Lagos State develops customer-centered public service

Dr. Oke

In the public service where the customer is the citizen, it has also been noted that government departments and public service organizations have clearly defined missions to provide a service to their constituents. Poor experience leads to complaints, that in turn, ultimately affects votes for public officials if service is consistently bad. And further that, “public service organizations that do not understand their customers’ changing needs, or worse, don’t care about their customers, will receive complaints that require additional resources to solve. This creates stress for both employees and customers and takes resources away from their core roles. The momentum and complexity of global change are challenging all organizations, including government agencies, to move faster, work smarter, use their resources more effectively and think further ahead.

In a recent publication, PwC, United States, asked and answered a germane question as follows: “What does a customer-centered organization look like? It’s an organization that considers the customer in everything it does, from procurement to deployment to the entire customer experience. It also speaks to its customers in their own language and makes it easy for them to align their goals with the mission at hand.”

Without an iota of doubt, the Lagos State Government under the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has heavily invested in the transformation of the Lagos State Public Service for a customer-centered public service.

In making a case for a customer-centered public service, such as the Lagos State Public Service, Christopher Brown noted that, countless studies have documented the link between organizational culture and organizational performance.

Specifically, many studies show that a customer-centric culture drives superior service and value for customers resulting in an experience that creates customer satisfaction and advocacy. This in turn drives exceptional organizational performance in terms of productivity, new product and service success, innovation and financial performance.

Championed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and anchored by the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions, the administration has engaged all departments and units of the public service in trainings and workshops designed to improve productivity, deepen knowledge, expand horizon, and re-evaluate and sharpen vision and focus.

These efforts were made in pursuance of the promise and undertaking made by the Governor on May 29, 2015 when, in his inaugural speech, he said to the people of Lagos State and the whole world: “As we all know, the best practices of yesterday may not be good enough for the products of today. In this sense, we shall embark on continuous reforms in the public service. I am determined to demonstrate that the government belongs to the citizens. You have put us here as servants to serve you and not you serving us. Today we are committed to that creed.

“Moving forward, the Civil Service will be strengthened and made to respond to the needs of all citizens in the same manner quality services are rendered in the private sector. My administration is prepared to take the decisions needed to promote merit and professionalism. To restructure where required, eliminate poor human resource practices and accelerate the pace of reforms in the spirit of good governance.”

Now, all stakeholders are beginning to notice and appreciate the investments made to build and deepen capacity in the Lagos State Public Service. From citizens to donor agencies, and from civil societies to the media, objective evaluations testify to a Lagos State Public Service that is better motivated, better focused, and better equipped to confront the challenges of modern governance and administration in an emerging, dynamic and rapidly-growing global and smart city.

While we delight in this achievement, we are mindful that our work is not done. We appreciate that there is a place called ‘better.’ We are conscious that the task of fully realizing the vision set out by His Excellency as highlighted above is only best described as ‘work-in-progress.’ To this end, the Lagos State Executive Council has carried out a detailed evaluation of the public service in light of the investments and progress so far made with a view to determining the next critical step in the effort to ensure that the public service performs at its optimal level and delivers exponential value to the citizens of Lagos State.

That evaluation has identified that, aside from skills-capable development, it is imperative to embark on an extensive, rigorous, sustained, and public service-wide advocacy that addresses what social scientists have identified as the most cognate component of organisational development: that is, the changing and substitution of a fixed mindset to, and with, a growth mindset. Thus, the next critical area of focus for those charged with the development of capacity in the public service is not infrastructure or knowledge deepening. These have received, and continue to receive, substantial and adequate investments and attention from this administration. Rather, the next critical area of focus for those charged with the development of capacity in the public service is the renewal and transformation of the mindset of our public officers.

We are convinced that, by having individual officers of the State public service inculcate the growth mindset, we can attain a truly effective, productive, and transformational public service that will surpass the expectations of all stakeholders. In practical terms, our advocacy will be to challenge and encourage all the officers to embrace a growth mindset such that the States objectives can be realised.

First, every officer with a ‘growth mindset’ will become interested in understanding and adopting the vision of the public service as a whole and will be empowered to set a clear vision regarding his or her duties and effectively communicate it to colleagues, providing them with a clear understanding of the desired direction from time to time. As has been severally noted, a crafted vision by itself accomplishes nothing. What matters is whether the officers of the Lagos State Public Service understand and internalize the vision that has been articulated and can, on the basis of that, make aligned procedural choices on their own. The task of the leadership of the public service is to ensure that the unit, departmental, and organisational vision is clearly articulated and communicated. An inculcated and nourished growth mindset will thereafter ensure that the officers are committed to making sound tactical and operational decisions that are aligned with the articulated vision.

Second, every officer with a growth mindset will be personally invested in the resolve and effort to cut through Red Tapism in all facets of the public-facing segments of the public service.

In the light of the above therefore, the advocacy of the mindset will include emphasis on the priority and importance of a customer-centered approach to the discharge of services in the State Public Service. Also, every officer with a growth mindset will be ready and equipped to assume leadership of assigned tasks, including the ability and readiness to take initiatives and decisions that align with communicated objectives. The strategy of growth mindset which we have adopted is in line with the motto of the State: Centre of Excellence.

This means that every civil servant will strive towards excellent delivery of service to the public. When we adopt excellence as our world view, it will shape our attitudes, behaviour, habits and ultimately have the desired impact on the behaviour of Lagos State Public Service as an organisation. The public has become sophisticated and highly informed, they are aware of global standards of service delivery, they demand to be treated courteously and served excellently because their taxes provide the wealth that government spends.

Thus, the Lagos State Government will vigorously pursue a campaign that advocates for a ‘growth mindset’ that will fundamentally transform the attitudes traditionally associated with the public service to attitudes that support and promote growth, citizen-centered services, team work and co-ordination among the different agencies of government, and effective and transformational leadership by every officer in his or her sphere of influence.

Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions
Dr. Akintola, Benson

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