It helps to stop and think about our purpose – the reason for our being

Monday August 27, 2012

It helps to stop and think about our purpose – the reason for our being

Transformation Blues – By Idris Jala

To implement a policy or plan, it must first be translated into detailed programme for implementation. SOMETIMES it helps to stop and think about our purpose – the reason for our being. That helps us to focus on what we should be achieving – our doing. If you will, the being and the doing are the yin and yang of change – they go hand-in-glove within the whole and interact with each other constantly. The key is to act your way into being.

I am very deliberate to the approach in the yin yang chart (see chart), it is so fundamental to transformation. For instance, when you want to teach someone to ride a bicycle, you do not send that person to pursue higher studies to research and understand the theory of riding a bicycle or the physics in motion. Instead, you offer him a bicycle, get him to ride it around the block several times, sure he will fall over every now and again.

Nevertheless, he will get back on and try again and again until he figures it out. Therefore, transformation entails fundamental changes in the way an organisation DOES its business (Doing) to becoming the CHARACTER of the organisation (Being). One of the problems that we constantly face is that our role at the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) is often misunderstood and sometimes very badly, perhaps even deliberately but we won’t get into that here.

We do not do things by ourselves. We are initiators or catalysts of change, we don’t implement them but we coordinate them, we monitor them and facilitate them by getting the Government to encourage the change and provide what is needed to make the change. Transformation is holistic, it affects all of us and it changes everything, yes everything.

The whole is the sum of the parts and it is necessary to step back and take a bird’s eye view of what is happening to understand it. Transformation involves government and the economy and they both affect each other in many different ways.  The changes take place simultaneously and each has to transform for maximum benefit to the other and contribute to the ultimate aim of higher income and a better quality of living for everyone. Within these two transformation programmes, we are constantly and deliberately injecting a discipline of action to monitor the progress of implementation; be it weekly, monthly and annually to ensure success.

This is how we are mobilising our partners in the civil service to successfully deliver initiatives within both transformation programmes and begin to act their way into being. Government transformation is focused on six areas – fighting corruption, reducing crime, raising living standards, improving rural basic infrastructure, improving urban public transport and improving student outcomes through better education. One more we have included is keeping the cost of living down. One look at these shows that all are necessary to achieve higher income and better living standards too and that these will require resources.

To give the Government the necessary resources, we need to have income – more national income. That would not only increase individual incomes but provide more revenue for the Government to undertake its own programmes for the benefit of the people. That’s where economic transformation comes in. We identify the areas which offer the greatest potential for growth and we focus our attention on these areas. We set targets, facilitate things and monitor our progress so that we can succeed.

We have identified 12 key sectors, including developing the Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley area to boost income (please see our website for details).

Holistic development

Often we have been criticised for concentrating on these sectors, saying that this does not bring holistic development, but it helps in doing precisely that.

The Government needs money to undertake its programmes and money comes from rapid economic development – big fast results are what we need to do this.

This money will enable us to distribute income equitably, engage in balanced development and create capability through heavy emphasis on education amongst others.

Lots of investments are made in cities right now, the reason being that’s where the demand is.

And yes, there has been a major shift in population to urban areas over the years, which means putting money into urban areas helps people too.

The revenue that the Government gets can be ploughed back into the rural areas and other more disadvantaged sectors of the economy.

The more money we make, the more we can spend.

To become a high-income nation we need these “drivers” to focus on specific economic areas to get incomes up and focus too in getting results in terms of what the public wants such as reducing crime and corruption.

But the focus that we have here needs to be coupled with competitiveness and we need “enablers” to make sure we become competitive.

We are putting in place measures such as introducing competition laws, improving public service delivery, raising human capital capability, improving public finance, reducing the Government’s role in business and narrowing disparities to improve competitiveness.

We are fighting a war on a very broad front and we are using all the weapons at our disposal to win it. And we are marshalling everyone to make sure that we win the war and go on to become a developed, high-income country which benefits everyone and does not compromise future generations.

Our solutions have been formulated with full participation of officials from industry, government and the public. We get everyone involved through the numerous labs that we run.

Broad policies

We come up with the broad policies – at 30,000 ft I like to say, the big picture or overview. But, no, we don’t stop there.

We come down to 3 ft after that – where we flesh out the details and make someone accountable for every little detail.

We make a real budget and other estimates – unless you come down to 3 ft, we don’t have a budget.

And if we don’t have a budget, we don’t have a plan, we only have a policy.

Only then is there confidence that a plan can fly.

Once we have that kind of detail – plans, targets, budgets – we monitor the execution on a weekly basis. Each minister gets the results for his ministry on an IPad.

Every week, the minister sees his score and there is bi-annual review of performance for each minister.

We are like an architect for a house.

We look at what the Government wants to achieve.

Then we break up the tasks to see what is necessary to be done.

We develop the ideas through the various labs through participation from all sectors of the industry, government and the public.

We document this, release the plan and invite feedback.

By the time the final plan is out, we have the agreement of all in the Government – we have consensus and the buy-in from all stakeholders.

Then we build and we monitor to see it is done according to plan and the timetable.

Ours is a holistic programme, which has been thought out and formulated in great detail with a lot of input from everyone who is interested. It is everyone’s plan.

That’s just one of the reasons we are confident it will succeed.

Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit. He is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. Reasonable comments related to this column are welcome at

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