Are You Listening – Can You Hear, Andrew Graham (2007)

… from the Atlas collection of Cases

Click for case study pdf

An open access resource from the IPAC Case Study Program

Prepared and Edited by Andrew Graham (see pdf on right; material below is directly quoted from the pdf).


The Director General of a scientific research centre located quite far from Ottawa has found himself having to become bilingual: speaking NHQ talk and speaking the language of his work location. He sees issues emerging on the so-called ‘big picture’ policy and strategic front that he feels will have a real impact on his local and so-called narrowly focused scientific research facility. He wants to find a way to bridge this gap and make his research centre more effective. This case explores a specific situation in which he feels personally challenged to take on this daunting task.

Keywords: Field/headquarter relations; Strategic outlook; Aligning objectives; Staff leadership; Change and alignment; Outreach.

Teaser excerpt

A Performing Organization

As the Director General of one of Canada’s leading food Research Centres, you are pretty proud of what you have accomplished and where you have taken the organization. You have made it one of the government’s leading research centres in producing new crop varieties that have extended the growing season and territory of many of the leading export crops such as wheat, corn, canola and flax.

Your focus has been on new product development that can be spun quickly into the private sector for commercialization. You have extensive partnerships with private industry, including a resource sharing arrangement that permits the country’s leading producer of grain seeds to use your facilities, on an exclusive basis, for product testing before release to the market. This has proven to be a lucrative, offbudget source of funds for the research centre and the department.

Your research centre is part of the government’s chain of research facilities, a total of 6 across the country. You report to an Assistant Deputy Minister in Ottawa, but are pretty free to manage you facility as you please. Your ADM likes your aggressive style and has recognized your work with the private sector when bonus time came around. Like you, your ADM is focused on scientific innovation.

Like you, your ADM believes that the future of crop research is in genetic modification – GM, in short. Your centre has produced a long series of new crop varieties using established GM techniques.

You encourage innovation and a strong market orientation in your research teams. Your teams, each under the supervision of a senior research manager, are under constant pressure to produce novel and marketable ideas. This pressure, while real and reinforced by the close presence of private sector partners, is generally seen as positive and reinforcing for most of your scientific researchers. In addition, the rich flow of resources both from government and through public-private partnerships has ensured that research equipment is the most uptodate, that the research scientists travel around the world to deliver papers and attend conferences and those products are prominently celebrated as they flow out to the market.

This is a culture with a strong commitment to innovation, its own sense of worth and little regard for what others think.

A Rude Awakening

As DG, you often get to replace your ADM at meetings. Increasingly as you put up with more boring hours in some conference room in Ottawa, you sense that your enthusiasm for GM and belief that this is the way of the future is less than shared by even those in your own department. …


Are You Listening – Can You Hear, Andrew Graham (2007), IPAC Case Study Program, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, see

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 15 April 2018.

Image: Are You Listening – Can You Hear, Andrew Graham (2007), IPAC Case Study Program, Institute of Public Administration of Canada.