Monday, September 22, 2014

Cultural Transformation - focusing on outcomes for citizens

After two years, 200 sessions and 6,000+ engagements with City staff, Council and citizens, the Cultural Transformation Project has wrapped up.

Due to your generosity, we have documented a great deal of information to support our understanding that we are at our best when we are:
  • Focused on outcomes for citizens, and
  • Working together – with team members, across silos and with citizens.
Both of these cultural strengths were embedded into City Manager Jeff Fielding’s recent presentation to Council, titled Together, We are Calgary.

“It has been an absolute privilege to learn from our colleagues about who we aspire to be and, to also be honest about what stops us from working together or focusing on outcomes," says Beth Gignac, project lead. "Now that we have that knowledge, it’s time for each of us to be take our individual responsibility seriously and implement what we know into our systems and day-to-day work."

Accountability for coaching the implementation of our culture throughout our organization will soon transfer to Human Resources and examples of collaborative initiatives taking place with our front line operations staff in Parks, Roads, Waste & Recycling, and Water are being celebrated and shared.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and everyone who has contributed their ideas to the project has provided the blueprint for the way we will work together moving forward,” Gignac adds. “If anyone is interested in learning more or joining one of the communities of practice we've helped put in place I hope they won’t hesitate to contact me directly."

The Cultural Transformation Project was the largest staff engagement in The City’s history. On behalf of our organization and each participant, the team was honoured to receive the Platinum Facilitation Impact Award from the International Association of Facilitators, as well as Organization of the Year from the International Association of Public Participation.


  1. Dear Beth Gignac and Mayor Nenshi, (Part 1 of 4 to edit for length)

    Thank you for so generously sharing all the wisdom that you have gained in this project. I have read the Report and “WOW” – you have no idea how really thankful I am for what you have collectively done at The City of Calgary. Congratulations on a job well done thus far.

    Sparked by the United Nations Culture of Peace Program, and my membership in Rotary International (which has peace at the heart of their mission), my perspective in my response to your project is of one who has been working for twenty years to help advance a Culture of Peace in communities, workplaces, families and individuals. The City of Calgary Culture Transformation Project significantly advances that work. While you may not specifically use peace language, your Phase 1 Dream Report describes a Culture of Peace and it paves the way to bridge between the intangible world (what is in the minds and hearts of people) and the tangible world of business. And you do it in plain, simple, understandable language – something almost anyone can connect to.

    A Model

    When I had first written to Mayor Nenshi in August 2013, I was asking for a community to serve as a model of a Community Culture of Peace Program, that we could point to as a guide and inspiration to other communities across Canada and around the World. Why is this important? Because, in my opinion, a World at peace is made up of a lot of communities at peace. In other words, an International Culture of Peace Program is made up of a lot of Community (and workplace) Culture of Peace Programs.

    Lo and behold, The City of Calgary is on a fast track to be that model that I yearned for. I am so grateful because you are inspiring a significant leap in Culture of Peace consciousness (possibly, ironically, without being conscious of it). Your Report declares that you collectively strive to be a model City. Thank you.

    I would suggest that you are already a model, and I would like to explore with you how we might spread the good word about your work. For example, for consideration:
    • A conference of significance in Calgary on Community and Workplace Culture Transformation;
    • A book on ‘How to Transform Community and Workplace Culture’ based on your experience;
    • A video;
    • A website;
    • You had mentioned that there might be interest at the University of Calgary to collaborate (ultimately, I envisage that this will become a University program and course(s)).

    (continued Part 2)

  2. Dear Beth Gignac and Mayor Nenshi, (Part 2 of 4 to edit for length)

    Helping Your People Be Their Best

    I strongly believe that there is a ‘Virtuous Cycle’: if you help your People be their best, The City of Calgary will be its best. It is karmic (i.e. you reap what you sow; refer to Virtuous circle in management diagram). I was again very grateful to read that The City of Calgary proclaims its focus on being your best. Ultimately, the success of the City of Calgary and the Culture Transformation Project is only limited by the success of your People – generally, and in a number of specific areas. Studies by Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation among Fortune 500 CEOs found that 75% of workplace success is the result of what they refer to as the ‘Soft Skills’ (in other words, peace skills). We have insights in this area that we can share with you.

    To some extent, we all have limiting beliefs, fears, childhood wounding, etc. which affect our performance in life, in the workplace, and our ability to relate well to others. I was grateful to hear the emphasis placed on humane leadership, relationships, connection, attitudes and behaviours in the Report. To achieve optimum personal and corporate success, I would suggest a significant investment will be required in human capital in the following areas:
    • People need role models of how to be our best. City of Calgary People will look up to their leaders and colleagues for example. Paraphrasing Gandhi, leaders and People generally in the City of Calgary will be well advised to “Be the change you seek in the workplace”. They will need help to be and do that.

  3. Dear Beth Gignac and Mayor Nenshi, (Part 3 of 4 to edit for length)

    • Coaching for Success. People throughout The City of Calgary and any organization (“from top to bottom”) can significantly benefit from life skills coaching, if they choose to. Well experienced coaches bring a process to help people access their highest and best selves. More specifically, I have found great success with Emotional Fitness Coaching (a brand of Life Coaching; refer to the testimonials to the success of the Emotional Fitness approach attached; also refer to the book ‘Emotional Fitness Coaching’ which I gave you for the example of its application in the corporate setting). A person who is emotionally, socially and spiritually fit:
    1. Is able to listen deeply to him/herself and to others
    2. Has a high level of self-awareness and self-esteem
    3. Has the tools to enhance relationships
    4. Is authentic in word and deed
    5. Can deal with pressure without feeling stressed
    6. Has a good sense of inner balance and harmony
    7. Has a high degree of empathy together with a desire to empower others
    8. Accepts and understands personal accountability
    9. Has the ability to transform negative circumstances into positive, creative action

    As part of our Peace Centres, we are incorporating Emotional Fitness Centres with certified coaches (3 books and the certification program are already available). Certified Emotional Fitness Coaches are available in Calgary to do coaching, and training coaches and trainers.
    • Tools for Success. I would suggest that The City of Calgary would benefit by facilitating and teaching (sourcing) a number of educational courses providing key skills for its People not commonly available or taught in Universities and workplaces. We have insights in this area that we can share with you.
    • For institutions and communities, we recommend an ‘in-house’ Centre for Teaching Peace and Peace Café, as a resource centre (eg. information, books, videos, people) and safe space for communing. We also have insights in this area that we can share with you. This idea would also encompass a virtual centre, as well as physical location(s).

  4. Dear Beth Gignac and Mayor Nenshi, (Part 4 of 4 to edit for length)

    Community Culture of Peace Program

    The City of Calgary has shown tremendous vision with the Culture Transformation Project at the corporate level. Now, I would like to ask Mayor, Council and Administration to take it one “small” step further: when you are ready, would you be willing to expand the Culture Transformation Project, from your workplace, to encompass (encircle) the whole community, and all the citizenry? In other words, help all Calgarians (who choose to participate) to be their best by learning the skills, attitudes and behaviours of how to live more successfully with each other (social intelligence), and with themselves (emotional and spiritual intelligence). Effectively, this is peacebuilding in the ultimate sense.

    I do not believe that I exaggerate when I say that such action would be a relatively small step for The City of Calgary, and a giant step for mankind. I ask you to see the piece of this grand puzzle that you are, with the work that you are doing. Calgary can be a model of a Community Culture of Peace, and help transform the world through your very practical example. That is powerful. That is the best we have in us. That would be a significant path to achieve the imagineCALGARY vision to make Calgary a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life. It would also shine a world spotlight on Calgary. We could become a Centre for Cultural Transformation, for the best.

    The United Nations Culture of Peace Program stated, among other things, that ultimately every institution must transform from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. I have been working for twenty years in support of, and mastering, such cultural transformation. The City of Calgary could be the visionaries and early adopters to inspire the world to transform. I would like to work and learn with you, to bring what The City of Calgary is doing to the world’s attention, and to help in your success, if I may.

    I am planning on being in Calgary March 18 – 21 (the first day of Spring), and would like to meet with you to further our discussions and expand on our respective insights. It was my wish August 2013 and March 2014 to meet with Mayor Nenshi to discuss the Community Culture of Peace Program, and I am wondering if he might also be available when I visit if we think that could be helpful. I would also look into meeting with appropriate contacts at the University of Calgary who might wish to be part of conferencing. I look forward to your thoughts.

    Robert Stewart, C.A., C.M.C.
    Coach, Consultant & Educator
    Director, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
    Canadian Culture of Peace Program
    Community Centres for Teaching Peace and Peace Cafés
    Youtube Channel