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Speech By Mr Lim Siong Guan, Head, Civil Service At The 12th PS21-MFE Forum On Organisational Excellence, 9 Am, 29th August 2002, Institute Of Public Administration And Management

29 Aug 2002

Good morning colleagues,

Welcome to the 12th PS21-MFE Forum on Organisational Excellence. Managing for Excellence represents the Public Service's relentless drive to achieve ever-higher standards of performance and effectiveness.

2 Last month, a group of leading intellectuals met in New York to contemplate how the world will change going forward. Our Permanent Representative in New York Kishore Mahbubani reported the outcome of the discussion of this eminent group as follows : "No coherent global picture emerged from the discussion. Indeed no such coherent picture can emerge. We live in confusing times. It would be foolish to believe that realities can be described in a clear and logical fashion."

3 This is reflective of the times we live in, where we can spot some of the driving forces and trends that will have an important bearing on the future, and yet we cannot foresee how they will actually play out. There may also be other unknown factors which could pop up and change the global landscape significantly. And if the leading intellectuals in the political and economic centre which is New York cannot see clearly the emerging global picture, what chance is there for us in small Singapore?

PS21 and MFE movement

4 Indeed, our best chance resides not in being the first to spot new trends, but in being among the fastest to respond to them. This requires a nimble, agile, focused, networked and real-time Government. PS21 is the movement which aims to bring about this transformation in the public service. PS21 is 7 years old this year. We should constantly review and enhance the movement to ensure its continued relevance to the objective of ensuring that we are in time for the future.

5 Under the PS21 framework, MFE Office and PS21 Office have been active in pushing organisational excellence endeavours; some may feel they are too active. Some of these relate to issues that cut across the entire public service. Let me list a few of such key initiatives over the past year:

  • The process of reviewing all public sector rules across Government has been launched with Cabinet endorsement. It will include the removal of obsolete rules, streamlining of overlapping rules, and refining of outdated rules. The aim is remove unnecessary bureaucracy, reduce compliance costs, and maximise convenience to our citizens and businesses. A committee chaired by PS (Defence) Mr Peter Ho is facilitating the process. Peter tells me that our agencies are quite enthusiastic about the process. He sees his key role as facilitating the review of trans-boundary rules and reducing Government regulation wherever possible by enabling self-regulation by the private and people sectors. This is his contribution to Remaking Singapore!
  • PS (PMO) Mr Eddie Teo is chairing two committees to consider how the Public Service can be more responsive and more innovative; how we can better serve our citizens and better tap the ideas of our staff at all levels.

6 In addition to Government-wide initiatives, every public sector agency must be excellent on its own right. We have adopted the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) framework as the benchmark for total organisational excellence in the public sector. The SQA Award represents the pinnacle of business excellence. This year, the Singapore Police Force has joined the elite group of SQA winners; it is the 2nd public sector organisation to do so. I am also pleased to note that a totalof 86 public sector agencies have to date joined the ranks of the Singapore Quality Class. Today, about one out of every two officers in the public sector works in an organisation which has achieved SQC. This is a notable achievement for our public sector. I have no doubt it will put us first or second in the world if somebody bothered to measure organisational excellence in the public sector worldwide. But that is not what is important. What is critical is what our customers and citizens experience at our hands: are we blessing or burden to them, do we open for them the doors of opportunity or offer to them hurdles and obstacles.

7 Our public agencies have also been quick in embracing useful tools such as Balanced Scorecard and the Net Economic Value concepts to help them in their journey to total organisational excellence. Six Sigma, the focus of today's conference, is another powerful management tool that has proven its usefulness in many organisations worldwide.

Six Sigma

8 A small number of our agencies have already embarked on Six Sigma. I was curious to learn more about their experiences. So I joined the CEOs of these agencies on a Saturday morning a few months ago at a meeting room in Alexandra Hospital where they were engaged in a sharing session. I was surprised to see how enthusiastic these CEOs were about applying Six Sigma in their organisations. So much so that I have invited Teng Lit, CEO of Alexandra Hospital to share his experiences with you.

9 MFE Office has also been studying Six Sigma for a while now. There are a few perspectives on Six Sigma. The common perception is that Six Sigma is about quality control and statistics. This is true, but by no means the whole story. Ultimately, Six Sigma drives leadership to be better by providing a practical and focussed tool for leaders. Although Six Sigma has a strong technical component, it is not primarily a technical programme. It is a management approach.

10 Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch has attributed GE's success to the company's Six Sigma programme. For years, he had felt that quality movements were too heavy on slogans and light on results. He invited former colleague, CEO of AlliedSignal, Larry Bossidy, to talk about Six Sigma qualities to the GE team. Welch realised that quality was a problem at GE; he tied this together with what Six Sigma could achieve and decided to take a big swing at Six Sigma. The subsequent focus on quality enabled a boost in quality and lower costs. GE is today a case-study in Six Sigma. But it is by no means the only one. MFE Office has invited another practitioner from 3M to share with us his experiences.

11 There are a few learning points from those who have implemented Six Sigma. First, leadership is of utmost importance. Top management has to be involved in this quality movement and understand the implications of Six Sigma management. Leadership support is also important, as the organisation must be able to create a culture to support Black Belts in implementing process changes.

12 Second, Six Sigma helps to create a holistic system of management that drives the organisation to fulfil its objectives and mission. Both management and employees must be prepared for change to create alignment with existing business initiatives. To produce the desired behaviours, systems for assessing performance as well as rewards and recognition need to be adjusted. Top management must also decide onappropriate resources to be allocated to create breakthrough results that are typical for Six Sigma.

13 How is Six Sigma different from WITs? WITs has encouraged teamwork and cross-fertilisation of ideas among members of a work unit. It has also nurtured amongst our officers an attitude of seeking continuous change and improvement. Unlike WITs which has a strong bottom-up flavour, Six Sigma provides senior management with a strong change management tool. It allows leaders to focus on critical business issues and processes so as to achieve critical change within a limited period of time. Six Sigma can enhance the PS21 WITs movement through the rigorous process improvements it brings out.

14 Can Six Sigma apply in the public sector? Although it started off in the manufacturing sector, Six Sigma is now widely applied in the services sector as well in companies such as GE. Our agencies such as URA, Board of Com missioners of Currency, Insolvency & Public Trustee's Office, Subordinate Courts, MINDEF, Alexandra Hospital and DSTA are of the view that Six Sigma can apply to them. Even in policy areas, Six Sigma can apply wherever there are processes involved. Six Sigma leads an officer writing policy proposals to question how many of his papers required further clarification and how this number could be reduced; how often was the initial recommendation accepted; what tools could the officer use to make better recommendations. Six Sigma can hence equip policy agencies with the ability to make informed decisions based on rigorous analysis of facts and figures.

15 I am pleased to note that 7 agencies are in the process of completing Six Sigma pilot projects. 20 Black Belts from these agencies have completed their training, the agencies are now training Green Belts now to support the Black Belts in their projects.

16 MFE Office is implementing a phased plan to implement Six Sigma in the wider public sector. MFE Office will provide 50 % co-funding for agencies which join the first phase from now to mid 2004. The co-funding will cover training of officers, consultancy fees and acquisition of software. MFEO is also exploring establishing a central team of full time black belts that will operate service-wide and assist in the implementation of Six Sigma in our agencies. You will find more information and an invitation to take part in Phase I in the program folders that you have received.

17 But all this talk of Six Sigma notwithstanding, I can still hear the sense of incredulity - Six Sigma means 1 failure out of every 295,000, i.e. the process is 99.9997% good!! This may appear unrealistic; some may think a failure rate of 1% is quite acceptable, and that 99 % is good enough. However, 99% good would mean more than 400 newborn babies accidentally dropped at our hospitals out of the 40,000 plus babies born each year, and more than 30 crashes out of the 3300 flights a week at Changi. If neither babies nor air passengers should ever be planned for accidental dropping, how come everything else is OK?


18 Our operating environment will be constantly changing. The Public Service cannot stick to its old ways if we want to stay ahead in the competition. Rising up to the challenges and adopting new ways will be difficult, but they are essential. It is not a new thought. It is not a new call to action. But it is a need that bears reminding and repeating again, and again, and again. For those who heed it, it isencouragement and recognition for their efforts. For those who have not heard and have not acted - Come, Change, Let us walk into the future together!!

19 My congratulations to the winners of the Public Service Award on Organisational Excellence and the POWER Award today. I wish everyone here this morning a most rewarding time. Thank you.