2013 CAE Recipient Profile -Capital Projects Division, Alberta Infrastructure

Capital Projects Division – Pursuit of Excellence

The Province of Alberta in Canada is known as a place of opportunity, and over the past years, Alberta's economy has grown at an unprecedented pace. People from across Canada and around the world have come to Alberta to join the workforce and build their futures. That's why Alberta Infrastructure is taking the necessary steps to put in place essential infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and other facilities to support a growing and changing Alberta. In order to achieve this goal, the Capital Projects Division (CPD) within Alberta Infrastructure uses the most comprehensive processes combined with innovative approaches to meet the needs of Albertans not just over the next few years, but also over the longer term. This innovation applies to the division’s own staff, as CPD demonstrates a clear focus on the growth of its people. In fact, it was this particular focus that prompted the division’s journey to certified excellence.

The CPD Journey to Excellence initiative took root with Diane Dalgleish, then Executive Director of Project Delivery Branch, and her interest in cultivating a work environment of excellence that allows every employee to be at his or her best. With these strengths and objectives in mind, divisional leadership decided it would be beneficial to be recognized through an impartial benchmark-setting organization instead of just claiming to be excellent. Dalgleish led the Project Delivery Branch to successfully complete training of Excellence Canada (EC)’s quality framework in the spring of 2008.  Dalgleish was then appointed Assistant Deputy Minister for CPD, and at the division’s February 2009 planning session she announced her intent for the entire division to be EC certified. 

The division's leadership team provided support right from the beginning, including putting all employees through the three day Excellence Canada-led Framework for Excellence workshops to develop an understanding of the Progressive Excellence Program (PEP®) framework for quality. The initial overall score placed the division between Level 2 and Level 3.  This set the division’s goal of achieving EC Level 3 certification by 2011. Rory Mauricio, manager of Business Process Improvements and Strategies, was tasked with leading the division’s journey and  formed a 16-member cross-branch group called the PEP Team. This team led and coordinated the division in ensuring the action plan items undertaken to achieve certification were implemented with a unified approach and according to schedule. The PEP Team also launched a newsletter dedicated specifically to communicating the initiative’s progress.

One of the PEP Team’s action items involved defining key processes by mapping the function and delivery of each branch. This action item was a success because it not only met EC criteria, but also helped to define the roles and responsibilities within the division.

In 2011, CPD achieved the goal of Level 3 certification for Quality from EC, along with a Silver Canada Awards for Excellence. Consistency, clarity, and an emphasis on putting excellence into action are hallmarks of leadership in CPD.  It is for that reason that the journey to excellence did not end there. Furthermore, EC requires re-certification every 2 years, so with that in mind, CPD set a new goal to recertify the Level 3 Quality certification while also adding the Level 3 Healthy Workplace certification.  Achieving this milestone meant earning the Excellence Canada Quality & Healthy Workplace Role Model Organization status.

This new goal brought with it many challenges. In addition to closing the gaps identified from Levels 1 and 2, as well as meeting the Level 3 criteria for the Healthy Workplace framework, one of the biggest challenges was maintaining momentum for the excellence journey. Tremendous support from Dalgleish and her Divisional Executive Committee (DEC) Team helped the initiative to sustain the enthusiasm, as did the leadership’s efforts to include all staff members in the process. This full staff involvement was especially significant for this cycle of the excellence journey because new to the certification process was an electronic survey sent out to all staff prior to the on-site verification visit. The intent of the survey is to ensure there is a widespread culture of quality and wellness throughout the division.

The PEP Team mitigated this challenge through a variety of communication strategies. Firstly, a stock presentation with speaking notes was distributed to all PEP Team members to use at any opportunity where their branch, work unit, etc., is meeting. The intent was to promote awareness of the upcoming EC Assessment and staff survey for the Level 3 Quality & Healthy Workplace certification. 

PEP Team members also launched the “CPD Road Trip” competition.  The intent of this initiative was to raise awareness among CPD staff of all the great teams and initiatives supported by the division that work together to create an excellent workplace.   Over the course of one month, a weekly questionnaire was distributed to CPD staff.  To answer questions, staff needed to explore the different Government of Alberta (GoA), Infrastructure and CPD web and SharePoint sites to learn about the different programs and activities that make CPD a great place to work. Individual prizes were awarded for participation and the most correct answers, while the branch with the highest overall percent participation also won a prize.

On June 19, 2013, Excellence Canada officially notified ADM Diane Dalgleish that the Division was successful in obtaining Level 3 certification as a Quality and Healthy Workplace role model.  As such, Capital Projects became the first ever GoA Division to be recognized by EC with a Level 3 certification as a Quality and Healthy Workplace role model and also a Silver Canada Awards for Excellence.

Overall, the division demonstrates excellence in leadership, planning, processes, clients and partners, but all of this would hold less significance without its focus on people. Care for the people and future of CPD have led the division to implement student and internship programs, a mentorship and coaching program, and the Infrastructure University, a portal for learning and career development. The division’s ability to retain staff reinforces the fact that CPD is simply a great place to work.

This accomplishment represents a professional milestone for CPD, but to all the people who worked tirelessly to make it happen, it is so much more. “Staff at Capital Projects Division were so excited to identify their strengths to the Excellence Canada evaluator,” recounts Mauricio, “It gave us all a chance to look up from our work and celebrate what we’ve done.” Dalgleish asserts, too, that achieving this award is “one of the most important accomplishments” of her career. True to its people-focused, growth-oriented values, the Capital Projects Division of Alberta Infrastructure is focused on leaving a legacy of sustained excellence. With national recognition from Excellence Canada, the accomplishment of this legacy is well on its way.