Speech by Mr Peter Ong at the Inaugural Public Service Leadership Dinner
HEAD, CIVIL SERVICE
AT THE INAUGURAL PUBLIC SERVICE LEADERSHIP DINNER
24 NOVEMBER 2014 AT ORCHARD HOTEL
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
Mr Eddie Teo, Chairman, and
Members of the Public Service Commission
Friends and Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening. Allow me to join DPM Teo in welcoming you to our first Public Service Leadership Dinner.
PSL DINNER WELCOME AND PSLP UPDATE
2. I would like to begin by first speaking about the significance of this occasion. In April 2013, about one and a half years ago, we started the Public Service Leadership Programme, or PSLP for short. The PSLP is unprecedented in its reach and scale as a development programme for specialist leaders. Setting up the PSLP required careful planning, and we continue to fine-tune the programme as we implement it. In particular, over the past year, we made good initial progress. We have expanded the PSLP to cover Statutory Boards as well as specialized schemes of service. We have also brought more officers onto the programme. We started out with 429 officers in 2013; we now have 601 officers on the PSLP, and many of you are here tonight. I offer my heartiest congratulations to the 172 officers appointed this year.
3. Tonight, besides PSLP officers from the 5 sectors, we are also joined by leaders from all over the Public Service. Not everyone may be familiar with officers from their own sector, let alone other sectors. But it is very likely that all of us will come to work with each other over the course of our careers. It is timely therefore, at the end of the first year of the PSLP, for us to gather to welcome new officers, and strengthen our sense of identity as a leadership community.
PSLP CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
4. As DPM Teo said, the PSLP aims to develop sectoral leaders for the Public Service. We want to prepare you for the challenges and responsibilities of leadership positions in your sectors, by deepening your professional skills, broadening your exposure to cross-agency issues and building your leadership abilities. Tonight, I want to share how the PSLP develops you as sectoral leaders.
5. Some of you might be wondering about the kind of career development you can expect on the PSLP. Let me explain. We have developed career roadmaps customized to the developmental requirements of job families in each sector. The roadmaps set out the exposure and training officers need at each stage of their career, to develop the necessary experience and skills for leadership positions in their sector. The roadmaps will form the basis for career conversations on your own development.
6. Let me use the possible career path of a Sectoral Phase officer in the Economy Building Sector as an example. This officer – let’s call him Brian – might have started his Public Service career at MTI, monitoring global economic trends and analyzing their impact on Singapore. He could then have branched out to another division to work on industry development. Brian has a keen interest in developing Singapore’s competitive edge as a business hub, and he performed very well in his past two portfolios. He was nominated for and subsequently appointed to the Economy Building Sector in the PSLP Sectoral Phase. The Economy Building Sectoral Leadership Committee meets, and in the course of planning for PSLP officers in the sector, they discuss how best to develop Brian. Brian’s work experience in MTI has given him a good grounding in the fundamentals of economic planning, but he is perhaps lacking in exposure to the wider sector and in operational experience. So the Committee may consider him for a posting at another agency in the Economy Building Sector. For example, he could be posted to IDA to work on regulation of the telecommunications industry. This external posting will expose Brian to the policy and operational linkages between economic planning on the one hand, and industry regulation and development on the other.
7. As Brian progresses to a director role, he might find himself back at MTI or at other agencies in the sector, overseeing larger economic growth strategies and regulatory policies. He would probably also be managing multiple teams. Depending on his performance, and the skills and experience he has acquired in his career, he could be well positioned to be considered for leadership positions in the Economy Building Sector.
8. Like Brian, PSLP officers can expect to be posted to a variety of portfolios over the course of their careers. This year, we arranged postings for 34 PSLP officers. Next year, a similar number of officers will move to new portfolios, in line with their career roadmaps. This opportunity will be extended to many other officers in the years ahead.
Training and development
9. Over the past year, we have been designing sectoral milestone training programmes for each sector. For the Security Sector, we have introduced the National Security Milestone Programme – a 2-week programme where senior leaders and security experts share their knowledge with younger officers. We have just completed our first run successfully in September. For the Infrastructure and Environment Sector, we have revamped two existing courses run by the Centre for Liveable Cities – firstly, the Leaders in Urban Governance Programme and secondly, the EDGE Young Leaders Programme. These now cover urban management issues at the sector level. The first intakes of PSLP officers were also started this year. For the Central Administration Sector, we have put in place milestone courses for officers on the Finance, HR, Procurement and Public Communications sub-tracks. Officers in the Social and Economy Building Sectors can also look forward to new sectoral milestone programmes in 2015.
10. Your development on the PSLP has to go beyond specialist skills. As sectoral leaders, you need to be able to analyse issues and work out solutions for your sector while bearing in mind larger, government-wide concerns. You need to inspire and lead people. So at managerial milestones of your career, you will be nominated to attend CSC’s leadership training programmes, such as the Management Development Course (MDC) for middle managers and the Senior Management Programme (SMP) for director-level officers.
11. Some officers have asked how they can further contribute to their sectors in the PSLP. I am pleased to say that there are many avenues beyond your immediate scope of work to put the exposure and training you receive on the PSLP into practice. We have formed inter-agency project teams for each sector, so officers can collaborate on resolving large-scale, sector-wide issues. At present, 73 PSLP officers have joined these teams, which examine issues ranging from the integration of financial processes between Statutory Boards and Ministries, or to other topics like the development of the HDB retail sector. Senior officers are leading the teams, or serving as resource persons for these projects. About 20 have also stepped forward to mentor younger PSLP officers, and we are asking more of you to help nurture the next generation of leaders.
12. We have created platforms for you to develop as a leadership community. For example, we have started sector-level engagement sessions, where officers discuss important developments in the sector. But you must each do your part to build the personal relationships which make this leadership community work, for us to be one leadership for the Public Service.
PUBLIC SERVICE VALUES
13. As a PSLP officer, you have many opportunities. But we also have certain expectations of you, because being a leader in the Public Service means shouldering certain unique responsibilities. We are stewards of the nation’s resources and we partner the elected government to improve the lives of Singaporeans. As leaders, our actions impact not only our staff and organizations, but also Singaporeans’ trust in the Public Service. So it is important that our thinking and actions are grounded on our core values of integrity, service and excellence. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on how these values apply to all of us as public officers and as leaders.
14. First, integrity. All public officers are held to high standards of accountability, but even more so as leaders, we must be above reproach in our ethical standards. How we fulfil our duties sets the tone for our teams and departments.
15. Leaders must also demonstrate a strong commitment to service. What does that actually look like in practice? I think a good illustration can be found in the response of MSF’s Social Services Office, or SSO, to a recent case in Tampines. The SSOs provide ground assistance to needy residents. During a networking session at the Tampines Lions Befrienders’ Senior Activity Centre, SSO officers found that some elderly residents experienced difficulties attending the social activities organized by the centre. Most lived on their own and had trouble travelling to the centre. So our officers from the SSO worked with local grassroots organizations and Lions Befrienders to identify a space near their flats, so that Lions Befrienders could hold an offshoot of their activities there. The residents now enjoy the benefits of regular interaction with others in the vicinity of their homes.
16. Being alert to citizens’ needs and going the extra mile to tailor solutions to meet their needs – that is service. As leaders, you should be the first to display this attitude of service, and you need to encourage and inspire your officers to do likewise.
17. Finally, we need to constantly strive for excellence. As sectoral leaders, you will need to stay on top of your area of specialization, and keep up to date on how it is evolving in a fast-changing world. ‘Excellence’ therefore entails incorporating these new developments into your daily work and ensuring that our policies and our operations are at the cutting edge.
18. It also entails going beyond agency-specific solutions and working with other specialist and generalist leaders. The best innovations often take place at the confluence of different domains. We need you to combine your expertise with other leaders’ to create solutions that are coordinated on a system-wide level, for the Public Service to achieve ‘excellence’ in serving Singapore.
19. You have a challenging, but I believe, very fulfilling career in the Public Service. Make full use of the opportunities for training and development you will have on the programme to grow as sectoral leaders and as a leadership community. Never lose sight of why this Public Service community exists in the first place – and that is to serve Singapore and Singaporeans. If we hold fast to our core values, we will be well placed to build a better Singapore together. Thank you very much.