Public Sector Transformations

Gunjan is joined by Fahad Zain Jawaid from Canadian Federal Public Service to discuss the important factors for success on transformations. Watch the video below and read Fahad's advice below on how to achieve public sector transformation goals.


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Transformation in Public Sector

By Fahad Zain Jawaid, May 2020


Transformation in the public sector is an interesting topic - a topic that I have lived through a few times in different departments within the federal government of Canada.


Organizational transformation is the process of transforming the essence of the organization itself. In the private sector, it could be to achieve a competitive advantage or address a significant challenge. In the public sector, it could be to change how the department or the organization addresses government's priorities, or transform how it does its everyday business. It can be an exciting time for any organization. Visible actions are taken by organizational leaders to move the organization from the present to the future, and its aura is felt across many, if not all, levels within the organization and has the potential to refocus and re-energize the entire workforce.


Transformation in public sector is a complex topic, but in this blog post, I will focus the discussion on strategic elements that must be present for an organization to have a semi-smooth journey without too many heart-aches along the way. By the way, there is no such as thing as a smooth transformation journey. Every transformation is going to have hiccups, roadblocks, and other fun-adjectives to describe complicated challenges - some you can anticipate, and most you can manage, and others the organization will just learn to live with.

1. Clear Vision

If you are a structural leader (an executive, or a senior management), and you want the organization to go through a transformation, you must first have a clear vision. In fact, before you even start down this journey, spend some time to do some self reflection, and try to identify what are true motivations are for undertaking this transformation. For example, many organizations, both public and private, are going through a digital transformation. So a good example of some true motivators could be: - Better services to citizens with lower administration cost to taxpayers - Improve citizen - agency interaction experience

A bad example of a transformation could be something like: - Use SAP to administer some business process - Move from SAP to Workforce or vice-versa. - Build a new app for citizens

The above are not example of transformation, rather examples of regular systems improvement processes, or a new service delivery processes. Remember, a transformation requires change in essence of how the organization operates.

2. Projectize the transformation


Project Manage the heck out of the transformation - define clearly measurable milestones. Find a strong, organized, politically savvy, and well-spoken project manager, and a separate change manager.

Remember a transformation has less technical pieces, and more changes to people, and process side of things. That's not to say there aren't any technical elements. A good transformation has each of the three pillars: people, process and technology. So its just as imperative to have a dedicate change manger, as it is to have a project manager.

3. Avoid Transformation Sprawl


I have seen this so many in every organization that I have been part of. Don't be trigger happy with transformations. Do one transformation at a time, or be very selective in which transformational efforts are undertaken simultaneously - or you'll just confuse everyone, complicate the lives transformation team, and lose credibility with your the most important pillar of your organization - the people.

Often, senior leaders want to see changes take place in many aspects of the organization, and trying to transform all of them at the same time will have the following issues, but not limited to:

  • Transformations getting in the way of one another. Consider a digital transformation and a HR transformation taking place at the same time. Now imagine your digital transformation team trying to hire talent, and your HR team trying to modernize the technology.

  • Change fatigue among the worker-bees of your organization. Imagine your front line managers trying to deliver services to the citizens, but not only have to deal with challenges to keeping up with day to day workforce management, but also trying to learn the HR system, and at the same time, trying to keep apprised of the new processes.

  • Loss of credibility among middle management, and working level staff. Water cooler talks like "this new director just wants to change everything; he/she doesn't even understand how things work here."

4. Operations Management

Even during the transformation - the services to citizens still need to be delivered, or your boss's boss's boss will likely be in tomorrow's headline newspaper. Remember - the Netfile incident in 2007? Or Phoenix? Transformations are important, but it is equally important to the management to plan them in a way that does not hinder your people's ability to deliver the day-to-day services. You can do the following to help with that:

  • Plan the transformation in measurable chunks

  • Do not short change on training

  • Empower your non-managerial staff

  • Champion your transformation

  • Strong communication

  • Effective change management

  • Clearly defined strategy, and decision making responsibilities

  • Expect more results, and less documents

All in all, public sector transformations are similar to transformation in private sectors, and face similar challenges and obstacles. The key ingredients necessary to deliver a successful transformation are still the same whether you're trying to achieve a competitive advantage for your company, or trying to take your department to cloud.


More about Fahad

My name is Fahad Zain Jawaid, and I have worked for the federal public sector for the past 10+ years. I essentially grew up in the Public Sector. Right after university, my very first real job was with Canada Revenue Agency as a Call Center Agent. While I spent most of my time answering telephone calls from taxpayers, when I could I volunteered in many mini transformation like projects.


After a few years at the call center, I took sometime off to complete a Masters Degree from University of Waterloo in Management of Technology, and tried my hand at consulting and entrepreneurship for a bit. After that little adventure, I returned back to the Feds - where I am currently working as a Senior Advisor for the Cloud Transformation Project for a large department.

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