Formative Evaluation of the Strategic Choices Framework

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Executive Summary

Introduction

Following the strategic vision document "Directions for Change" articulated in 2004, a new strategic framework "Strategic Choices for Realizing LAC Vision" was developed in late 2006. The Strategic Choice Framework set out the rebalancing of LAC's activities in light of changes to the information and policy environments in which the institution operated at the time.

Purpose of the Evaluation

This evaluation has the following main objectives. To assess progress in the implementation of the Strategic Choices and their success in achieving stated objectives. This will be done by examining the design process, the implementation process (including governance), success to date, and lessons learned. It is hoped that the results of this evaluation will inform the Modernization Initiative now underway at LAC.

Profile of Strategic Choices

The Strategic Choices Framework defined the choices LAC would make in order to implement "Directions for Change" and identified new ways for doing business. Five Strategic Choices were identified for 2006-2011: 1. Going digital in all aspects; 2. Being national; 3. Focus on government record keeping; 4. Collaboration and partnerships; and 5. Research and evaluation for decision making (LAC , Nov. 2006). Two critical success factors for the initiative were also identified: 1. Changing LAC management and operational practices to be reflective of LAC commitment to collaborative arrangements both internal and external; and 2. Systematic review and re-engineering of LAC business practices and reallocation of resources to support implementation of the Strategic Framework (LAC , Nov. 2006)

Methodology

The methodology used included a document review and in-depth interviews with key informants. In the case of the document review working documents were used to assess the development and design phase and other documents published over the period from April 2006 to June 2009, such as the Strategic Choices Framework, departmental reports, business plans, minutes of meetings and so on, were consulted for the assessment of the implementation process. Interviews were also conducted with 14 key stakeholders between August and October 2009.

Findings

Design
While some elements normally considered during the design of an initiative such as a risk assessment, feasibility, appropriate time horizons, and an assessment of resources were not observed, the choices themselves were successful in advancing the process of transformation and narrowing down of the broad mandate of LAC.

Implementation
Although considerable work was done to implement the tasks that were identified under each of the Strategic Choices no formal monitoring and reporting mechanisms were set up other than reporting through external departmental documents. In the absence of a formal monitoring mechanism the task fell to Management Board. Key informants indicated that Management Board did not exercise leadership in the area of implementation and was not effective in making necessary decisions.

Success
The degree of success in achieving the intended results was mixed. As of Fall 2009 about 60% of the tasks identified were completed and about 55% of the expected results were estimated to be on track to be achieved by 2010-11. The most successful of the five choices was #3- "Focus on government record keeping". With regard to the two critical success factors, stakeholders reported that there was an increase in collaboration but far below what was expected and work processes did not change significantly. It was also observed that the reallocation of resources was below the level necessary to achieve the results.

Conclusions and Lessons Learned

  1. The design process was successful in narrowing the mandate of LAC and providing a sense of focus but did not adequately consider contextual factors such as the organizational environment and culture, and how they might affect implementation.

  2. The implementation process was uneven and suffered from the lack of a formal governance structure, monitoring and reporting mechanisms and leadership from Management Board.

  3. The five choices met with mixed success with government record keeping being more successful than the others. The two critical success factors were not achieved.

  4. Overall, the number of expected results and tasks chosen were too ambitious for the time frames involved and resources available.

Management Response

  1. The design process was successful in narrowing the mandate of LAC and providing a sense of focus but did not adequately consider contextual factors such as the organizational environment and culture, and how they might affect implementation.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #1 of the report. The five strategic choices (as with the consultation process and cross-sector working groups that led to it) have served to identify targeted and unifying common objectives. However, the desired synergies between the two main sectors have not been fully achieved, since no mechanism for managing change at the ministerial level has been implemented and the traditional shortcomings have not been addressed. Some managers have been overwhelmed by the required changes.

For the current LAC modernization process, a change management framework has been developed for which related strategies are under development. A rigorous governance structure (including a Directors General committee) has been implemented, to ensure the horizontality of objectives and the coordination and integration of actions. A management safety net has also been implemented (i.e. counseling, coaching, and group or individual well-being sessions, etc.). Moreover the continuous commitment of senior management to implement the changes is primary and will help ensure a clear commitment at all levels of the institution.

  1. The implementation process was uneven and suffered from the lack of a formal governance structure, monitoring and reporting mechanisms and leadership from Management Board.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #2 of the report. Management Board's commitment to the strategic choices was evident, and clearly reflected in LAC 's 2008-2011 Business Plan. However, this has translated neither into concrete action by senior management, nor into support or clear guidelines in the sectors (which could have served to guide developments and changes in the institution's traditional activities).

In the current modernization process, the Librarian and Archivist himself has undertaken on several occasions to communicate his vision to LAC employees and outside partners. Pilot projects have been implemented to test assumptions and validate results, with a view to broader implementation where benefits are indicated. The reorganization at LAC 's management and executive level has also helped ensure greater horizontality, as well as the sharing of issues and search for solutions. A DG committee meets each week to continue the group dialogue and identify issues, while a finance committee (composed of the three ADMs and the Chief Financial Officer) meets every month to ensure resources are consistent with modernization objectives.

  1. The five choices met with mixed success with government record keeping being more successful than the others. The two critical success factors were not achieved.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #3 of the report, that the implementation of LAC 's Strategic Framework and strategic choices did not achieve the desired results. However, we need to remember that the implementation of eight horizontal initiatives in 2008-2009 diluted and ended up superseding the strategic choices - which created uncertainty among LAC managers, delayed the implementation of serious change, and acted as a constraint on both innovation and front-line operations. The fact that no resource redistribution mechanism was implemented has also hampered the achievement of results. A timid innovation funding initiative was implemented (i.e. a modest budget envelope, reserved for the start-up of pilot projects and overseen by an LAC horizontal committee), but was insufficient to bring about the desired changes. Nonetheless, some of these projects have been used for the current modernization process (i.e. Clearing the Path, etc.). Another determining factor has been the retirement of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. His replacement brought to the job a new vision that initiated the modernization exercise, which took precedence over the Strategic Choices.

Assistant Deputy Ministers are accountable for the results of the current modernization exercise, and for the changes stemming from LAC 's new vision. All LAC managers and executives are directly accountable for these results, which are included in their respective performance agreements. Cross-sector working groups are also tasked with defining and implementing actions to bring about permanent changes, in keeping with LAC 's new vision and based on the filters it has adopted. The aforementioned Finance Committee has also established a formal process for transferring resources from the traditionally favored sectors to those undergoing modernization (but at a slow enough pace not to put the traditional sectors at risk, while at a fast enough pace to bring about the desired changes).

  1. Overall, the number of expected results and tasks chosen were too ambitious for the time frames involved and resources available.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #4 of the report. The scope of LAC 's 2008-2011 Business Plan, geared toward results and based on strategic choices, is quite far-reaching. While the most important risks were raised, there is no evidence that they were factored into the plan's development. The exercise was initiated, but did not last long enough to see the full engagement of senior management or to yield tangible results.

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