The Star 10 April 2012.
THE PUBLIC has been invited by The Star and the National Planning Commission (NPC) to suggest ways to help improve SA’s future. Here are some of the responses we have received so far:
Dear Minister Manuel,
I commend you and your team on the excellent National Development Plan (NDP).
I have these questions about service delivery performance, though:
1. Which internationally acknowledged standards, or best practices for performance excellence, will a local or provincial government department be expected to use? How will they know what is expected of them?
2. How will departmental leaders measure and rate their performance against these standards and criteria?
3. How will the heads of departments benchmark their performance against their peer organisations and share “best practices”?
4. How are you going to develop a culture of performance excellence and continuous improvement, in local and provincial government departments?
5. How are you going to assess, recognise and award, on a national basis, the leaders in excellent performance in any department, against these internationally accepted standards?
6. Will the president demonstrate his commitment to a culture of performance excellence and continuous improvement by presenting awards to winning public service departments?
Many winning nations use excellence models. The Global Excellence Model (GEM) Council members are the US, Europe, Japan, India, Singapore, Australia, and Latin America. Each of these has its own excellence model.
Common to all these excellence models are:
Leading, internationally accepted management practices against which an organisation can measure itself; a process of sharing best practices; a culture of performance excellence and continuous improvement; an approach to developing sustainable organisations in the long term; and an annual excellence awards process to recognise achievement in excellence.
The GEM Council recognised the SA Excellence Model in 2002.
I propose the following ideas for your consideration, to help the NDP succeed:
1. Form an SA performance excellence foundation which will be responsible for the SA Excellence Model derivatives. It would benchmark these against relevant excellence models from the GEM Council members.
2. SA already has an excellence model. Derivatives exist for public service and local government, small and medium enterprises (SMEs): manufacturing, construction, and agri-businesses, but I propose that derivatives also be developed for the national health system and schools, benchmarked against international best practices and criteria.
3. The first criterion for excellence is how leaders show their commitment to performance excellence. Who will provide the leadership for excellence in SA? We propose it is the president.
Nelson Mandela was an honorary member of the SA Excellence Foundation and presented the awards at an annual award ceremony. The US president presents the annual Malcolm Balrige National Quality Awards.
4. Start a national excellence awards competition for each of the derivatives of the SA excellence model.
5. Consider giving legitimacy to the proposed SA performance excellence foundation by legislation. This happened in the case of the Malcolm Balrige Awards in the US.
We could implement the proposed SA performance excellence foundation, to help your NDP.
I have been involved with the SA Excellence Model since 1998 and believe it is important and useful.
I look forward to your reply and an opportunity to discuss this with you and your colleagues.
Colin V Francis
Response from the National Planning Commission:
The question raises some important issues about how we can develop a culture of performance excellence and continuous improvement throughout the public service and local government.
This question is absolutely central to the work the commission has been doing on ensuring that the state is capable of playing the developmental and transformative role we believe it should if we are to overcome the twin problems of poverty and inequality.
The commission has looked at many international examples in carrying out its work, but we also believe it is important to look closely at SA’s own experiences so that proposals are carefully tailored to the particular issues and opportunities we face.
The language of “continuous improvement” is spot on.
We can’t achieve everything overnight; we need to strive to get better and better at what we do.
The commission has expressed concern that the public service and local government do not have appropriate systems in place for developing the skills and ethos of a professional public service.
We argue that SA has paid insufficient attention to where future generations of public servants will come from. Particular attention needs to be given to how to recruit young people with potential and then develop their skills over time. The draft NDP includes several proposals that are designed to address these issues.
This includes a more long-term approach to skills development with strengthened human resources and training capacity. For example, the commission proposes a formal graduate recruitment and training programme that would attract young people with a passion for public service.
We have also argued that managers need to be proactive in helping their staff to develop their skills and that this needs to include delegating appropriate responsibilities to people at more junior levels.
The plan is in its draft stages. We are working to refine and strengthen it on the basis of public consultation, and would welcome inputs and engagements on proposals we make on this and other issues.
l To be an active citizen in the shaping of your country, and to have a say in the NPC’s National Development Plan, send your suggestions to makeaplan@ inl.co.za, and we will publish an edited selection each Tuesday.