By Olasunkanmi Akoni
On assumption of office, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State invested heavily in the transformation of the public service through trainings and workshops designed to bring about improved productivity, deepen knowledge, expand horizon and re-evaluate and sharpen the vision and focus of public servants.
Ambode’s investment was in realisation of the critical role of public servants to the success of his administration’s programmes.
Still following up on the transformation, the governor inaugurated a special advocacy campaign, last week, to engender growth mindset and imbue civil servants with the right skills and attitude that will contribute to the efforts of fast-tracking development and set the state on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.
Government maintained that the need to cultivate in public servants the right culture and mindset required to attain the smart city status of the state, the public service is being transformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
To achieve this goal, the Office of Transformation, Creativity and Innovation (OTCI) and the state Ministry of Information and Strategy held a training programme for Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Agencies and Parastatals.
Speaking at the training programme, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the Lagos government, having realized the importance of changing the mindset of public servants to align with the ever changing time, decided to embark on the change campaign in the state.
“We have 24 million residents, many of them travel a lot and are exposed to international standards, while some have become sophisticated, therefore, the benchmark for services has increased, and people can compare how they are served in public service in Lagos with the private sector”, Bamigbetan said.
He pointed out that the training would be extended to other cadres in the state public service.
Customer centred initiative
Meanwhile, launching the ‘Growth Mindset’ initiative at Alausa, Ikeja, the seat of government, the state Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pension, Dr. Akintola Oke, and Bamigbetan, said that an online platform, “Citizen’s Gate,” had been created for complaints.
The structure of the capacity development programme focuses on: Advocacy Communication; Sensitization of Senior Management; Train the trainers for GL10- 14; Re-orientation workshop for Grade Levels 10-14; Impact assessment and sustainability, among others.
Bamigbetan said the advocacy would majorly focus on two tracks of training and communication, and also make civil servants to see the people as customers that must be treated with respect and dignity.
The training track, according to the Information Commissioner, is meant to ensure that civil servants are trained in skills that will give them right capacity and attitude to take a different view of their services and redefine their work in terms of the content by the audiences and customers who patronize the services of government, while the communication track would enable public servants reorganize their thought processes to change their perception and perspective of what they are supposed to do and therefore give them a more proactive and progressive attitude to the people.
He said: “Basically, what we are saying is that government is a service centre and the customer they say is the king. So, for Lagos State, a very industrial environment, a very commercial environment, the most advanced cosmopolitan city in this country, we also have highly sophisticated citizens who deserve services at optimal level. This, we hope and believe, will enable us to change the attitude so that every civil servant sees the man on the street as his customer and with this, we would have also recorded major landmark in organizational behaviour which will be something for people to come and study in years to come.”
Oke, in his remarks, stressed that, in government, the citizens are customers who must be treated fairly to prevent wasting public funds.
“Poor experience leads to complaints, which in turn, ultimately affects votes for public officials if service is constantly bad,” he added.
The commissioner posited that when the public service fails to understand customers changing need, it will receive complaints that require additional resources to solve.
This he said would create stress for both employees and customers which further take resources away from their core roles. “The momentum will ensure all organization, including government agencies to move faster, work smarter, use their resources more effectively and think further ahead.
Oke said the advocacy, which will initially last between three to six months, would be deployed to fight red-tapism, complacency and all forms of attitudes that tend to delay progress and development in the civil service.
According to him, adequate arrangements had also been firmed up to sustain the advocacy for a longer period with the ultimate aim of instilling growth mindset in all civil servants.
Oke stressed that the new advocacy was designed to consolidate on the gains of the previous arrangements. “We are convinced that by having individual officers of the Lagos 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 officers of the Lagos State Public Service to embrace ‘growth mindset’ such that the objectives of advancing the economic potentials and moving the State forward can be realized,” he said. Earlier, the Director General, Office of Transformation, Creativity and Innovation, Mr. Toba Otusanya, said expected outcome of the training and the sensitization are civil servants who are competent, knowledgeable, creative, innovative and can challenge the status quo that would embrace new ways of doing things as well as deliver services in better ways.
“Realizing this vision is not something that is farfetched because when you look at strong Public Institutions across the world like Kenya and Rwanda, these things are already happening there; as Lagos, we cannot continue to be on the sideline we have to take the bull by the horn,” he said.
The DG, while emphasizing that the leadership quality that is needed to drive the change has to be innovative, and such that subordinates would be able to discuss freely with their leaders, added that the world is changing, and as public servants, needed to be able to connect with the past, relate with the present, and project what the future would be, the growth mindset would help in achieving this.
While quoting Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the DG said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your action, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, and your values become your destiny.”
Training consultant, Mrs. Regina Olubunmi Fabamwo, while commending Ambode for supporting the programme, which she described as a “landmark,” the first of its kind in Nigeria, encouraged participants to embrace the “Growth Mindset,” as a person’s way or habit of thinking.
She added that the “Growth Mindset” is a habitual mental attitude that determines how one would interpret and respond to situations; the belief that a person’s skills, intellect and talent could be developed through practice and perseverance.
“The Growth Mindset’ enables learning, therefore, to have a mindset that continuously brings results; we need to move from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset.
“Every time we talk about the public service, some of the things we speak about is that the public service is the engine room of government and it basically means that if the engine is not functioning well, as we all know, a car cannot function properly.
“So, it is a change in paradigm and it is not out of place because if you look at what is happening in international best practice and you look at some of the countries in the world that are doing exceptionally well with their public service like Singapore, Dubai and so on, they have shown that all of these things are actually possible with the right attitude and that is what the State Government is embarking on to transform the public service and take it to the next level.”