Author Archives: chris493

Case Study: Results-based Development in Chris’ Golf Game

NOTE: This landing page is the most recent blog post. For background on Measure of Success, visit: OUR APPROACH

What follows here is a real-time description of applying results-based consulting to developing my golf game. Following the “Initial Post” are periodic updates and reflections.

Sept. 6, 2014 – Initial Post

I decided to take my own medicine and approach an area of personal development in this same results-based manner. I will be the “client” in this exchange and Mark Linton, head of instruction at Weston Golf Club, will be the “consultant.” With his permission, I will document our shared success.

This arrangement is based on the model outlined in “Our Approach”:

1. Overall direction:

For this, I am focussing on scoring better in competitive golf. This very likely fits with “play better golf” or “play closer to my potential.” Any of those definitions are indeed, in my opinion, close enough.

2. Aspirational goal:

I have shared this with Mark, but I will not divulge the details of it here. It is important that Mark know what I am shooting for and the relevant deadlines. We agreed that it is difficult, yet attainable, under the right conditions. There is a monetary incentive for Mark should I attain this goal. (I won’t disclose those details either.)

3. Means-to-an-end goal:

If you are not familiar with golf, here is a brief description of the “handicap” system that is widely used with amateur golfers. To oversimplify, your handicap gives you an adjustment to your score (adding or subtracting) to make for an “even game” when playing with someone of differing ability. The idea being that if two golfers of differing ability both play a usual game, a head-to-head contest will be competitive.

I am currently a 5 handicap. I think that if I can get my handicap down to a 2, my aspirational goal will be reachable. Mark has expertise in this context, and is comfortable with being, to an extent, “on the hook” for my development toward those goals. So far, we have been able to establish a “shared goal.” As an experiential comment, I am quite enjoying the confirmation that this set of goals is reachable and that I have an interested party to teach, coach and support. I am sure there is plenty of work to do, so I will have to keep this initial euphoria in mind when the going gets tough.

Periodic Updates and Reflections (reverse chronological order)

Oct 9, 2014

The work that I have done with Mark has got me focussing on specific areas of my game. This is where he is exercising his expertise to guide me in the right direction. I am really enjoying the shared responsibility because I almost feel that it is his job to figure this out for me. Not to bore you with specifics, but short game (close to the green) is an important element to scoring. When I have played recently, even not scoring that well, I have found solace in the fact that my chipping has improved. Knowing where to look to find indications of improvement is important in maintaining hope and not being disheartened or overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Oct 1, 2014

Probably riding the positivity that came from the confirmation that my goals are achievable, I was pretty quick to tell people what I was doing and what I was trying to accomplish. There is a certain vulnerability with revealing your intentions to people. Now that everyone knows that I am trying to get my handicap down, it will be embarrassing when it does not seem to be tracking in that direction. (This was the case this past week!)

Sept 19, 2014

Simply because the set up is different, I find myself sharing more information with Mark than I would normally have done. Maybe to convey that I was holding up my side of the bargain, I relayed how much I practiced, how it went, what was working and not working. This was quite different from the episodic relationship that I have had with golf pros in the past. I could certainly envision establishing a flow for this information with clients with whom I will be working.

Sept 12, 2014

Getting confirmation from Mark that my goals were achievable felt very good. There was an initial surge, which actually surprised me. I started thinking that because the journey had started, reaching the destination was an eventuality. When I played nine holes with my kids, I found that I was taking it more seriously, and was very disappointed with a score that previously would have been so-so. I found myself thinking that I should be operating at a new level.

 

Results-Based Development (Some Backstory on Goal Setting)

One of my biggest frustrations as an education professional (trainer, instructor, consultant, etc.) is that the standard “measure of success” is “Did the participant like it?” I do not suggest that participant enjoyment is not important, but “did they like it” is only part of the story. I would like to think that the “liking” could align with developing in an intended direction. For example, “I liked it because the skills and awareness were necessary for me to better perform in my role” rather than “I liked it because the facilitator was funny, let us go early, and we had a hot lunch.” Similarly, if participants didn’t “like it” what was the reason? Not relevant? Waste of time? Made me think too much? No clear tools? Sharpening the axe can take some time; maybe an axe isn’t even the right tool…

What to measure becomes so important. In the absence of any other measure, maybe “participant satisfaction as indicated by ‘smile sheets'” is acceptable and maybe we even set a goal accordingly. We could get some help from George Doran and employ the SMART goal framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Mr. Doran’s helpful and memorable tool may create some unintended consequences.

Specific: Oversimplifying a situation such that the focus is on the “operation” and not on the “patient,” as in the dark humour of “the operation was a success, but the patient died.” We trained teams separately to keep a friendly atmosphere. Participants loved the “team building” sessions, but we still have turf wars between these two groups. Other examples could include, delivering a product that met the customers specs exactly, but seeing unacceptable margins.

Measurable: This orientation tends to push us toward what can be measured, which can dangerously skew attention toward distracting elements. E.G. We wanted to reduce customer complaints, but all we did was encourage front-line staff to accommodate ridiculous requests (which ended up costing us money!)

Achievable: This aspects needs much more context. Achievable to whom? What are the consequences of success or failure? If the latter has any connection to monetary reward, you can guarantee that “sand bagging” will ensue, more generously known as “managing expectations.”

Relevant: Again, to whom? In trying to increase relevance by attaching rewards to achievement, the sand-bagging danger rises.

Time-bound: This tends to drive the behaviour that the stages of the journey are discreet and independent. Winning the Tour de France is not necessarily about leading at every stage.

In an effort to establish goals that align the interests, I find myself up against three (at least) immovable truisms that I will explain here.

It is a journey not a destination: The long-game can easily get lost because it is so difficult to conceptualize. Let’s pick a direction to move towards and not worry too much about “what happens if we get there?” or exactly where “there” even is.

Anecdote – The Artist Formerly Known as Prince

If pinned down to an overall direction for his live shows, let’s assume that Prince would say he wanted to create an exceptional musical experience. Rumour has it that all musicians and back-up vocalists were encouraged to come and tell Prince when they had nailed their part, at which point, Prince would add to their task. The guitarists that mastered the base-track would get a dance sequence. The well rehearsed back-up vocalist would be given a percussion part. And if you nailed that, he had even more for you. The message being: good enough is never good enough.

Everyone games the system: Self interest is part of everyone’s psyche. It will kick in for different people at different times, but even the most principled and well-intentioned people will take advantage of ways to game the system. We must take extreme care in selecting measures because that will directly impact behaviour.

Work is not family (for everyone): Many will use the metaphor of a family or a community to describe an organization that functions with a healthy degree of trust and shared focus. For me, community is more realistic simply because it introduces the responsibility you have as a member of the community, but also leaves the door open to leave the community if you find another one that is a better fit. The understood permanence of the “family” connection means that your only choice is to make the best of it. This can generate a nice bit of commitment, but can also create resentment and guilt.

This critique of some common approaches to goal-setting and identifying some relevant “truisms” should provide some important rationale behind the “results-based development” approach explained here.

Results-Based Development (Under the hood of Aligning Interests)

In many different contexts, we see examples of competition contributing to higher performance. For competition in business, we can draw and important distinction between “good competition” and “bad competition,” which is sometimes under emphasized. As I understand it, “good competition” creates an environment where everyone has to “up their game” to remain competitive. As evidence that “the market works,” we would see examples of customers benefiting from competition because organizations have to work harder and smarter to remain in business. Conversely, “bad competition” creates an environment that destroys long-term value in the name of “winning” or “surviving.” In such scenarios, organizations harm the sector and themselves in a “race to the bottom.” Such scenarios also have organizations engage in ethically questionable behaviour to “win at all costs.”

To start, let’s assume that “good competition” is indeed possible. Let’s further assume that for it to work, it requires that parties share an understanding of what “good” they are trying to accomplish.

For businesses, making money is “good,” but so are other forms of benefit: safer automobile travel (Toyota), or sustainable practices (Unilever). Governments are expected to think more about the greater “good,” and as a specific illustration, let me use community health-care in Ontario.  Let’s say that “good” in this context is “efficiency in delivering necessary services to patients,” or something that balances provision of necessary services within fiscal constraints. As is the current practice, the government-funded payment to service providers for some activities can be attached to a result or outcome:  a service provider is given a lump sum to achieve a specific outcome (e.g. heal a wound). If they can complete the task more efficiently, profit is theirs. If it happens to take longer or more resources, the provider spends those resources, but can’t come back to the funder for more money. If this works, tax-payers in Ontario get better bang for their collective buck, and patients get high quality care; wins all around.

This same type of arrangement could work in a non-governemnt context as long as the service provider is at least partially interested in the same definition of “good.” This creates “good competition, and efficient organizations that do good work will succeed.

Slide1The realm of “bad competition” can be peppered with “perverse incentives,” whereby, for example, a service provider could legitimately want a patient to stay sick, or at very least, err too much on the side of caution and so as to go wildly offside with a “fiscal responsibility” effort. This is the potentially very ugly underbelly of the public-sector contracting out to the private sector. In a consulting relationship, this can create, for example, an incentive to run-up the billable hours.

Slide2 again

 

Setting goals and objectives that promote shared accountability is extremely tricky. From my experience, the real trick is to align activity to a common purpose (e.g. the “good”), and I will go as far to say that without a shared interest, collaboration of this nature is impossible because the result will actually create “bad” competition.

 

Aligning for Performance – Where to start

The Lululemon stories coming out this week illustrate, if nothing else, that running a successful business is a complicated endeavour. There are a number of interests to balance, and something always has to give. Determining what exactly what should “give” and how exactly to implement that decision introduces an interplay between three dimensions of an organization:

  1. Overall Direction
  2. Measures and Metrics
  3. Rules and Norms

To have a serious look at “performance,” each of these is necessary though no one dimension logically prevails. The result of the interplay is very tangible to those operating in and around the environment. Employees actually live it, and investors, suppliers and other stakeholders are deeply affected by it.

From an organizational development perspective, these dimensions offer distinctly different lenses through which to analyze and evaluate performance. They can also inform opportunities for on-course corrections that can pre-empt a larger “realignment” or “change project.” Here is a quick explanation of what you could see through each lens.

Dimension #1 – Overall Direction (balancing inspiration with reality; clarity with rigidity)

Done well
  • There is alignment toward an overarching purpose.
  • We all know why we are here.
  • We have an obvious shared interest and our conflict is about how to get there not where to go.
Overdone 
  • Attachment to “core values” grows rigid such that an unrealistic zeal drives activity.
  • People are quick to become indignant when others suggest that we would ever compromise or question the direction that has been set.
  • There is talk of “sacred cows.”
Underdone
  • Lack of consistent focus makes it hard for people to assign priority.
  • Lower levels of management feel compelled to check with upper levels.
  • Management shows reluctance to exercise judgement because decision-making criteria is unclear.
Dimension #2 – Measures and Metrics (balancing art and science; means and ends)
Done well
  • There are appropriate and trackable indicators of performance at individual, team and organizational levels.
  • Discussions around performance, including performance reviews, have some objective and tangible criteria.
  • With negative changes in measures and metrics, discussions turn to “what can we do to affect this outcome?”
Overdone 
  • Emphasis on “making the numbers” leads to situations akin to “the operation was a success, but the patient died.”
  • Rampant gaming of the system to make “my numbers,” with complete disregard for overall impact.
  • No concept of “taking one for the team” because there is no opportunity to provide a context or expectation of reciprocity.
Underdone
  • There is no meaningful indication of results and outcomes.
  • Well-intentioned people often feel that although much gets done, little may have been accomplished.
  • There is little perceived connection to and control over end-results (positive or negative)


Dimension #3 – Rules and norms (balancing constraints with restrictions; formal with informal)
Done well
  • There are a few key parameters that people maintain (and don’t need to look at the website for guidance).
  • These are supported in formal policy (e.g. vision, mission and values).
  • There is a “spirit” of the rules not fully captured by the “letter” of the formal statements
Overdone 
  • Decision-making may be stifled because everything is prescribed and no judgment is required.
  • Rationale for doing something is often replaced with explanation of rules, guidelines and norms that prescribe behaviour (more “we/you can’t” than “why couldn’t we?”)
  • People look for air-cover from a policy or from “so-and-so said we have to do it this way” to justify actions/decisions.
Underdone
  • The walls of the office have signs like: “DO NOT LEAVE FOOD IN THE OFFICE FRIDGE OVERNIGHT.“ & “DO NOT LET THIS DOOR SLAM.”
  • The funnel of “policies in progress” is always full.
  • Existing policies are routinely reworked to be clearer. (e.g. Coffee cream is exempt from “Food left in Fridge” policy.)
What now/what next?

An analysis of this nature has to sift through competing perceptions of the situation. If the goal is to improve performance, the first step should be to better understand it. The interplay of these dimensions is similar to the combination of individual life philosophy, personal goals, and code of conduct that form a human being. Some degree of misalignment is inevitable, but very often it is manageable. Large misalignments and inconsistencies will become obvious over time and become more difficult to manage and to hide.

Using these dimensions as a periodic diagnostic within an organization can bring insight to where to focus time and energy to proactively affect future performance. This can also help to prevent large crises that require swift and sudden change.

 

Well, what do/did you expect?

Any discussion regarding performance has to include both outcomes (e.g. what you accomplished) and conduct (e.g. how you accomplished it). These concepts can exist together in statements like “they won fair and square,” but with the current mayoral race in Toronto, many would encourage to keep them separate.

  • Pro-Forders say: Look what he’s done (e.g. outcomes). So what if he’s not perfect (e.g conduct).
  • Another camp says: I don’t care about his record (e.g. outcomes); his behaviour is unacceptable (e.g. conduct).

A reasonable response would be to balance the two, which is what I believe is at the heart of John Tory’s code of conduct. One truism of the performance evaluation is: “clarify expectations.” In more practical terms, this quickly becomes an exercise in managing expectations. Unfortunately, the result of that, more often than not, is defining the “barely acceptable.”

Enter the “Code of Conduct.”

Such well-intentioned documents set the bar for accountability for future actions. It states: “Here is how I am going to go about my business, and please call me out if I conduct myself otherwise.” But that is where the clarity ends because we are stuck with statements like Tory’s Point #2 “I will show up to work each day to get things done…”

So, John, do you mean that you will show up to work “everyday”? “Every workday” (e.g. you will take vacations and weekends)? Everyday that you show up to work, you will try to get things done (e.g. you could indeed be absent, maybe even absent a lot, but when you are there, you are there to get things done.)?

Note: If the response is to tighten the wording of the “code,” we will undoubtedly get stuck with unreadable legalese!

Transparency, honesty and integrity are far too conceptual to be prescribed on a code of conduct. That said, I think we have every right to expect these traits in leaders, political or not.

My second problem with defining the “barely acceptable” conduct is that inevitably the code is used to counter any critique of performance.  As of April 4, 2014, Rob Ford can factually claim: “I have not been charged with a criminal offence while in office.” The binary distinction of charged or not charged is apparently the expectation here. Does integrity and honesty really come down to “I have not been charged with a crime.”? This is akin to Lance Armstrong’s claim that he had “never failed a drug test,” which, in retrospect, was not the best evaluation of his performance.

Even if a candidate for Toronto’s mayor said: “Trust me, I am going to pay better attention to my conduct than the current mayor has been,” some still won’t care. Unfortunately, the outcomes Toronto will have received by 2018 will remain a mystery past voting day.

When it comes to conduct (e.g. the “how you go about doing it”), leaders should give us much more than “barely acceptable,” so why bother defining it? The effort in defining the “barely acceptable” should be spent on the outcome side. (e.g. If I have not achieved X by 2018, I will not run again.) This will demand leaders accepting responsibility for things beyond their individual control, which might create a necessity for people to work together.

I would love to see more leaders clarify the “barely acceptable” outcomes rather than trying to pin down the specifics of “integrity” and “respect.”

The good news is: I understand your thinking…

Yesterday, I caught a very brief segment on talk radio where a well-intentioned gentleman was explaining a solution that reduced energy consumption by turning off more lights at night. As a good interviewer does, Jerry Agar asked questions about the rationale for this endeavour. I was impressed at how quickly the guest (who I could not find on the site!) explained the connections that he was making, The train of thought is this:

  • If people trust each other, they are more comfortable in the dark.
  • One way to know that it is dark is that you can see stars (He actually said “the milky way.”)
  • So, the ability to see the milky way is a great indicator of how much people trust each other.
  • Let’s turn off the lights and start trusting!

Making connections between indicators and such fuzzy concepts as “degree of trust,” is a worthwhile, yet very difficult task. The impressive part of his explanation was not the logical connections, but the comfort that he had in telling another person how he had put it together.

My professional network contains some experts in philosophy who I will consult for a more technical critique of this reasoning than “Huh?!” In my humble opinion, this gentleman made a horrible argument, but I can’t stress enough the effectiveness of his clarity and willingness to reveal his thinking. A clearly explained whacky argument is easier for everyone to address than an obfuscated description that you have to untangle. The former, we know to ignore or, if we like the guy, give some very blunt critique. The latter takes much more time and energy before we get anywhere.

So, full marks for clarity. Let’s work on the logic,

Collaborating for Automobile Safety

It has been almost 3 years since Toyota embarked on a collaborative partnership to address automobile safety. The Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbour Michigan has grown to include dozens of academic and social sector organizations united to improve the world of automobile safety. In the rearview mirror this is a rich collaborative exercise pursuing a noble cause. A web search for “Toyota” and “safety” in March 2014 will provide very important context to the venture as you sift through accounts of the $1.2B admission of wrongdoing that resulted in human deaths and in harsh criticism of the automakers modus operandi.

Often revered for its dogged focus on quality, the culture at Toyota contributed greatly to the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement and to many quality principles used pervasively today, not just in manufacturing, but in a variety of disciplines. It appears that “safety” somehow got uncoupled from “quality” with devastating results. When external perceptions don’t match the internal realities, the company has a PR problem. When an internal flaw has been exposed because of dire consequences to customers, the problem is different and much deeper.

Steven Berlin Johnson starts off his book Future Perfect discussing how progress in airplane safety has far outstripped progress in any other aspect of air travel. Statistics routinely tout air travel as safer than driving, and this is no mean achievement. (Note: Presumably science and tech innovation could not have prevented the yet unclear result of Malaysia Air’s recent tragedy.) Similarly, the Engineering and Technical institutions involved in the work with Toyota will no doubt achieve great results in moving the needle on automobile safety. Even with this progress, at some level, all drivers appreciate the myriad of risks involved in heading out on any road in any vehicle.

For Toyota’s part in this, the bigger question is: “how was driver safely allowed to slip on the priority scale in so many aspects of the business?” The CSRC will no doubt get more attention in the aftermath of the recent US legal decision. Potentially these events will result in the world being a safer and better place with increased attention on vehicle safety. This will be consolation only to the most philosophical of those directly affected by the shortcomings. Practices at Toyota may indeed change so that “safety” plays a clearer role. If so, the claims in its vision statement won’t ring as hollow as they do today.

 

Galen: Could Loblaws buy Heinz’s discarded Leamington plant?

Pre-reading NOTE: Work has taken me to SW Ontario a great deal this year, so Heinz announcing the closure of its Leamington, Ontario, operations stuck in my head. Another warning, I am gearing up the for winter semester and back in MBA “shared value creation” mode.

Apparently, Heinz’s announcement to close a Canadian plant fits into a cost-cutting strategy that will bring more production capacity (and jobs!) to its U.S. operations. I am sure the “business case” is rock solid and we can’t expect a profit-motivated U.S. corporation to care about tomato farmers in Canada, can we?

But can we expect a profit-motivated Canadian corporation to care?

What if Loblaws bought the plant? They could in-source the production of it’s store-brand ketchup, which is a logically defensible business move. I am sure that someone could create a business case, but I wonder how they would account for:

  1. Goodwill created for Canadian consumers by creating jobs in Canada
  2. Enhancement to the Weston family legacy at home and abroad
  3. Role-modelling examples of the possibilities of creating shared value (Can I call “dibs” on writing up the case?)
  4. Any other off shoots that create value for a distinct group.

It would take a good deal of analysis to look at how this could work and there may be some obvious things that I am missing due to lack of expertise. One thing that hangs up such ideas is how to account for the various kinds of value it creates.

I would welcome thoughts and insights on how/why this could or couldn’t work. (Get into small groups and discuss.)

What to do when enough is clearly enough

When I have taught MBAs Negotiations, some of the richest conversations about “how it really works” vs. how it is supposed to work. There are always references to specific individuals in the organization who seem to inhabit different worlds. Part of the education is to build skills in understanding and empathizing with other world views with the mantra that “reasonable people can reasonably disagree” about just about anything. The opportunity is to find an intersecting interest, which can be fulfilled despite differing underlying biased perceptions. This can be quite a psychological dance, and takes skill, perseverance, humility and patience in the real world.

I found myself recently looking up an article that had shown up in a previous course reading list: “Negotiating with Disordered People” by Elizabeth Jeglic and Alexander Jeglic. The article describes, from a clinical perspective, some of the common mental health issues in society. Such conditions may not only go untreated, but may even enable people’s corporate upward mobility. The Jeglics stop short of prescribing actions and strategies suggesting that is beyond the scope of the reading.

The net-net of the reading, from my perspective, is that when encountering a difference of opinion, there is some room between “Let me try to understand your perspective on this,” and “Wow! Are you serious?” I experience the latter when listening to Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford, and his city councillor brother Doug this week. What do you do when you are dealing with someone whose world is such that because something happened in the past, it is no longer relevant. (What doesn’t happen in the past?)

I really liked Chris Selley’s advice from the National Post earlier this week. (Note: this was before the infamous “Crack Tuesday”) Selley says to ignore them and withdraw the attention that appears to be the pair’s lifeblood. That is difficult to do, but it is a reasoned strategy called “avoid.” Cornered people can be dangerous; the response from a marginalized person tends to be much less dramatic simply because the audience is thinner. (As a distinct action in that direction, I just un-followed Rob Ford on Twitter.)

Business Ethics Professor, Chris MacDonald discusses the ethical implications of working for such an individual. This is a worthwhile discussion because as information seeps out, those closer to the situation always get an early look as the worm turns on such scandals.

For more junior employees, he says that “keeping your job” is one of the relevant considerations in determining how to address such a boss. In the spirit of freedom of choice, one would expect anyone working under such a leader to start looking for an exit strategy. Selfishly, given the “small world” nature of many industries, there is a downside to being seen as an enabler: beware of being tainted by an association that went on too long.

He goes on to say that for those further up the authority ladder, the loyalty should lie with the company’s mission, not with the leader. The more clarity the organizations have regarding the good they are trying to accomplish (including for whom), the easier it will be to make a reasoned appeal to others to move away from an unhinged leader and toward a greater good. As a preventative measure, clarity on the specific nature of value makes it easier to see when slight or sudden veers off track. This clarity allows a reasonable person to say “It is not that I am ganging up on you; it’s just that what you are doing is limiting our ability to (insert clear mission).”

In short, do what you can, which may include leaving, developing political workarounds, colluding, confronting or any number of other actions. Once enough is clearly enough, there is a shared responsibility to act.

Do the right thing vs. Don’t do anything wrong

There is a fantastic “smartest-guy-in-the-room” scene from the movie Apollo 13. U.S. astronauts are stranded in space aboard a damaged spacecraft; chaotic discussion ensues until “John” emerges, confident and clean-cut, to point the way: It’s about power. Without power nothing else works. Conserve power and they have a chance.

Fast forward through the great scene where they construct an air filter using only on-board materials (Relax, they had duct tape). Failure was not an option and the mission succeeds. The astronauts return to Earth.

Such scenes can be heartwarming in that the person who knew what they were talking about (the expert) was able to convince important people (boss and group) to do right thing, and the result was success. In the context of an obvious crisis, the “right thing” becomes clear. In many instances, such disagreements as whether or not we even have a crisis (e.g. climate change) make it very difficult to have the “right-thing” discussion, let alone how we will judge success.

This week at Ryerson University, I attended an event that explored this idea of “doing right thing,” and also waded into who are the “right people” to be doing it, namely leaders in government and in corporations. The entire talk is here.

Here are some of my high points:

Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page described his role, which struck me as similar to “John” in the Apollo 13 clip. It was his job to generate good information for decision makers. He did not have the luxury of operating in an obvious crisis, which is the lot of anyone doing 75-year financial projections. His overriding mission (e.g. success) was: “we want to have a prosperous country.”

Note: In his commentary, Sheldon Levy aptly names such a clear focus a personal “North Star.”

Kevin spoke of standing on principle, and I got the sense that he would have been able to defend every single action that he took as contributing to “a prosperous country” or identifying the risk of actions that threatened that pursuit. For him, this was the divide between right and wrong, which appeared to give focus to his role and purpose. This was not about securing his personal career, so there would be no pandering to partisan influences. His calling was higher. He and his team sought out experts to get accurate costing on plans that would cost a lot of money. Things that cost a lot of money have a greater chance of impacting long-term prosperity. The logic is unflappable.

He seemed genuinely surprised at the propensity of elected officials to make decisions without understanding the impact. If a reasonable person faced a policy decision that brought long-term implications (e.g. changes in court sentencing that would see more people serve time in penitentiaries), this reasonable person would want to know how much it cost, wouldn’t they?

It turns out the answer was sometimes, “No,” which is a natural human response.

  • When you take the student loans for education, do you really want to know how long you will be debt-laden?
  • When you buy the membership to the gym, do you really want to know who little you will use it?
  • When you celebrate with a steak dinner, red wine and cheesecake, do you really want to know how long you will have jog to burn it all off?

He also described an environment of fear, which was echoed in Maryantonett Flumian’s comments. She seemed to be asking: “When did ‘do the right thing’ give way to ‘don’t do anything wrong’?” She lamented a shift from internally driven principles and ethics to externally imposed rules and regulations. Will we return to these good old days?

Chris MacDonald at Ryerson curated an exceptional event. These conversations will continue and have as much implication for individuals as they do for the governments, corporations and other organizations that employ people. We look forward to the continued dialogue.