Summer reruns

In October 2002, then Children and Family Development Minister Gordon Hogg proudly announced the introduction of legislation that would set in motion the devolution of protection services to five aboriginal and non-aboriginal regional governance authorities. At the time, he said those changes would "allow reform to be driven at the community level...where services can be tailored to local strengths and needs." And now, almost four years later, newly-appointed children and family development deputy minister Lesley du Toit continues to preach from the same gospel - working to ensure policy theory becomes civil service practice. In an email sent out on Tuesday, Ms. du Toit reaffirmed her committment to devolution, telling staffers "that the needs and strength of children, youth, families and communities should drive the ministry at a regional level. They become the 'boss.' In turn, the needs and strenghts of the regions should drive the ministry at a provincial level. The regions thus become our 'boss.'"

As part of that new "philosophical and conceptual" change, the ministry's Victoria headquarters is being renamed the "MCFD provincial office." Other changes in the bureaucratic lexicon include referring to the ministry's branches and departments as "teams." Indeed, according to Ms. du Toit, the ministry is "going to start practicing the concept of teamwork as a way of organizing and doing our work" rather than working in "silos." And that means "we have to give up some of our power and control and ensure that each of our team members is empowered to do their work in the most effective manner."

Those changes will be accompanied by an organizational restructuring that will include both regional and headquarters staff. But that restructuring, writes Ms. du Toit, "will be incremental over the next 7-8 months. We do intend to have finalized the first phase of change by the fall. Transition of staff into positions will be completed during August and new or unfilled posts will be posted by October for expressions of interest from within MCFD before we go outside the ministry."

In fact, there continues to be uncertainty as to who will be the ministry's new provincial child welfare director and whether there will be an aboriginal or First Nations director. Although, Ms. du Toit notes children and family development will have its own chief information officer - suggesting the ministry may be headed down the same adventuresome pathway as the technophiliacs at Community Living British Columbia. The following is a complete copy of that email.

***

July 4th, 2006

Dear Colleagues

Thank you for your patience during this time, as we are try to work out how best to work in MCFD and as we move forward with the transformation towards our vision. Thank you too, to the many staff members who have sent in comments and/or have completed the forms identifying their interests and strengths. There have been some excellent ideas and we will certainly take them into consideration. I have also noted your concerns and will find ways to address them, if not immediately, then as time goes on.

I know how difficult it is not to become anxious as re-structuring occurs, but I do want to reassure you that we are moving as fast as we can while being mindful of all longer term implications for the staff and the organization. The leadership team has worked hard to think through what might be good practice for us as an organization and I want to thank them all for the extra time and energy they have put in over these last few months. We are seeing a structure emerge now which we hope will make everyone excited and energized about what could be accomplished. So far, we have concentrated on our provincial office, but in August we will begin the discussions with regard to the regions.

For those in the regions who are wondering how developments will impact on them - particularly with regard to the devolution of service delivery and governance to aboriginal children, youth, families and communities - please hang in there for a few months as we allow the right decisions, processes and structures to emerge.

This document that I am sending to you today will give you considerable information. We hope it is as clear as possible, but don't hesitate to ask questions of your team leaders if you are uncertain. You should all have the opportunity to discuss this information with your team leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday. In addition, you should continue to feel free to send in your comments and questions to the generic e-mail address (MCF.DeputyMinistersOffice@gov.bc.ca).

The information captured in this document points to the proposed end result, and the next stages in getting there. The changes will be incremental over the next 7-8 months. We do intend to have finalized the first phase of change by the fall. Transition of staff into positions will be completed during August and new or unfilled posts will be posted by October for expressions of interest from within MCFD before we go outside the ministry. The exception will be Aboriginal Provincial Support Services where Deb Foxcroft will seek staff from both within and outside the ministry. I am working with ADM's to see how we might accommodate the choices and strengths many of you have indicated. The second phase will be completed by December/January.

Please note that this is a document addressed to MCFD staff and not to our partners or the general public. I can't prevent you from sharing it outside of this organization, but I am hoping that each person is professional and ethical enough to keep MCFD information within MCFD.

I am sending out a separate document to our partners and all service providers today which is relevant to them and which will keep them updated.

Philosophical and conceptual Change in organizational practice:-

You will hear more about this in the coming months. For now I want to introduce the change so that you can make sense of the diagrams and structures you will see. These types of changes should challenge our thinking about ourselves, our roles, and our organization. Writing them down and reading them is a start, but to make them meaningful we have to start acting differently in practice. As we develop I hope we will all feel free to challenge one another to practice what we preach and provide one another with the support when we make mistakes and have to try again. Change takes time and lots of trial-and-error learning.

We are going to start practicing the concept of teamwork as a way of organizing and doing our work. This moves us away from the silo approach and the tendency to work as hierarchies of control, reporting and power.

Effective management of our responsibilities, as well as accountability remains extremely important and are expected from each of us. That goes without saying.

The WAY we work together to achieve organizational goals however, should reflect leadership ability, cooperation, teamwork and recognition that we all have a contribution to make and can continually learn from one another regardless of our position in the organization. We want to work hard at improving inclusivity and working across teams rather than down silos. This of course means that we have to give up some of our power and control and ensure that each of our team members is empowered to do their work in the most effective manner.

The second major shift is in conceptualizing our roles differently with respect to the provincial office and regions. The fundamental recognition must be that the needs and strengths of children, youth, families and communities should drive the ministry at a regional level. They become the "boss". In turn, the needs and strengths of the regions should drive the ministry at a provincial level. The regions thus become our "boss".

This is at the heart of devolution of service delivery, decision-making and governance, to which we are committed. Ultimately then, the children, youth, families and communities drive the ministry and our service delivery and we become a citizen-centred (child-centred) ministry.

If we look at roles through this lens it means (a) that the provincial MCFD should be serving the regions and making it possible for them to deliver the best service possible, and (b) the regions should be serving CYFC and enabling them to be effective, safe and strong. At the provincial level you will thus see that the structures, reporting, and roles have shifted some what.

The REDs are represented on the Leadership Team because they are part of a provincial service team, just as I am and the ADM's are, but they are doing their work in a region. While they may not have the title of ADM, they should each be recognized as the "ADM" of a region. They no longer report "up". They report laterally to their team leader who is Doug Hayman.

The same thing applies to the MCFD leadership team. They report laterally to me rather than up to me. This same way of working should be reflected throughout the organization from now on.

We will all have greater authority and respect when we give away power and a need to control.

Lastly (for now), we have made changes to the words we use to describe ourselves as an organization and team. We are so used to using certain terminology that it will be hard to make this shift, but let's keep practicing and challenging one another.

Please try to stay away from acronyms. They are often a barrier to working with others who may not know what they mean and they thus shut people out, rather than drawing them in.
We are renaming "headquarters" as our MCFD Provincial Office.
We are renaming "branches" or "divisions" as teams
All teams in the Provincial Office have a "supportive" role to operations and not an operational role per se, which is now reflected in the titles.

Explanations

1. Areas in italics and/or with dotted lines will be transferred over incrementally over time.
2. We have yet to finalize who will be the Provincial Director of Child Welfare, so have not finalized where this person and their staff will be in the structure. The person will be appointed by the Minister and me and we are hoping that this will happen within the next 3 months. For the moment Mark Sieben will continue as Acting Director and will slowly take on more of the policy work.
3. We have yet to resolve whether we will have a Provincial Aboriginal or First Nations Director. This is under discussion in the aboriginal community and will be decided during transformation.
4. In line with the suggested direction of government and the leadership role we are playing in creating a comprehensive system, including case management and shared information, we intend to appoint a CIO. Until this occurs these functions will reside with Corporate Services, but be strongly supported by operational staff who can ensure that the system will work well for practitioners in the field.
5. The after hours program will most likely move to regional support services over time.
6. Provincial Services: This team is now called Provincial Programs. The eventual functions of this team will be operational only and will fall under Regional support services and an executive director, not an ADM. This transition is going to start in the next few months with policy transferring over to Policy & Legislation and components of provincial services moving over incrementally to Regional Support Services.

Finally, Chuck will be the acting RED in the Vancouver Island Region until we appoint a RED, as Anne Horan will leave on July 14th . The posting or this position will be out within the next week or two for those who may be interested.

Alan Markwart will act as Deputy Minister while I am away in July.

Kind regards

Lesley

Deputy Minister

7 Comments

So, like here at good old MCFD, we are all to start talking and acting differently now and like it's all flat now, no silos, so like it's lateral reporting because we are all equal and like he's a "RED" but really he's not so don't, like, think of him that "WAY".

Wow, like this is too cool dude, like she's leaving for a month and like we've got a whole month to practice this new "WAY" of talking before she returns.

Hey man forget those acronyms and let's party!

What does du Toit think we've been doing for the many years we have been working at mcfd, long before she graced us with her presence?

Her emails seem self righteous and her instructions are full of contradictions.

A question from some on her "Team":

She has put a focus on language and has changed the titles of some positions. What are we to call HER? "Queen Bee"?

We note that she has kept HER title.

While of course, First Nations needs and deserves to be involved and it is far beyond time that they were brought into the process, she seems to have set aside the rest of the citizens of this province, virtually dismissing them.

Lesley needs to get over herself and stop operating as though we are first year social work students led by a teacher who is playing around with new age warm and fuzzies.

Lightning might strike and she MAY have an epiphany while she's in South Africa. Let us all hope that this will be the case or the children, youth, families and communities are in for a very rough ride.

She invites us to tell her how we "feel". THIS is how we feel.

...in short, passing the buck.

Or as one wise parent put it, the DIY hardware store model of social services: "You can do it, we can help!" Which doesn't sound so bad until you consider that MCFD's very reason for existence is to support those who *can't* DIY.

If you "can't afford" to provide the old bureaucrats & social workers with the resources & leadership to do what they're expected to do, why simply cancel all expectations and rebrand them as teams, coaches, personal planners and quality analysts--i.e. folks who aren't expected to do more than sit on the sidelines and offer inspirational-sounding words and ideas.

In the Brave New Era/Golden Decade of "person-centred" services, all the children, families, adults and communities who once looked to MCFD for a helping hand now get to solve their own problems and have only themselves to blame if they fail.

And keeping the Ministry trapped in endless bureaucratic restructuring has clearly proven to be an effective way of deflecting criticism of what's not working "here and now" for the past decade, so indeed, why not continue it indefinitely?

"offer inspirational-sounding words and ideas."

Quite right: inspirational SOUNDING words and ideas which mean unless Ms du Toit's follows her own instructions.

Yawn. Wake me up when she's gone. Methinks we could have found all of this rubbish in this hemisphere. Shame.

So are these regions going to be roughly the same size as the present health authorities? Because if that horrible ongoing experiment proves anything, you either go really local (and by that I mean legitimately "local"... "Vancouver Island" or "Northern" or "Interior" have the size and diversity of whole European countries) or you stick with the best possible team in Victoria.

Campbell replaced one silo of well-meaning, well-trained but sometimes inefficient civil servants on Blanshard St. who were never under the illusion that they alone could understood the local nuances of health care--that was where local volunteer boards came in--with six independent siloes of lower-grade poorly-trained apparatchiks under the thumb of partisan appointees. And whatever gains are made by scattering these offices a bit further afield--pretty puny gains, because when you're in 80% of the area of most of these health authorities, the regional office is no more local than Victoria is--they were offset by the fact that each authority operates under the delusion that they damn well knew what was best for everyone from, say, Sparwood to Williams Lake and all points in between.

'What does du Toit think we've been doing for the many years we have been working at mcfd, long before she graced us with her presence?'

Indeed. The implication is that we haven't been working as a team, we haven't been doing our jobs respectfully, we're now all equal and should behave in a certain way and blah blah blah or we'll be sent to bed without dinner. She is here to show us the light:

'We are going to start practicing the concept of teamwork as a way of organizing and doing our work. This moves us away from the silo approach and the tendency to work as hierarchies of control, reporting and power.'

All of this blah blah and what she really intends becomes clear when considering the way in which she has defined herself and her role in her "MCFD Provincial Leadership Team" circle charts:

She has herself, as Deputy Minister, as the planet in the middle with every other "team" as little planets connected to and circling around her. Are we to understand that she sees herself as the sun, giving energy and light to everyone else who wouldn't have life without her? From what I have seen, experienced and read, she's created the mother of all Silos of "control, reporting and power'.

So much for children, youth, families and communities being at the centre of what we do and our thinking of them as "the boss". Other than the Aboriginal community, she refuses to meet with anyone.

Concerning the Regional Executive Directors:

'The REDs are represented on the Leadership Team because they are part of a provincial service team, just as I am and the ADM's are, but they are doing their work in a region. While they may not have the title of ADM, they should each be recognized as the "ADM" of a region. They no longer report "up". They report laterally to their team leader who is Doug Hayman.'

They aren't ADMs but they are ADMs of their Regions and they report LATERALLY? What does that mean in the real world? Will they be paid as ADMs? And who does Ms du Toit report to LATERALLY?

I think that she should take out citizenship and run for office. She belongs with the rest of the politicians who want to engineer change but who know little about leadership.

Would someone please tell Ms du Toit practice what she preaches?

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