Create and Innovate, Make a Difference : Story of our Journey

2016 International Innovations Awards finalist: State Service Modernization Unit (SSMU) Sarawak Chief Minister’s Department, Malaysia

Malaysia has set ambitious goals that will enable it to become a “high-income country by 2020” and provide citizens with a high quality of life. Malaysia’s Vision 2020 statement outlines nine goals encompassing economic, political, social, spiritual, psychological and cultural dimensions of growth. Vision 2020 requires the government to play a key role in steering society through a rapid process of change. It requires’ public institutions and organisations to be nimble for the times and able to adapt to rapidly changing needs andcircumstances. Public sector reforms must evolve in tandem with the transformation that government leaders envision for the country as a whole.

Sarawak, as one of the 13 states in Malaysia, has a critical role. Members of the civil service are required to think forward and implement strategies for change. The task is not just about providing services, but also making services more accessible, more relevant and convenient to the public. In other words, Sarawak Civil Service (SCS) should constantly find new and practical approaches to nurture and create an environment and culture of innovation and creativity through the transformation programme.

The SCS10-20 Action Plan is a focused and structured roadmap and reference for the SCS in its journey of transformation. The Action Plan complements the transformation programmes introduced at the national level – the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). It also aims to meet the target set out under the 10th Malaysia Plan and the goals of Vision 2020. More importantly, this action plan fully supports the State Government agenda to make Sarawak a high-income society through the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) programme and to improve the Sarawak people’s quality of life.
In 2010, the SCS established a vision of becoming a world-class civil service. This vision will be achieved through the SCS mission to deliver excellent service through high-performance teamwork. The vision and mission rely on the strategic thrusts for the SCS – people-oriented, innovative and creative work culture, talented workforce, excellent organisation, high-performance team, and customer satisfaction. Success in turn depends on civil service members possessing the vital core values of integrity, kindness and caring, professionalism, sense of urgency and ownership, team spirit, and results oriented in carrying out their responsibilities. This transformation framework became the basis for all the initiatives and programmes. One of the first initiatives introduced was the Key Focus Activities (KFA) for all government organisations in the state. Another was the Innovative and Creative Circle(ICC), which places an emphasis on the creativity and innovativeness of members of the civil services in achieving greater productivity.
In 2011, the SCS introduced labs to gather the best ideas and thoughts on talent management. The outcomes and results from the labs provided the journey of transformation with greater focus and drive.
In February 2012, the SCS 10- 20 Action Plan was introduced covering seven critical areas to drive the transformation process. The seven areas are Managing Culture Change, Managing Customer Needs, Innovation & Creativity, HR Talent Management, e-Government, Project & Programme Delivery Excellence and Financial Management Transformation.
In June 2013, the 8th Action Plan, Sarawak Excellent Administration of Legal Services (SEALS), was introduced. This completed the cycle of all the key areas in achieving transformation objectives. The High-Performance Team (HPT) Retreat 2013, also introduced HPT solutions that promote inter-agency collaboration to develop quick wins and to enhance service delivery.


The state government chose a tagline “Create and Innovate,Make a Difference” as a theme. The real transformation and the real benefit of services to the people and the business community are measured by the outcome and the impact of the SCS delivery. Therefore, there is a need to continuously innovate and create, and to always find better, faster and cheaper ways of doing things to make a difference to our customers, the people and the business community, both local and foreign.
Creating a culture of innovation involves six strategies as follows:
1. Empowering Innovation 
Encouragement of innovation and creativity operate sthrough empowerment effort at four levels.
  • An online “suggestion box” management system called the Sarawak Civil Service-innovative ideas (SCS-ii) was created for any civil servant to submit ideas that improve the service. Employees whose ideas are adopted and implemented are given recognitions and rewards.
  • The Innovation and Creative Circles (ICC). Every agency is required to establish at least one ICC. ICC conventions are held regularly at the different zones in Sarawak and the state-level convention is held annually. ICC teams from the state have represented the country in international conventions for the last three years and have won international awards.The setup of ICC groups in the SCS was made compulsory in the year 2010 through the Circular – KIK Bil. 1/2010. The objective is to improve and increase the quality and productivity of the service delivery system for the stakeholders (people). The ICC not only triggers innovation with creative thinking but also creates a culture of teamwork. In addition, the ICC practice generates excitement and motivation among civil servants to improve the service delivery system through the Business Process Improvement (BPI) and the Business Process Reengineering(BPR).
  • The Key Focus Activity (KFA). The KFA allows top management to address the higher-level issues affecting the agency. The CEO of each agency is required to identify issues that necessitate the involvement of top management to resolve. Every SCS agency must propose at least one KFA per year, and the state recognises and rewards the best every year. The objectives of the KFA are to: undertake major process improvements to the agency’s service delivery; and develop, review and improve the existing process, systems and procedures in order to facilitate the State Civil Service Transformation Plan.
  • An inter-agency team is created. Three mechanisms are employed. The Hybrid ICC brings together employees from the relevant agencies to address operational issues.The hybrid KFA involves senior management participation of the relevant agencies to address high-level issues that straddle agencies. The HPT Solutions is the highest form of inter-agency collaboration. It involves the CEO, and addresses high-priority and high-impact issues. Recognitions and rewards are given for the best HPT solutions every year. The objectives of the HPT Solutions are:
    • To break down silos in the government by providing an environment for heads of government agencies to collaborate, to discuss and to solve critical issues affecting the State and the people in their daily work;
    • To have the heads of government agencies take charge of issues affecting their agency and its service to the people; and
    • To have the heads of government agencies be personally and directly involved in addressing and resolving issues affecting their agencies. 
With these mechanisms in place, the SCS provides avenues for all levels of employees to propose useful and innovative ideas: as an individual, as a member of an operational team, as a member of an agency’s top management, and as a member of an inter-agency team, as shown in Figure 2.

2. Governance Structure 
Creativity and innovation require a strong commitmentby management and the support group to sustain the momentum for its successful implementation. Top management needs to spearhead and enforce these initiatives to ensure that the organisation internalizes and sustains the transformation momentum.

The SCS Transformation Steering Committee drives and monitors the transformation initiatives. The roles of this Committee are as follows:
  • To formulate policies and guidelines pertaining to the transformation of the Sarawak Civil Service;
  • To provide guidelines and steer the implementation of Transformation initiatives in the public service;
  • To monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of Public Service delivery intervention programmes;
  • To endorse and approve matters forwarded by all committees; and
  • To oversee the Divisional transformation committees 
To ensure the success of each initiative, the following sub-committees were established:
a. Sarawak Civil Service Innovative ideas (SCS-ii) Committee – to oversee the following:
  • Promote the culture of innovation and creativity in the civil service;
  • Formulate policies and directions for Sarawak Civil Service Innovative Ideas (SCS-ii) initiatives;
  • Evaluate and approve submitted ideas;
  • Recommend further requirements and rectifications;
  • Recommend mechanism for the implementation of approved ideas;
  • Recommend the recognition and award scheme for the SCS-ii;
  • Conduct post implementation evaluation;
  • Finalize award winners; and
  • Monitor post implementation of the initiatives.
b. ICC Projects Implementation Committee – to provide consultation and leadership in the implementation and standardisation of ICC projects with the following responsibilities:
  • Formulate policies relating to the implementation and standardisation of ICC projects;
  • Provide funds for the implementation and standardisation of ICC projects;
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of ICC projects to the civil service; and
  • Patent innovative projects.
c. Key Focus Activity (KFA) Technical Committee – to monitor the implementationof the proposed KFA projects as follows:
  • Execute policies and guidelines on KFA set by the State Innovation & Creativity Committee;
  • Monitor the progress of agency’s KFA activities and programs;
  • Guide and monitor all State agencies in the implementation of KFA; and
  • Report on KFA achievements to the State Innovation and Creativity Committee for endorsement or approval. 

3. Cascading and Promotion 
Q-Visit is one of the initiatives of the State Government intended to cascade and promote the practice and implementation of State transformation initiatives at the agency level. It is also a mechanism to drive the innovative and creative spirit as well as the means to ensure a continuous culture of quality at all levels of the SCS. Q-Visits are a reflection of the government’s determination to ensure the success of the transformation of the civil servants to always deliver excellent services to the people.
Q-Visit is a two-pronged program with the following objectives:
  • To create an understanding on the SCS Transformation, especially the SCS 10-20 Action Plan and to get direct feedback regarding its implementation; and
  • To strengthen and fuel the spirit of innovation and culture of quality as well as to closely observe the practice of quality initiatives and innovation at the organisational level. 

4. Provide Support System 
To ensure the sustainability of the innovative work culture, the State Government has put in place support systems such as:
  • Training programmes (awareness, skill development and mentoring);
  • Consultation and guidance (workshops, seminars and knowledge sharing);
  • Technology support (SCS Transformation Portal, KFA Portal, SCS-ii Portal and ICC Portal);
  • Manuals (guidelines, brochures and circulars); and
  • Communities of practice (COP) 

5. Collaboration and Integration
Creativity and innovation in re-engineering processes often necessitate the involvement of multiple agencies, and collaboration and integration of processes and procedures between these agencies.
The HPT retreat is organised annually to discuss topics considered critical to the state. The HPT approach is also a framework for heads of agencies to discuss inter-agency issues at any time during the year, with its use not confined only to the annual retreats.
6. Inculcate Shared Values 
Managing culture change is an effort to inculcate an organisational culture of excellence in the Sarawak Civil Service. The organisational culture corners Six Shared Values, which are Integrity, Kind & Caring, Professionalism, Sense of Urgency & Ownership, Team Spirit and Result-Oriented. This culture aims to cultivate engagement and enthusiasm among employees, create organisation openness to new ideas and willingness to take risks directly related to innovation.

The results of the SCS innovative and creative effort are shown in the following tables:

SCS has received recognition and awards at both national and international levels.

The State Government has implemented some projects from the innovative and creativity initiative as follows:
Patented Innovation 
SmartPEG/ SARAPEG (by Sarawak Land & Survey Department) – a peg for marking the boundary of control made from thermo-plastic. It is eco-friendly, lightweight, modular and detectable.

Replicable and Adaptable Innovation
EZ Bucket 1.0 (Dalat & Mukah District Council) – used for maintenance work, especially for trees that have reached a height that is difficult to trim. The work can be done efficiently and effectively. It is also environmentally friendly.
Q-Easy Kiosk (Land & Survey Department, Limbang Division) – an electronic attendance system to replace the manual system, which automatically generates attendance reports.
Pontoon C-Flex H2O Intake (Public Works Department of Sarawak, Bintulu Division) – ensures a clean, treated water supply that be channelled directly to villagers in rural areas. The maintenance cost is low.

Inculcating the culture of innovation and creativity through a systematic approach, such as; innovation empowerment, governance structure establishment, cascading and promotion, provision of support systems, collaboration, integration and enculturation of shared values, propels greater productivity and effectiveness in achieving development objectives.