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Featuring Joanne Zuk

Graduate Studies


Joanne Zuk

Joanne Zuk who just completed her MPA degree won the Blue Print 2020 National Student Paper Competition with her essay: Perfect Pair or Better off as Friends: Is the Public Service Ready for Lean Leadership?

Can you talk about the program you are in, and what interested you in this area?

I am in the Joint Masters of Public Administration program, which is offered as a partnership between the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.  My first two degrees (both from the University of Winnipeg) were in Biology and Psychology.  I will admit, I never worked directly in either discipline, but I benefitted immensely from the critical thinking, teamwork, and organizational skills I developed throughout my liberal arts education. I have always wanted to pursuer a higher level of education, but wanted to focus on something that would help me in my work.  So, based on my profession, I considered both Education Administration and Public Administration.  Not knowing where my future would lie in the government, I felt the MPA was the best choice for me. It would give me advanced experience that was broad enough to apply to any area of the government, but with the ability to target my interests within the program to plan a degree that shored up some of my weaknesses, and built on some of my strengths.

Joanne Zuk at the Canada School of Public ServiceCan you talk about receiving this award, where was the paper presented/submitted?

What an incredible experience to be a part of! After proceeding through the adjudication process, I was invited to present my paper in two different forums in Ottawa.  The first presentation was at the Canada School of Public Service, at a panel event that was publicly webcast to audiences across Canada and internationally. The second was at the headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency where the audience included the Commissioner of Canada Revenue Agency and the Deputy Minister of Defense.  The format of each event included a formal presentation, but also an intense question and answer period. The paper is a bit controversial in that it presents fundamental obstacles to the adoption of Lean management in government. I faced a number of questions from individuals who were wholly committed to the idea of Lean, so the experience was highly engaging.  Honestly, both experiences were among the most challenging and exhilarating of my career.

What inspired this topic?

This was the final paper I needed to write for my final course of my Master’s degree. The course was focused on the theories that underpin the study of Public Administration, and so I had a great deal of latitude in choosing a topic. The reason I had chosen to consider the application of Lean was a combination of academic and vocational experience.  I work for the Manitoba Government, and have been involved in Lean initiatives increasingly over the past year.  As much as I really like the Lean approach to process improvement, I have always had concerns that Lean philosophy was incongruent with public service institutions, but had not had the opportunity to consider the question in a methodical way. The course gave me the opportunity.  Coincidentally, the topic is extremely timely and salient, which was why it was so appropriate for the Blueprint 2020 competition.

Can you tell us about the implications of your research?

Absolutely. In my daily work, I have recently had the opportunity to be the project lead for a Lean project.  Even as I am completing the last deliverables from this project, I am already planning for the next.  In my next projects, I intend to test my theories – that Lean has a stronger impact when applied to processes that do not garner political interest, and where application of the methodology can be frequent and exposed to greater numbers of employees.

You’ve just graduated! Congratulations! What are your plans for the future?

Right now I’m working on revising the same paper for eventual publication.  It has successfully made it through peer review, and I am in the process of incorporating suggestions and closing some of the gaps that were necessary due to the length restrictions for both my course and the competition. After that, I look forward to spending more time with friends and family, and actually getting out just for the fun of it. I would love the opportunity to continue studying, and in particular, continue to advance the study of Lean management in the public sector via PhD studies. However, with a young family that cannot move across the country, I think that will have to wait. In the meantime, my work continues to keep me busy, and I will continue to apply Lean and document my work, continuing to pursue publication opportunities.

Can you talk a bit about your experiences as a JMP student?

I loved being a student of both of Manitoba’s universities.  Throughout the two and a half years I took to complete my degree, I took courses at both campuses, used the athletic facilities and libraries at both universities, and most importantly, developed great relationships with professors at both institutions.  Having completed both of my undergraduate degrees at the University of Winnipeg, I was grateful to have the opportunity to also experience the culture of a larger campus. Last year I volunteered as the student representative on the MPA Joint Disciplinary Committee.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see how two universities with different priorities and pressures would come together and work through challenges to provide an exceptional education program for students. Finally, both universities have relatively small political studies faculties, so having access to professors at both campuses offered me the opportunity to customize my electives, and choose courses and professors that would help to round out my education. 

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