The People Aspect of Transformation

Highlighting the Critical Importance of Active Engagement with both Citizens and the Public Service

Gabriel Juma Okumu holds a Master of Education Degree in Planning and Economics of Education from Maseno University, (2004), and a Bachelor of Education Degree from Moi University, (1992). After graduating from Moi University, he was employed as a graduate Teacher by the Teachers Service Commission, rising to the position of Deputy Headteacher. He was later appointed to the position of Inspector of Schools I (Ministry of Education) by the Kenyan Public Service Commission between November 1998 and February 2004. In March 2004 he was appointed Chief Examinations Officer by the Public Service Commission. He rose through the ranks to the position of Director Examinations. Due to the restructuring of the Commission in 2013, he was appointed Deputy Director Training and Development in July 2013. He has written various reports and papers and received various commendations. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate Degree in Leadership and Business Administration at Dedan Kimathi University.

Towards the end of the 1990s international development literature stressed the insufficient responsiveness of governance institutions and the additional need for channels of accountability and expression of citizen voice. A study by the Commonwealth Foundation (1999, quoted from Goetz & Gaventa 2001) found growing disillusionment of citizens with their governments, based on concerns about corruption, lack of responsiveness to the needs of the poor, and the absence of connection to or participation by ordinary citizens and employees on various public sector projects and programmes. The lack of responsiveness concerned especially delivery of public services (Hendricks B., 2010).
Most citizens have found their interactions with government agencies to be lacking. In a recent survey, 83% of Americans, aged 18 or older, indicated that federal agencies could improve on customer experience. In fact, the experience was perceived to be so bad that 42% of citizens would be willing to pay more in taxes for a better citizen experience. Similarly, a Pew Research study from 2013 finds that only 28% of their respondents expressed satisfaction with the federal government, and were more satisfied with service from state government. These results are sobering and should be a loud wake up call for urgent action. It calls for not a small change, but for a revolutionary transformation.
Further, the explosive growth of technology has dramatically changed the modes and speed with which the public expects to interact with service providers. Technological breakthroughs have created a world in which consumers expect an individualized, customized and immediate response. These changes have pressured service providers (including government agencies) to deliver high quality experiences for those they serve. Consequently, Public sector leaders face significant challenges as they respond to the twin pressures of reducing spending and providing more customer-focused services. This involves looking at new ways of delivering services. Reforms in the public sector aimed at improving service delivery have received considerable focus over the last decade. Driving this focus is an increased demand for governments to find ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its service delivery.
Public administration is “centrally concerned with the organization of government policies and programmes as well as the behaviour of officials formally responsible for their conduct” (Un Economic and Social Council Committee, 2006). The theory and practice of public administration is increasingly concerned with placing the citizen at the centre of policymakers’ considerations, not just as target, but also as agent. The aim is to develop policies and design services that respond to individuals’ needs and are relevant to their circumstances.
To that end, public servants are being exhorted to collaborate, not merely consult; to reach out, not merely respond. This is because the landscape of citizen engagement has drastically changed. Citizens are more aware of their rights to access information about public services and have higher expectations of service levels and the service experience than ever. Citizens today are better educated and more discerning. As a result they have higher expectations of the public service. They are demanding the same levels of service delivery they receive in the private sector to make their lives easier, provide choice and deliver results. Consequently, public servants find themselves engaging with people who are increasingly well-educated, attuned to their rights as citizens and voters, who have ready access to information and broad exposure to the voices of opinion- leaders, experts and advocates (Brenton Holmes, 2011).
Government must elevate the level of service to meet the increasing expectations of the citizens they serve in an effort known as “improving the Citizen Experience (CX).”
This paper looks at various ways of involving and engaging workforces in transforming the public service in order to improve the quality of service by drawing on their insight. As part of New Public Management, such engagements of the workforce are likely to enhance commitment to implementing changes, while the deeper understanding gained by being involved in transformation is likely to help with continuous improvement going forward.

David Osborne and Ted Gaebler in their book Reinventing Government introduced the concept of New Public Management (NPM), which advocates for the use of private sector-style models, organizational ideas and values to improve the efficiency and service orientation of the public sector (Wikipedia). The term was formally conceptualized by Hood (1991). Some authors define NPM as a combination of splitting large bureaucracies into smaller, more fragmented agencies, encouraging competition between different public agencies, and encouraging competition between public agencies and private firms and using economic incentive lines such as performance pay (Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H,. et al, 2006). The basic hypothesis holds that market-oriented management of the public sector will lead to greater cost-efficiency for governments, without having negative side-effects on other objectives and considerations.
NPM treats individuals as “customers” or “clients” rather than as citizens (Diane Stone, 2008). This new approach lays emphasis on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of government organizations, instruments and programs and higher quality service delivery (Katsamunska, P., 2012). Ferlie et al (1996) describe ‘New Public Management in Action’ as involving the introduction into public services of the ‘three Ms’: markets, managers and measurement. Thus, the NPM is oriented to results, focusing on clients, outputs and outcomes.
Public administration has entered a new age. In the 1980s, “less” government was the prevailing idea; in the 1990s and early 21st century, “New Public Management” was the dominant theme. Today, public administration is moving in new directions. Reforms are focusing on the quality of services for citizens and businesses and on the efficiency of administration (the “back office” of government).

According to Teo Chee Hean Minister for Defence and Minister in charge of the Civil Service in Singapore, “The public service is different from the private sector in that we cannot choose our customers. Likewise, our customers make use of public services not so much out of choice. For this unique relationship to work effectively there must be a common understanding between the two parties. The public service must strive to deliver its services with excellence. In return, customers must understand that the public service has to balance serving the needs of individual customers against the collective needs of the public”. Delivering on these demands is prompting governments to adopt citizen-centric service delivery models that can significantly improve the customer experience by delivering outcomes based on citizen’s needs, expectations and preferences, in addition to outcomes through enhanced service levels at the same or reduced cost. Outcomes are the societal changes that are the intended purposes of governmental programmes, for example, good health, national security, efficient transportation, justice etc. (Pfiffner J.P., 2004).
Public service efficiency is regarded as a key factor in evaluating investment decisions, hence global competition for investments are a means for economic growth. In beginning the journey toward improving the citizen and customer experience, it is critical that public sector organization listen to their customers, understanding who they are, the interactions that they have and their awareness, needs, preferences, expectations and satisfaction across these interactions.
Involving employees in service transformation requires a closer and more effective relationship between employees and managers. Leaders and managers must work to engage their employees, building their commitment to the success of the organisation and their motivation to contribute, while protecting their well-being. It sets out four areas of good practice for employee engagement. These include:
  1. Managers need to be empowered to engage employees. Organisations looking to achieve transformation should first engage their line managers, providing them with information on the strategic challenges facing the organisation so that they can in turn engage the workforce.
  2. Strong strategic leadership is essential. Leaders needto explain the journey their organisation is on so employees know what the organisation is trying to achieve, why change is needed and how employees and their work fit within that picture. Understanding the strategic narrative enables employees to engage more fully in their organisation and helps them to understand the value of their role. Particularly in a period of change, a clear explanation of the strategy being pursued builds trust. Leaders looking for genuine workforce engagement in transformation should allow employees to question and interrogate the strategy and sometimes adjust it in response. Allowing employees to give their views helps them to be involved in developing as well as delivering innovative ways of providing public services. Some of the methods that can be employed to communicate with employees and receive feedback include staff surveys, focus groups, and consultation events and staff conferences.
  3. To support service transformation, employees must be provided with the information they require and given opportunities to voice their opinions. Employees need to have access to good quality information that explains not only what decisions are taken, but why and how they willbe implemented. This might be through all workforce meetings, regular email briefings or team cascades. Only then will they be able to really become involved in the service transformation. Good communication with the workforce is one of the most important factors in maintaining engagement, and managers understand that an anxious workforce is less likely to be engaged. Employees who feel valued may be prepared to give more of their energy and ideas to their employer.
  4. Organisations must embed integrity at the heart of what they do. As services undergo change, the integrity of the organisation becomes even more important andemployees will need to feel that the processes through which change is achieved, as well as the end result, are in keeping with the organisation’s values. The consistency between organisational values and the behaviour of managers and employees directly impacts on levels of trust. Maintaining good levels of trust through communication, transparency, fairness and respect allows employees to be positively engaged in the transformation process.
The primary objective of superior human relations is to motivate and influence other people effectively and in positive and predictable ways. The purpose of motivation is to maximize individual human potential, to allow people to perform at their optimum and in the process experience the positive feelings of high self-worth and high self-esteem that are associated with accomplishment. The need to feel important is a central, driving force in every individual (Staples W.D. 2000).
Motivational studies have concluded that people perform best at tasks they themselves are motivated to perform. The modern manager must therefore understand that it is his or her primary responsibility to help employees perform at their very best. This means creating and maintaining the proper psychological climate and designing work packages such that people are able to perform at the peak of their abilities (Staples W.D. 2000). Effective leaders should be able to influence people to do their utmost for the organization. Gostic A. And Elton C. (2009) supports this view by arguing that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving.
Fredrick Herzberg in his book How Do You Motivate Employees has concluded that job content is central to generating intrinsic motivation as opposed to the case for environmental factors. For example, of all the factors found to contribute to job satisfaction, 81 percent were job-related while of all the factors contributing to job dissatisfaction, 69 percent were environment-related. He therefore recommended that leaders should bring about higher productivity and better personnel utilisation by enriching job packages. This could be through assigning more specialized and difficult tasks to capable individuals, allowing employees more authority and scope in their work packages, making employees more accountable for their performance and recognizing their efforts.
Recognition, which is the deepest craving in human nature, is one of the key characteristics of effective managers and great organizations as it not only helps to accelerate a leader’s effectiveness but also helps staff to increase their self-esteem. This in turn makes employees to be fully engaged and to perform at their maximum (Staples W.D. 2000, Gostick A. & Elton C. 2009). Leaders therefore should always be on the lookout for opportunities to praise an act or accomplishment of others. The ever vigilant and perceptive leader will always find a reason to compliment or commend another. As the authors of The One Minute Manager suggest, catch someone doing something right. Research has proved that goal setting, communication, trust and accountability are the foundational building blocks of effective management. However, recognition is the subtle undercurrent that helps managers to keep things moving forward. Therefore, “great management is born when recognition is added to the other characteristics of leadership”.

Meeting these challenges is prompting the public sector to explore new sustainable models for service delivery – models that can significantly improve customer experience and outcomes through enhanced service levels at the same or reduced cost. The development of citizen-centric models calls for customer insight, looking at customers’ wants and needs in a holistic manner and understanding the strategic risks associated with various service delivery models. It is therefore important that the customer is kept at the core of every decision, from strategy formulation and design through to execution.
Embracing the citizen-centric model means that business as usual in public services is no longer an option. Despite the new spending environment, public expectations of the services they receive are unlikely to diminish. They will continue to expect value for money, high quality, personalised services that fit around their lives. Public services have undergone considerable change in recent years to adapt to citizens’ needs, but with fewer resources at hand; continuing to meet public expectations will require a different and more radical approach.
One way of making the public service citizen centric is through business process reengineering (BPR) which has been defined by Hammer & Champy (1993), as “the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business process to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service and speed”
Re-engineering is thus more inward looking and gives greater attention to the role of information technology (IT). BPR has had a big track record in private business (Fowler, 1997: Halachmi, 1995:336). BPR’s importation into the public sector follows the recurring advice from the private sector for the government to be more “business-like”.

The last decades of the 20th century have witnessed significant injection of Information Technology (IT) in support of public services (Fishenden and Thompson 2012; Gil-Garcia and Martinez-Moyano, 2005). The expectations of citizens in delivery of services by government institutions have increased over the last decade. As information technology, especially the Internet and the World Wide Web, continues to expand, all levels of government are being urged to making more and more use of these approaches to deliver services. Codagnone and Wimmer (2007) recognise that ‘New opportunities offered by the advent of the Information Technology force not only the business sector, but also governments all over the world to improve their operations and become more efficient and effective’.
McClure (2000) and Golden et al, (2003) have defined electronic government as government’s use of technology, particularly Web- based Internet applications, to enhance the access to and delivery of government information and service to citizens, business partners, employees, other agencies, and government entities. The idea of bringing the citizen-centric e-business model into government operation is a new and creative approach to service delivery and an additional approach in building the citizen- centric strategy.
Using technology to deliver services when and where citizens want saves citizens and business time and money; allows the government to allocate its resources more effectively; fosters greater satisfaction and trust in government among citizens; leads to faster and more convenient access to government services with fewer errors; and increased efficiencies, cost reductions, and potentially better customer service. Therefore, to obtain the pursued benefits, government agencies need to move their customers – citizens – from the old service delivery system (i.e. traditional service delivery methods) to the new web-based one.
Citizens do not necessarily care what agency within government delivers a program or service. They just want effective access and quality service. The key drivers for modernising government have included choice, convenience and simplicity for the citizen. Choice in terms of having available, alternative service delivery channels to complement the traditional channels of walk-in office visits, written communications and telephone calls; convenience concerning when (and how) citizens could interface with government i.e. anytime, anywhere; and simplicity relating to the interactions between citizens and government.
Citizens firstly want to be able to telephone a ‘government’ number to access any government service and to do so at a time convenient to them – the New York 311 telephone services is a prime example. This is New York’s main source of government information and non-emergency services. 311’s mission is to provide the public with quick, easy access to all New York City government services and information while maintaining the highest level of customer service.
Secondly, citizens want to be able to ‘transact’ with government at their ‘first point of contact’ whether that be telephone, Internet or walk-in centre. This presents major challenges to the current organisational arrangements in a number of administrations; for example for telephone services, the operatives will need firstly to have some knowledge about the various services that are provided; secondly they need to have the technology available to enable them not only to provide comprehensive information about the various services but also to conduct transactions with the citizen; and thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, they will need to be empowered to conduct transactions on a ‘whole of government’ approach basis (rather than purely for a single agency).
An increasing number of countries around the world apply Information Communication Technology (ICT) into their administration in order to improve their efficiency and provide better public services via Internet. The private sector with the customer- centric strategy has reaped success as proved by the growth and global expansion of eBay and Amazon.
In Singapore embracing of IT has led to improved work processes, enhanced the ability to offer excellent service and enabled the government to make information on public policies easily accessible to the public through the e-Government Action Plan. The government has developed an integrated platform for all government agencies to build and deploy their e-services. For example there are more than 1,700 e-services available on a 24/7 basis, and many public services are accessible at the click of a mouse. Citizens are also able to access government service through their mobile devices while those who are not able to communicate with the government on-line visit the citizen connect centres.
Similarly, Portugal has introduced a single Citizen Card, which is replacing five separate cards: Identity card; Tax card; Social Security card; Elections card; and Health card.
Another good example is the Huduma centres being introduced in Kenya.  Huduma, which means “service” in Swahili, is part of a government plan to fully digitise government services. The government launched the new portal with a view to improve transparency and accountability in public service delivery. Huduma Centres are facilities where services from various government institutions are provided from the same location. The centres have created additional service points to improve citizen access to services and eliminate the inconvenience of moving from one point to the other. A pilot centre has been  set up in the capital, Nairobi, where customers can access over 20 services from 10 government agencies - from renewing a driving licence and applying for health insurance to registering a business and paying for parking. Additional Huduma Centres will be opened in Nairobi soon as well as one Huduma Centre in each of the 47 Counties. Through these centres the government has created additional service points to improve citizen access to services and eliminate the inconvenience of moving from one point to the other. The Huduma Kenya programme will soon introduce an e-huduma web portal to provide the same services online and the m-huduma platform to provide government services through the mobile phone.

The quality of leadership is a key determinant of highly effective and improving organizations (Townsend, 2007); Leadership for Transformation (Senge, 2006). In one leadership study, qualities such as assertiveness, adaptability, intelligence and conscientiousness were cited as the most important. “Research clearly shows that transformational leaders - leaders who are positive, inspiring, and who empower and develop followers - are better leaders,” explains psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio. “They are more valued by followers and have higher performing teams.” This argument is supported by Robbins and Coulter, (2007) who posits that a transformational leader stimulates and inspires followers to achieve extraordinary outcomes. He/she pays attention to the concern and developmental needs of individual followers; they change followers’ awareness of issues by helping them to look at old problems in a new way; and they are able to arouse, excite and inspire followers to put out extra effort to achieve group goals.
In addition, Warrilow, (2012) has argued that transformational leadership creates positive change in the followers whereby they take care of each other’s interests and act in the interests of the group as a whole. He further posits that this leadership theory enhances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms including:
  1. connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of the organization;
  2. being a role model for followers that inspires them and makes them interested;
  3. challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work; and
  4. understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance.
Leaders must assume the key role of facilitators and catalysts to ensure that employees feel part of the organization and that they can contribute and make a difference. A good leader knows that offering effective recognition and rewards is one of the best ways to help followers feel appreciated and happy. It may also come as no surprise that happy people tend to perform better at work. According to researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, leaders can help group members feel happier by offering help, removing barriers to success and rewarding strong efforts.
If an organization is to benefit from the valued input of employees, managers at all levels need to be progressive and receptive to employee suggestions for improvement and change. Employee suggestions do save money and increase worker productivity and sense of satisfaction. Consequently, unlocking the full potential of employees is critical to the continued success and well-being of any organization. John W. Gardner in his book On Leadership supports this view by arguing that the purposes of the group are best served when the leader helps followers to develop their own initiative.
Alfie Kohn in his book The Case Against Competition has concluded that cooperation outperforms competition. He further argues that cooperation allows the pooling of individual skills and resources to create a synergetic effect. That is, the collective wisdom of a group working together is usually greater than the total of  individual members working alone. This pooling together of mutual resources tends to increase both the quality and quantity of the group’s performance.
In conclusion, tomorrow’s citizens are approaching their life and daily activities differently because of technology. Therefore the two key issues of technology and information will continue to be relevant in terms of addressing the needs of tomorrow’s citizens. For this generation, technology is expected to be ubiquitous and probably not an issue in terms of their dealings with government. The challenge will be to develop an appropriate trust relationship between the citizens of tomorrow and their government such that services can be delivered which meet their real needs and in ways that match their lifestyle.
Therefore, the public service of the 21st Century should aim at delighting the customers. The attitude of the public service should be one of providing excellent service with the highest standards of courtesy, accessibility, responsiveness and effectiveness (CARE). There should be a willingness for public servants to go an extra mile to satisfy the customers. Going forward it is anticipated that: citizens will be able to phone a government number for access to information about all public services; citizens will be able to transact with government at their first point of contact whether that be telephone, online or walk-in centre; the relationship between citizens and their government (in terms of service delivery) will be improved; and that government will adopt a more pro-active approach to service delivery.
Beyond providing quality services to customers, the public service should also engage citizens, employees and other stakeholders in policy formulation and other service delivery processes through regular consultation and feedback sessions. Public officers need to keep their eyes and ears close to the ground, to better understand the specific needs of the community. This is because many members of the public have the ability and desire to contribute to make the public service even better. “An organization is only as great as the people in it, and the people are only as great as the organization allows them to be” (Blatchford Robert 1923).
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