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Sustainable Public Quality: From “doing it right” to “living better”

1 September 2017

As our elected officials return to office after their summer recess… This book, so accurate and current, will both entertain you and make you think. First of all, it combines the two subjects that I am passionate about, i.e. quality and sustainability. But also, the author masterfully uses humor and humanism to incite reflection while keeping it light and enjoyable. Mr. Chevalier wrote mainly for France, but his examples much resemble Quebec’s reality.

So what if our duty was to make public services HUMANLY performing…? The strength of the book is in showing the benefits of viewing an organization as a system of people and their interconnections, operating in a common environment and working towards a shared mission, instead of functioning in silos.

Throughout the book, the author proves that “there is no better introduction to sustainable development than through quality measures”! In part one, Mr. Chevalier goes back to the origins of quality. His examples help us understand the difference between a systemic approach and the use of isolated tools without considering individual contributors.

Our governments are literally drowning in “modernization” efforts(…) We can no longer consider them only with our logical, mechanistic and simplistic understanding(…) The systemic approach suggests that we take into account the connections and interactions between the various components of the system.

Whether at the educational, healthcare or municipal level, we see numerous reforms, centralization and restructuring efforts taking place. Yet, since the measures are “imposed” on individual players time and again without taking account of the system as a whole, the results are often lacking, while dissatisfaction among the key players is consistently present. (Quebec’s side note: the mixed results of lean projects when the tool is not integrated into the culture and the reality of the organization.)

According to the author, “the most realistic probability is that the concern for “work well done” must be as old as work itself.” This assumption that all people, regardless of their positions, want to deliver the best performance allows to focus on providing them with the means to “do the right things well”, which makes the link with the notion of added value.

In his book, Mr. Chevalier lists eight pillars of quality management:

  1. Result orientation
  2. Client orientation
  3. Leadership and vision consistency
  4. Management by processes and results
  5. Personnel development and engagement
  6. Continuous learning, innovation and improvement
  7. Development of partnerships
  8. Community responsibility

As we go back to basics, the parallel with sustainable development becomes more evident. Sure, I would like to see the author trace direct links between the two notions, but he chose the route of addressing the difficulties to define sustainable development rather than focusing on the importance of seamless integration. “Sustainable development between ambiguity and fervent obligation.

However, the book fulfills its purpose to make us reflect on the subject of sustainable development and to bring our vision to the next level in order to improve. And what if we apply this reflection to Integrated Health and Social Services Centers (CISSS) and Integrated University Health and Social Services Centers (CIUSSS) whose mission is to ensure accessibility, continuity and quality of services offered to the public in their sectors? Who are the key players and what are their concerns? How can we integrate service quality and sustainable development into the system’s operation, as well as their interfaces with the environment? What are the strong points we can use as the foundation to improve our services and develop a sense of belonging among our employees?

To be continued…

Book: La qualité publique durable: du “bien faire” au “mieux vivre”

By Gilles Chevalier


Marie-Josée Roy, Eng., M.Env.

Expert in Strategic Management, Performance and Sustainability

Totem Performance organisationnelle

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