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Audits and Evaluations

Formative Evaluation of the Strategic Choices Framework

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5.0 Conclusions and Lessons Learned

5.1 Design of the Strategic Choices Initiative

The design of the Strategic Choices was sound in terms of recapturing LAC's mandate and providing internal consistency in terms of strategic direction. It was successful in providing strategic focus for the institution and in narrowing down the strategic priorities. However the design process did not give sufficient consideration to the environmental and organizational culture dimensions and their impact on both the priority setting and implementation processes. As a result the "Strategic Choices Framework" policy document did not provide enough clarity with respect to the actual means/methods by which the five organizational priorities were to be achieved.

The Strategic Choices Initiative captured well the changes needed with respect to the overall strategic direction of LAC. As a result it was able to generate some organizational learning in terms of repositioning the institution in response to emerging trends in its environment. The value-added for decision-making that the Strategic Choices generated was in identifying the need for more horizontality in managing LAC's operations.

5.2 Implementation of the Strategic Choices Initiative

The main factors that affected the implementation of the Strategic Choices Initiative were:

  • lack of formal governance structure;
  • lack of monitoring and reporting mechanisms;
  • lack of commitment on the part of LAC leadership;
  • capability discrepancies among the sectors;
  • lack of financial resources;

In addition the number of tasks and expected results were too numerous and too ambitious for the timeframes set and the available resources.

As a result the two critical success factors for the initiative were not met. These two factors required a longer time horizon which unfortunately was not taken into account during the design phase.

The most progress was made with respect to Strategic Choice number three (development of effective record keeping), followed by Strategic Choice number four (making systematic use of collaborative arrangements), and Strategic Choice number two (increasing the relevance and accessibility of LAC collections and expertise to Canadians outside the National Capital Region).

5.3 Management response

  • The design process was successful in narrowing the mandate of LAC and providing a sense of focus but did not adequately consider contextual factors such as the organizational environment and culture, and how they might affect implementation.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #1 of the report. The five strategic choices (as with the consultation process and cross-sector working groups that led to it) have served to identify targeted and unifying common objectives. However, the desired synergies between the two main sectors have not been fully achieved, since no mechanism for managing change at the ministerial level has been implemented and the traditional shortcomings have not been addressed. Some managers have been overwhelmed by the required changes.

For the current LAC modernization process, a change management framework has been developed for which related strategies are under development. A rigorous governance structure (including a Directors General committee) has been implemented, to ensure the horizontality of objectives and the coordination and integration of actions. A management safety net has also been implemented (i.e. counseling, coaching, and group or individual well-being sessions, etc.). Moreover the continuous commitment of senior management to implement the changes is primary and will help ensure a clear commitment at all levels of the institution.

  • The implementation process was uneven and suffered from the lack of a formal governance structure, monitoring and reporting mechanisms and leadership from Management Board.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #2 of the report. Management Board's commitment to the strategic choices was evident, and clearly reflected in LAC's 2008-2011 Business Plan. However, this has translated neither into concrete action by senior management, nor into support or clear guidelines in the sectors (which could have served to guide developments and changes in the institution's traditional activities).

In the current modernization process, the Librarian and Archivist himself has undertaken on several occasions to communicate his vision to LAC employees and outside partners. Pilot projects have been implemented to test assumptions and validate results, with a view to broader implementation where benefits are indicated. The reorganization at LAC's management and executive level has also helped ensure greater horizontality, as well as the sharing of issues and search for solutions. A DG committee meets each week to continue the group dialogue and identify issues, while a finance committee (composed of the three ADMs and the Chief Financial Officer) meets every month to ensure resources are consistent with modernization objectives.

  • The five choices met with mixed success with government record keeping being more successful than the others. The two critical success factors were not achieved.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #3 of the report, that the implementation of LAC's Strategic Framework and strategic choices did not achieve the desired results. However, we need to remember that the implementation of eight horizontal initiatives in 2008-2009 diluted and ended up superseding the strategic choices - which created uncertainty among LAC managers, delayed the implementation of serious change, and acted as a constraint on both innovation and front-line operations. The fact that no resource redistribution mechanism was implemented has also hampered the achievement of results. A timid innovation funding initiative was implemented (i.e. a modest budget envelope, reserved for the start-up of pilot projects and overseen by an LAC horizontal committee), but was insufficient to bring about the desired changes. Nonetheless, some of these projects have been used for the current modernization process (i.e. Clearing the Path, etc.). Another determining factor has been the retirement of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. His replacement brought to the job a new vision that initiated the modernization exercise, which took precedence over the Strategic Choices.

Assistant Deputy Ministers are accountable for the results of the current modernization exercise, and for the changes stemming from LAC's new vision. All LAC managers and executives are directly accountable for these results, which are included in their respective performance agreements. Cross-sector working groups are also tasked with defining and implementing actions to bring about permanent changes, in keeping with LAC's new vision and based on the filters it has adopted. The aforementioned Finance Committee has also established a formal process for transferring resources from the traditionally favored sectors to those undergoing modernization (but at a slow enough pace not to put the traditional sectors at risk, while at a fast enough pace to bring about the desired changes).

  • Overall, the number of expected results and tasks chosen were too ambitious for the time frames involved and resources available.

Management Response:

We agree with Finding #4 of the report. The scope of LAC's 2008-2011 Business Plan, geared toward results and based on strategic choices, is quite far-reaching. While the most important risks were raised, there is no evidence that they were factored into the plan's development. The exercise was initiated, but did not last long enough to see the full engagement of senior management or to yield tangible results.

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