NIAGARA – Canadian public sector IT professionals on Sunday honoured a colleague who helped one of the largest provinces usher in a money-back guarantee if birth certificates were not processed in half a month or less.
Bob Stark was the winner of the annual Heintzman Leadership Award, which was presented by the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service (ICCS) at IT World Canada’s 14th Lac Carling Congress in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Stark, deputy minister and CEO of Service Ontario, was congratulated for his work in reducing the wait times for many provincial services, for creating a more service-oriented mindset and for consistently driving change.
ICCS hands out the Heintzman Leadership Award, named after Ralph Heintzman, founder of the Citizen Centred Service Network in 1997 and vice- principal of the Canadian Centre for Management Development who initiated a number of collaborative and inter-jurisdictional partnerships while working at Treasury Board Secretariat.
Stark, who joined the Ontario Public Service (OPS) four years ago, has spent most of his time in the private sector, occupying IT management positions at Manulife, Imperial Oil, Rogers and Scotiabank. In his acceptance speech, he said there were some disadvantages of occupying those roles.
“I learned over time what when anyone at a social event asked me what I do, that I should deflect the question,” he said. “For years when people realized what I did, I would hear every bad banking experience or every bad telco experience.”
In contrast, he said, the progress Ontario has made in terms of citizen-centred services has created a different kind of reaction from new acquaintances, he said, starting with a Muskoka wedding he left this weekend to attend Lac Carling. “I actually had all these people tell me about their great Ontario service stories,” he said.
Roy Wiseman, president of the ICCS board of directors and CIO for the Region of Peel, noted in his introduction to Stark that Ontario’s money-back guarantee for processing birth registrations was a shocking first within the public sector. “It deserves recognition and it deserves emulation,” he said, adding that Stark has done an incredible job of engaging everyone from front-line staff to senior leadership around a citizen-centred model. “What you hear people say is that it’s hard to believe (ServiceOntario) is a government department. Now we all laugh, but we need to reach a point where that’s the norm, that that’s what’s expected.”
ICCS program manager Bernadette DeSouza, who presented him with the award, said Stark radically altered the culture within the Ontario government.
“It seemed very strange to the uninitiated,” she said. “What normally happened in a month needed to happen yesterday. He established a sense of urgency.”
Lac Carling 2010, which carries the theme of “Next-generation, citizen-centred service delivery,” continues until Tuesday.