Leading Through COVID-19 :Procurement Case Study with Bill Matthews, Deputy Minister, PSPC

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In IOG's latest live webcast, Leading Through COVID-19 #leadingthroughC19, Deputy Minister of PSPC, Bill Matthews, reflected on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on procurement and offered key leadership lessons. Interviewed by IOG President Toby Fyfe, Matthews discussed how the ability to adapt is essential, as is focusing on your team, and embracing new ways of working.

Public Services and Procurement had to adjust quickly when the coronavirus hit. What this meant was adjusting to new ways of working as well as streamlining processes. Said Matthews, "everyone in the department has been impacted in one way or another as we buttress our procurement team on PPE and other things while keeping the core business going". Competition came heavily into play. Matthews continued, "This level of competition is not one I’d certainly seen in procurement. There may have been aspects in the past, when you think about global efforts in times of war -- on the one hand, you've got some allies out there, but you're basically all competing for the same goods and you're trying to stand up domestic capacity to reduce that level of competition, but because of that, the message here is to adapt."

And adapt they did -- starting with their daily communications. "A good part of us public servants like to write what we think are perfect memos that articulate all the issues -- there was no time for that -- so a lot of decision-making was done by email. Getting that all down on paper is key so you have a record, but you realize the value of trusting the people around you, so it is a trust game."

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Trust only works when you have a good team, something Matthews knows well. "The theme here is people. I think in times of crisis people may want to take on more themselves, but it's absolutely more and more about your team, and having a team you can trust. I'm thankful everyday that I've got a great team here."

However, your team is only as good as the tools at their disposal. Matthews stressed this focusing on the importance of keeping records, "Finding the right way to document things without information getting buried is the key here. It's one thing to say we're going to work remotely, it's one thing to say we've got all good VPN access, but do we have the right tools in place to let people do their jobs well?"

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In closing, Matthews offered his thoughts on the future of workspaces, "We've got a number of different workplaces at play right now in the federal government -- many public servants are still in traditional cubicle spaces, we've got Workplace 2.0 in some areas and we have shared spaces with no assigned seating and the collaborative or drop-in spaces -- so there is a lot of debate around that. What I would tell you going forward is, we're going to have to factor in more mobile working. I think we've proven that we can work remotely."

Thank you to Bill Matthews for joining us on the Leading Through COVID-19 Webcast. Join us for our next webcast, this Thursday, May 21st at 12:30 PM EST where IOG President Toby Fyfe will be speaking with Ilona Dougherty. Governments have needed the help of other sectors and demographics to meet their goals during the pandemic. In this session, we will explore how the other sectors, and especially youth, can best work with governments in times of crisis. Ilona Dougherty founded Apathy is Boring, and is now at the University of Waterloo and a member of the Global Fellowship for Public Purpose

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This webcast series is brought to you with the support of SAS. Together, we can make a difference with passion, expertise and technology. Click here to learn more about SAS COVID-19 Response in this resource hub.

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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