I propose to briefly highlight three of the strategies for effectively converting the mantra of change into real and measurable quality outputs from the Lagos State Civil Service.
The use of the word, ‘change’ as a political slogan or mantra has been extensive and, in the 2015 general election in Nigeria, we had a fair share of it. The concern however is that mantras and slogans are not easily converted into concrete actions. As Tim Blixseth noted, “many great ideas go unexecuted, and many great executioners are without ideas. One without the other is worthless.”
In Lagos State, we have been mindful of avoiding that pitfall. Thus, since the assumption of office in 2015, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has led and supported the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions to design and deploy a series of trainings and workshops designed to concretise and convert our change mantra into meaningful, measurable, consequential and sustainable change in the Lagos State Civil Service.
In the pursuit of this end, we have found that the key to making such concretization and conversion is the pursuit of quality in the processes and service offerings of the Lagos State Civil Service. Thus, this training titled, Re-Charting the Path to Quality: The Sustainable Road to the Change Mantra, has been designed by the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions and approved by the Governor of Lagos State to knit together all the factors and knowledge nuggets that will ensure that this administration’s change mantra indeed births the desired concrete change for the Lagos State Civil Service.
I proceed on the basis that the delivery of value to citizens is the fundamental objective of any democratically-elected government and that, in contemporary times, the delivered value must be delivered to the highest possible standard because citizens have become sophisticated and exposed to the standards of governance in other climes such that their expectations have been conditioned to demand and insist on compliance with global trends in governance and public administration at all levels of governance. Meeting these expectations is the central challenge for governments in contemporary times. In fact, meeting these expectations is the change that customers of the Lagos State Civil Service (i.e., the citizens) are looking forward to. In this Opening Address, I propose to briefly highlight three of the strategies for effectively converting the mantra of change into real and measurable quality outputs from the Lagos State Civil Service.
In an article titled, Government by Design, Diana Farrell and Andrew Goodman of McKinsey & Co. argued that one of the strategies for improving government perceived performance is by becoming better at collecting and analyzing relevant data. According to them, “Governments must decide what to measure and how, always with an eye on the overall goal of the program or initiative.”
Indeed, a critical examination will reveal how civil servants can creatively utilize data to generate ideas and communicate government actions and performances in order to ensure positive perception (or, in the least, accurate perception) of government by the citizens. I therefore challenge the Lagos State Civil Service to come up with data-backed and data-inspired ideas that will rival the examples of France and Moscow cited in the article referenced above.
Another advocated strategy for ensuring the delivery of quality services by the civil service is to innovate to make government services more customer-centric. This is one of the subjects that have been previously explored in the trainings organised by the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions. In the article by McKinsey & Co. earlier referenced, the point was made that, “the private sector’s responsiveness to customer demands has led to heightened public expectations of government. Because people can do their banking and shopping online, for example, they expect to be able to” conclude transactions with government agencies with similar ease and speed as well.
I am glad to note that this is one area that has captured the interest of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration from Day One. In fact, in his Inaugural Address on May 29, 2015, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said, “moving forward, the Civil Service will be strengthened and made to respond to the needs of all citizens in the same manner quality services are rendered in the private sector.” And, true to that promise, stakeholders are beginning to notice and appreciate the investments made to build and deepen capacity in the Lagos State Civil Service. From citizens to donor agencies, and from civil societies to the media, objective evaluations testify to a Lagos State Public Service that is better motivated, better focused, and better equipped to confront the challenges of modern governance and administration in an emerging, dynamic and rapidly-growing global city.
In a recent publication PwC, United States, asked and answered a germane question as follows: “What does a customer-centered organization look like? It’s an organization that considers the customer in everything it does, from procurement to deployment to the entire customer experience. It also speaks to its customers in their own language and makes it easy for them to align their goals with the mission at hand.”
Going further, the publication noted that, “Many government agency executives have important messages to deliver, and the success of their communications is crucial to the agency’s success. Senior executives need to deliver effective mass communications to the agency employees, concerned citizens, and other stakeholders while maintaining impeccable standards that live up to the ever-increasing scrutiny of today’s communications environment. There are empirical methods that drive successful communications which agencies can seek out now.”
Furthermore, in making a case for a customer-centered public service, Christopher Brown, an organisational coach, noted that “countless studies have documented the link between organizational culture and organizational performance. Specifically, many studies show that a customer-centric culture drives superior service and value for customers resulting in an experience that creates customer satisfaction and advocacy. This in turn drives exceptional organizational performance in terms of productivity, new product/service success, innovation and financial performance.”
The third strategy I want to highlight is that of actively soliciting citizens’ input to improve public services. As noted, “Innovative governments are creating new ways for citizens to make their voices heard, giving them the ability to provide input into regulations, budgets, and the provision of services.” The example has been cited of the website, www.regulations.gov, one of the United States government’s earliest e-government programs, that allows citizens to search, view, and comment on federal regulations. Users post more than 27,000 comments on the site every month.