June 28, 2018. Posted by Dr Robin Mann & Saad Ghafoor, Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER), New Zealand.
The Prime Minister of Tonga Hon. Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva launched the Public Service Excellence Program (PSEP) on Wednesday, 20th of June 2018. The program launching ceremony was held at the Tanoa Hotel, Nuku’Alofa the capital city of Tonga. The Public Service Excellence Program (PSEP) is a five-year program with a mission to build and instill a spirit of service excellence in the Tonga Public Service by improving work processes and systems. The program has been devised by the Public Services Commission in partnership with the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER), Massey University, New Zealand.
The prestigious program was inaugurated with a prayer. This was followed by a dedication message addressed to the Kingdom of Tonga. Dr. Robin Mann, Head of COER, gave a presentation on the PSEP to the Honorable Prime Minister and the ministers attending the ceremony. Dr. Mann asserted the need for all senior leaders of public sector organisations to serve as strong ambassadors of excellence and to embrace the program as it will help to deliver the national outcomes agreed in the Tonga Strategy Development Framework. Dr Mann shared the examples of Singapore and United Arab Emirates which have achieved impressive advances in societal and economic performance through a focus on business excellence.
The Honorable Prime Minister launched the logo and slogan of the PSEP of “Excellence our only option”. In his remarks, the Hon. Prime Minister said this was a significant historical day for the Public Sector and for the Public Services.
“As we heard this initiative, the public service excellence program is an incredibly important game changer for government services. For it will positively transform systems, leadership, management and operations of the whole of government to service excellence for the people of Tonga.”
The program will focus on seven areas critical for the effective operation of the Public Servants’ services which are;
- Citizens and customers
- Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management
To support the launch of the program a number of activities have already been undertaken:
- School Poetry Competition across F/5, F/6 and F/7 under 3 different topics in May 2018 with the overall aim of building High School Students for a career in the Public Service.
- Public Service Competition to decide on the logo and slogan of PSEP in May 2018.
- Public Service Month in June dedicated to promoting public services.
- The Public Service Commission has already undertaken a business excellence self-assessment with a consensus meeting held on 15th June. This pilot self-assessment is enabling PSC to refine the self-assessment process before it is rolled out to the whole of the public sector.
- Launch of PSEP on 20th June 2018.
- Public Service Day observed on the 21st of June, 2018 bringing together all government ministries to promote public service.
- Awareness session on PSEP for CEOs and Excellence Champions 22nd of June, 2018
Overview of the Public Service Excellence Program
The PSEP consists of a comprehensive range of services to assess and build organisational capability using an internationally recognized business excellence framework as the mechanism for transformation. Such an approach has been used successfully in many other countries with 73 countries currently undertaking business excellence initiatives or awards including Tonga’s neighbor Fiji. PSEP requires all public-sector institutions to undertake a yearly assessment against the framework to enable opportunities to be identified and actioned for year on year improvements. This means that 26 Ministries, Departments and Agencies will be participating whilst public sector enterprises can participate on a voluntary basis.
The five year plan requires PSC to deliver assessment and capability building services. Examples of the types of services that will be delivered are presented in the Figure above.
Some of the services are starting immediately such as the annual business excellence self-assessments facilitated by PSC to enable public sector agencies to identify their strengths and opportunities for improvement. The self-assessments need to be completed in time for a Public Service Excellence Conference planned for late November 2018. Other services include a best practice competition at which each public-sector agency will share between one to three good to best practices, two best practice sharing days per year between public sector agencies for each category of excellence, and 10 Game -Changer Benchmarking Projects per year to address areas of major concern. In the future, a business excellence award is planned. However, it is felt that introducing an award at the moment would be too complex and not lead to the same level of learning and ownership for improvement that a well-designed self-assessment can provide.
Tonga’s excellence journey has got off to the best start possible with the support of Tonga’s leaders and the enthusiastic participation of Tonga’s school children. This bodes well for the future. The government and public service commission are clearly committed to their mission of developing a public service culture whose minimum standard is excellence. Indeed, with the PSEP they are dreaming to achieve even more with a vision “to become recognized as the best small island state in the world”. This may be a far-off destination but based on how quickly they have embraced business excellence since February 2018 when it was first presented to Cabinet Ministers, who is to say their dream can’t become reality?
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