Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Symbol of the Government of Canada

ARCHIVED - Service Improvement Initiative - How to Guide

Warning This page has been archived.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.

How Do We Make It Happen?

Step 7

This section presents activities to support the implementation of the Service Improvement Plan. As leadership is central to successful implementation, a leadership checklist is provided. In addition, this section also explores implementation best practices and lessons learned from previous research undertaken in the field of service improvement. It also presents potential service improvement tools, and resources available to assist managers in implementing service improvements.

Service Improvement Plan Implementation

In terms of implementing the Service Improvement Plan, there are several general support activities that you will want to consider:

  1. Communicate the Plan

    Memos do not change organizations. Do not assume that because a memo describing the implementation plan was issued, that everyone knows about it, remembers and will act according to plan. Continue to communicate the plan. Too much communication is better than insufficient communication. Remember that communication is a two-way process: management must listen to staff as much as staff must listen to management.

  2. Verify Responsibilities

    Confirm that responsibilities assigned during planning remain the right ones and adjust them as needed. Build precise results into the targets set for teams or work units, and into the performance contract of each individual. Ensure that your data systems provide information at the individual and work group level so that you can monitor achievements against targets.

  3. Ensure Supporting Changes Are Made

    From legislation to organizational unit operating procedures, support is needed to enable employees to act in a new, more client-centred manner. This includes the removal of impediments that limit an employee's ability to do a good job. Processes, forms and policies should be reviewed to ensure they facilitate rather than impede client/citizen-centred service delivery. This may mean simplified forms, the use of clearer language in forms and documents, changed hours of service, staff training, and the regular review of procedures. Empowered staff are central to removing impediments, and removing impediments is central to empowering staff.

  4. Support the Human Dimension

    There is a human response to change. There will likely be resistance to change, and there may be fear and anxiety among staff as well. This is okay and not unexpected, but these reactions must be dealt with and staff assisted and supported during the transition. Implementation impacts the organizational character since it involves change, and represents another area where leadership is essential.

    As well, many initiatives are likely to involve changes to the skill sets of employees. Therefore, ensuring that employees have access to the training and tools necessary for them to undertake their jobs is vital. After all, in many cases it is the service experience of the client/citizen involves direct interaction with a public service employee. Training is very important to the success of the organization in terms of client satisfaction. For example, research of telephone call centres has shown significantly higher levels of client satisfaction in call centres with high levels of employee training versus centres with low training levels. Training often helps support the five key drivers of client satisfaction (timeliness, knowledge/competence, courtesy/comfort, fair treatment, and outcome) and often involves job-specific training and training in customer service skills.

  5. Creativity and Innovation

    Promoting an environment which is conducive to risk taking and innovation should underlie the implementation of the Service Improvement Plan. Purposely seeking out new, innovative ideas to bring into the organization should be promoted. External, innovative ideas can be found through networking with similar organizations, keeping up to date on the latest developments in your field through media such as journals, and other related activities such as conferences. Conducting exercises such as participative problem solving, or engaging external resources can also assist this.

  6. Have Fun

    The challenge of meeting client needs should be enjoyable. If managers and employees are consistently not having fun, implementation is not likely going well. This may require revisiting the earlier steps to find the problem, or reviewing the improvement plan to see how morale can be boosted. Citizen-centred service improvement is not just a process, but part of the character of the organization that is lived everyday.

  7. Adjust the Service Improvement Plan

    Change is messy. Mistakes are made. Planning is not perfect and does not end when implementation starts. The two phases support each other. Re-plan. Re-train. Re-adjust.

Leadership Checklist

When it comes time to implement the plan just developed, leadership is again at the fore. Sometimes managers are so preoccupied with their daily must-do routine that they forget how closely their staff watches them for clues about what matters in the workplace. This is not the time to give everyone a handshake and move on to something else.

Potential Service Improvement Tools

  • Remain involved and constant in your support. Raise the service improvement profile through daily attention and speeches; place it on key agendas and talk about it with staff.
  • Set the tone. Treat your staff with the same degree of timeliness, courtesy, competence and fairness you expect them to use with clients. Ensure the outcomes they want are achieved.
  • Communicate. Gain buy-in from staff and ensure continual feedback on the problems they encounter with implementation and their ideas to enhance the initiative. Capitalize on the feedback and ideas. Communicate new initiatives to clients.
  • Continue to learn. Build trust. Make allowances for mistakes.
  • Listen.
  • Do the right thing. Set an example by doing what is right rather than what is easy.
  • Continue the Service Improvement Team, changing their role from planning to implementation, monitoring and adjustment. Make consultation continuous.
  • Empower staff and support their decisions.
  • Accept that you may not know the answer. Build enthusiasm. Create a "pull" by staff to make service improvement changes rather than limiting it to a "push" by management.
  • Recognize and celebrate achievement.

Lessons Learned – Signposts for Success

In devising specific service improvement solutions to meet citizen priorities, a good place to start is to research best practices in similar organizations or business lines. Successful service improvements are often based on good research. The organization is well serviced by reading up on similar initiatives and by meeting with practitioners and experts in the field. There are numerous resources to assist in this. The Canadian Centre for Management Development's Citizen-Centred Service Network undertook a research agenda in citizen centred service. Two products, Good Practices in Citizen-Centred Service and Innovations and Good Practices in Single-Window Service provide an exhaustive description of best practices with a summary of lessons learned. Some of the lessons learned from these two studies are outlined below:

  • Ensure Leadership Is in Place for the Long-Term: Sustained leadership by senior executives is critical for the long-term success of a service-improvement initiative. Seeking and sustaining political support for your service improvements was also identified in the research as another important success factor.
  • Encourage Citizen-Centred Values & Culture: A shared commitment to improving service delivery, supported by citizen-centred values is at the heart of any successful service improvement. Starting the change process by beginning with the development of a service culture is key.
  • Focus on Continuous Improvement: Organizations should focus on continuous improvement in service delivery, based on client and employee input and measurement.
  • Firmly Fix Improvements to a results-based strategy: a results-based strategy works effectively especially when action is focused on client priorities for service improvement, and progress is continuously measured and communicated.
  • Focus on Improving the Workplace: A results-based focus should be complemented by a continuous improvement strategy for increasing staff satisfaction. This helps to achieve a supportive corporate culture. This might entail using teamwork approaches, educating and training staff with the information they need to succeed, empowering staff to make service improvements and recognizing and rewarding good service.
  • Partnerships: Considerable research has been done in the area of partnerships and its benefits have been well documented. Sound partnerships involve shared decision-making, and clear accountabilities.
  • Consult with Clients and Key Stakeholders: Throughout the implementation process, consultation assists in ensuring that any changes are appropriately targeted. Although consultations can be time consuming, they assist in maintaining and improving the range and quality of services provided. For example, if the service improvement involves the redesign of a form, it should be focus tested to identify whether or not the improvements actually address the original problem. If this type of consultation is not undertaken, attempts at service improvement could result in less client satisfaction.
  • Piloting: Implementing service improvement initiatives through pilots can be a good way of obtaining buy-in, demonstrating success and finding what works best. This also enables risks to be managed so that deficiencies can be found and corrected before full-scale implementation takes place.

Potential Service Improvement Tools
  • New organizational forms
  • Technology
  • Service Standards
  • Process improvement
  • Re-engineering
  • Quality Management
  • Benchmarking
  • Public-Private Partnerships
  • Cost Recovery
  • Service Agreements

Service Improvement Toolbox

The Canadian Centre for Management Development's Citizen-Centred Service Network's research: Good Practices in Citizen-Centred Service and Innovations and Good Practices in Single-Window Service identifies a number of potential tools to assist managers in undertaking Service Improvements. Some of these tools involve one-time implementation; whereas others require on-going application. Although not exhaustive, the purpose of this brief description is to serve as a starting point:

  • Service Clustering, Single Window Access, and New Organizational Forms such as Special Operating Agencies can be an effective means of clarifying roles and responsibilities, improving service, reducing delivery costs, reducing overlap and duplication, and enhancing accountability. This may include looking at Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) to see if there is an alternative method available to deliver the service. You might also consider single window service delivery and service clustering.
  • Technology, although discussed elsewhere in this guide, should be noted as another potential service improvement tool. Technology has been a major driver for service improvement in recent years. Electronic kiosk systems such as those at Human Resource Development Canada and Service Ontario provide an expanding range of services to citizens and clients. Internal technological improvements in information management have allowed organizations to offer citizens service from any location. However, through the research, technology was found to be a two-edged sword in service delivery – to be effective, technological delivery must be designed in close consultation with the client.
  • Process improvement techniques such as process mapping and re-engineering can have a powerful, positive effect on service performance and client satisfaction if implemented properly, in consultation with employees and clients. Public sector services and programs often have legal and technical requirements that affect the service experience. While such requirements are often necessary, the system designed to implement them may not be the most simple and efficient possible. Examine your systems and processes from a client/citizen perspective. See if it is possible to cut red tape, root out unnecessary rules, change workflow and internal processes, and expand the use of plain language.
  • Quality Management Frameworks offer another method to assist managers in improving their service delivery. A variety of quality management systems exist depending upon the needs of the organization. Careful consideration of the organizational needs versus the framework used is required. Systems range from ISO which maintains demanding compliance standards and ongoing authentication to the National Quality Institute's Fitness Test, which is more flexible in its application.
  • Benchmarking, is not only an important tool for measuring performance, but is also useful in identifying areas of success and those needing improvement. Search out the "best" organization in your business line. How does your organization compare? How did this organization that is considered "best" attain their results? See what can be learned from their experiences that can be adapted and implemented in your own organization to improve service delivery to citizens and clients.
  • Service Agreements and Service Guarantees were also noted by the research as potentially important tools of accountability, specifically for internal government service providers and their clients.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that departments and organizations can access to assist them with service improvement implementation:

  • Service Improvement Initiative Web Site: This site offers a complete overview of the Service Improvement Initiative, along with related research and up-to-date communications on events within both the National Capital Region and the regions.
  • Service Improvement Team, Service & Innovation Sector, TBS: The Service Improvement Team at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat provides ongoing advisory services to departments and agencies on developing and implementing Service Improvement Plans, monitoring and reporting on client satisfaction; developing and implementing client-centred service standards; and, undertaking service delivery improvements.

Checklist for Step 7

After the initial wave of implementation, you should have:

  • Contributed to the process through your leadership, focused on listening, understanding, building trust, continuing to learn, setting the tone.
  • Effectively communicated the implementation plan to everyone and continued to communicate it.
  • Confirmed responsibilities and ensured that data is gathered.
  • Continued to adjust the plan, in response to the emerging situation.
  • Ensured that supporting changes, in processes and people, are made.
  • Removed impediments to staff empowerment and improved service.
  • Asked each of your staff what their key responsibilities and accountabilities are, and they answered concisely without them digging out their performance contract.