A colleague, who I'll call Anne, returned to work a few years ago after raising her two boys.
She had been a senior leader with an international firm famous for its Lean activities.
As you might imagine, head-hunters beat a path to Anne's door.
Given her interest in health care, she decided to join a world-renowned Canadian hospital.
Its executives had painted a rosy picture indeed:
"We're a cutting-edge organization, a world leader!"
(I should explain that Canadian hospitals are funded by the state.)
Within a month Anne realized the so-called 'world leader' was stuck in the 1970's.
Slow, inert, backward in its thinking and processes. Full of so-called leaders biding their time to retirement.
Turns out, the hospital's reputation was entirely due to brilliant, dedicated researchers -- and not all to the somnambulists in management.
"People who join us either leave very quickly," a colleague told her,"or they stay forever..."
As you might imagine, Anne skedaddled, and now is a leader in a truly world class company.
A happy ending for Anne, but not for our society.
Knowing what I know, I'll never trust the hospital in question.
If a family member has to spend any time there, I'll question every prescription, every procedure.
And yet, I've no doubt the people want to do a good job, and are full of ideas of how to make things better.
If only they were given the chance...
Last time I asked, "How will we engage civil servants in continuous improvement?"
A corollary is, "How will we encourage professional management in the civil service?"
I'd love to hear your thoughts.