With the [recent switch from government program to private not-for-profit corporation](/blog/297/a-new-beginning “”) we wanted to check in with the new CEO of Productivity Alberta, Lori Schmidt.
Schmidt began her career in education but with scarce opportunities at that time for teachers, she instead found herself working for the Province. Her career in economic development blossomed, and she eventually transitioned to a position at Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. From there, Schmidt began discussions with the Province, raising concerns about Alberta’s productivity and competitiveness, and then she was engaged to help develop a province-wide productivity strategy.
With a passion for manufacturing coming from time spent working with the garment manufacturing industry in Alberta, Schmidt has helped Productivity Alberta find its niche, helping small- and medium-sized businesses on their unique productivity issues.
PA: How is the process from switching from government program to not-for-profit corporation going?
LS: At this point it only feels different legally because we’ve always been moving in this direction. We do have some formal processes now. We had an industry advisory committee and [we now have a board and this board has an opportunity to provide more direction on our work going forward](/blog/296/all-a-board “”).
The other thing is that some larger companies have expressed interest in us. These are companies that appreciate what we do with smaller companies because ultimately it’s helping their supply chain too. We play that role as a facilitator, finding out what their pain points are so that we’re shaping our programs and how we work with smaller businesses. There are opportunities there to potentially support our work either by partnering with or sponsoring us. That wasn’t possible when we were under the government umbrella.
The hard part is more the technology transition. We’re going to be operating very lean and business-like from the very beginning. When we move and get our own space that will be a great benefit to us just so we can do our own training.
PA: How far has Productivity Alberta come in the past three years?
LS: We certainly know a whole lot more than when we first started. If we did an Internet search on productivity in Alberta three years ago you could barely find anything, now you can find so much more. In the last three years a couple of things have happened – there is a lot more information, research and work being done which has allowed us to fine tune our messaging.
When we started this work productivity was kind of a negative word because people and government associated it with layoffs and we’ve really turned that corner. Now people know that it’s more about using what you have and working smarter not harder.
PA: What should we be looking for going forward?
LS: In the new year you’re going to see an enhanced and deeper strategic plan that the board and the team are working on right now. This will reach a little bit deeper into businesses to help them more directly. We’ve touched on a number of areas that we know are critical but we’ve now designed a plan on how to bring those offerings into a more refined and deeper way into their business. We’re also working on improving how we follow up with clients and how we keep them engaged in leading practices.
PA: What does success look like with Productivity Alberta?
LS: Within five years we would like to be self-sufficient. That’s an ultimate goal. We would like to see the majority of the manufacturers in Alberta not only understand productivity but be taking steps within their operations to improve their productivity. We’d like to see 2000 firms engaged in some kind of best practices in their operations.