When newly elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was asked why he selected a cabinet that was equally divided between male and female representatives his (now famous) reply was, “Because it’s 2015.” If nothing else, this message sent a clear message across national and international borders that constructive change is afoot at the Federal government level in Canada.
Moving beyond the year 2015 into 2016, we see that this need for change seems to be expanding into the recruitment and selection of highly valued public service executive positions. In the spring of 2016, the federal government issued a call to independent headhunting agencies, asking them to submit proposals for the recruitment of diverse candidates from outside of the public sector into senior political positions, including those at the Deputy Minister level.
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This shows a strategic push for the federal government to reinforce the movement of ongoing change. There is an apparent commitment to look outside of the traditionally closed government system for individuals capable of bringing fresh ideas to leadership positions. As we have learned through our human resources studies, organizational change is successful if it is led from the top of the organization; is supported by the top of the organization; and is visibly present by the actions at the top of the organization.
Having a new style of leadership commitment from the top position in the country (i.e. the office of the Prime Minister) seems to be driving the federal government along the path of continuing change which has started with the leadership recruitment and selection process.
As with any change initiative, there is push-back from within the existing system. The article identifies the ever-present recruitment and selection concern of ‘fit.’ How can external leaders come into a government system and be successful? There are numerous examples of failed attempts by outsiders that seem to outweigh individual success stories. This ‘fit’ problem has nothing to do with professional competencies or individual capabilities. It has everything to do with organizational culture.
The irony here is that the system of federal government these leaders are expecting to change is a system shaped by the culture of resistance to change, the very culture within which the new leaders must try to ‘fit.’ Only time will tell how this leadership initiative plays out.
After all, it is 2016.
- How will the recruitment and selection of non-government executives benefit the federal government?
- From which sector would you recruit for effective change leaders on behalf of the federal government?
- Why do you think successful business executives have ‘bombed’ in federal government roles?