As the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) Center of Excellence on Public Sector Productivity, the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) held a Webinar Series on Productivity and Quality Frameworks in the Public Sector last 13-15 October 2021.

The webisode was attended by over three thousand participants from various public and private sector agencies. Speakers included Engr. Charlie A. Marquez, DAP resource speaker; Dr. Ralph Sherwin A. Corpuz, director of Quality Assurance at the  Technological University of the Philippines; and Dr. Juliet J. Balderas, head of Management Services Department at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC).

Webinar speakers answer questions from the participants during the program forum. 

Lean Management

Engr. Marquez, who is a certified QMS Lead Auditor and a Lean Six Sigma practitioner, gave a general overview of Lean Management. It is a philosophy based on the Toyota Production System (TPS) that is focused on improving process performance. He explained, “when we say Lean, the objective is simply eliminating everything that does not add value to the customer’s eyes… Meaning, who defines quality is the customer, not us as service providers.”

He briefly touched on the history of the TPS and Toyota’s 4P’s, namely Problem Solving, People and Patterns, Process, and Philosophy. Engr. Marquez also expounded on the Lean Management Framework. 

Stability and standardization serve as the foundation of the Lean Framework. He added, “If there is no standardization, bawat office kanya-kanya [each office will vary in their ways of doing things]… We do not want that. We want standardization.”

Engr. Marquez expounds on the Lean Management Framework.

Engr. Marquez underlined some principles of Lean and mainly discussed the eight (8) wastes in Lean Management, namely defects, overproduction, waiting, transport, inventory, motion, extra processing, and skills. He also highlighted a few benefits of Lean, which include an increase in sales and profits, improvement of quality and lowering of costs, optimal utilization of resources, and most importantly, improvement of customer satisfaction. As he pointed out, “in everything that we are doing—Total Quality Management, ISO 9000, Lean—at the top is ultimately customer satisfaction. That’s what we are here for.”

In his conclusion, Engr. Marquez recommended that participants perform an 8-Waste Analysis, using the Check Sheet that he shared in the talk. He also gave other practical suggestions such as the creation of Value Stream Maps (VSM), Root-Cause-Analysis (RCA), and formulation of solutions and prioritization of projects or activities.

TQM and Business Excellence

On the second day of the webinar series, Dr. Corpuz presented an overview of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Business Excellence. His topic zeroed in on the application of the approaches in the public sector.

To start his talk, Dr. Corpuz outlined some of the needs and challenges faced by the public sector such as inconvenient and tedious government transaction processes and unsystematic queuing. He added that in order to meet the needs of the public, the Government must exert greater efforts to provide more citizen-focused services, invest in innovation and emerging technologies to improve services, push for a smart government through the integration of ICT with management systems to address red tape, provide seamless connection among processes and governments toward one-stop-shop services, and partnership with the private sector in the country and abroad.

Quality service is what public servants have sworn to deliver and hence should be the prime focus in all government endeavors, Dr. Corpuz pointed out. To realize this, the biggest hindrances to public sector productivity must be dealt with through a solid management solution such as TQM. These barriers include security of tenure which may result in the complacency of government employees, a culture of resistance to reforms in the organization, and a complex political environment.

The speaker discussed principles and tools of TQM such as cause-and-effect diagram, check sheet, control chart, histogram, Pareto chart, scatter diagram, and flow chart. He also explained business excellence approaches that evolved from TQM and its models, including the Malcolm Baldrige National for Performance Excellence and the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model. Additionally, Dr. Corpuz described business excellence as more than a mere award but, more so, a journey of building a competitive nation.

Dr. Corpuz also shared his insights into other TQM tools, including Deming’s Seven Deadly Diseases that infect an organization’s culture, Ishikawa’s Diagram and Total Quality Control, and the Philippine Quality Award Framework.

Dr. Corpuz outlines Demings’s Seven Deadly Diseases of Management

Philippine Heart Center Best Practices

On the last day of the webinar series, Dr. Balderas presented the best practices of PHC to help flatten the curve amid the past COVID-19 surges. She also shared about the center’s quality journey in the new normal, which dates back to 2010 when the center was awarded the PhilHealth Center of Excellence. To improve its hospital processes, the PHC has also been undergoing multiple internal accreditations since 2011. In 2015, it received national recognition for good governance at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. Dr. Balderas noted, “our history of quality is stronger than COVID. If we look back at the history in 10 years, we have improved ourselves so much that probably, what we evolved over the years could be something that we can use productively against COVID.”

Dr. Balderas looks back at PHC’s excellence journey over the years.

Dr. Balderas discussed one of PHC best practices when the pandemic started—the creation of an Incident Command System, which is a standardized emergency response management structure comprising an incident commander, liaison officer, public information officer, safety/security officer, and operations, planning, logistics, and finance divisions. According to Dr. Balderas, the chain of command members meet every month to discuss all the operations in the hospital. They also hold multidisciplinary daily COVID-19 meetings to ensure that COVID-related problems are addressed as they happen. Additionally, new COVID-19 policies by ISO standards on patient admission and on the cohorting of COVID and non-COVID patients among other policies were implemented. These policies were also made accessible to the staff and the patients through its Intranet. The speaker also put forward other best practices of PHC such as stricter compliance to safety protocols, observance of ICP policies for healthcare workers in terms of daily symptoms monitoring and electronic health declaration every fourteen days, and expansion of GeneXpert PCR Testing.

Dr. Balderas also presented PHC’s Beyond Better Strategy Map for the year 2017 to 2022. The map outlines the center’s support and core processes, strategic position, and impact areas that are geared towards its change agenda, which are to become a leader in cardiovascular care that is at par with global benchmarks and to be a leading advocate in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in the country.

Maintaining a high standard of quality is doubly difficult due to the ongoing health crisis, but PHC’s performance governance system, which includes unit scoreboards that help monitor the staff’s individual performance and breakthrough results, has made it possible. Dr. Balderas explained, “when there was little budget for the Heart Center, [our question was] how do we go towards development? We only know that we have to remain the best heart hospital and we are the heart hospital referral center. Our strategy was to improve the performance, so performance monitoring despite COVID was a PHC Culture.”

Despite changes in leadership every five to six years, the center has achieved outstanding breakthrough accomplishments yearly until 2016. And even amid the ongoing COVID surge in 2021, the scoreboards guided the center in decreasing patient safety incidents and the number of healthcare workers diagnosed with COVID 19 by 50 percent.

Dr. Balderas shares the major institutional breakthroughs of PHC in 2020.

The use of scoreboards has been recognized as a best practice in all of PHC’s external audits. In 2019, the center was awarded by the Philippine Quality Award as the leader in upholding standards of cardiovascular care. PHC’s quality and performance excellence have also led the center to be recognized as a “Leader in Upholding Highest Standards of Cardiovascular Care” in 2018 at the 21st Cycle Philippine Quality Awards. Dr. Balderas noted that despite the hurdles brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, good governance and pursuit of excellence in quality improvements must continue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably disrupted how employees traditionally worked. It forced organizations, both public and private, to adopt alternative work arrangements to sustain productivity and efficiency amid the ongoing crisis. For the public sector in particular, much is expected from the national and local government agencies to keep the unhampered delivery of key public services as the country grapples with the ramifications of the pandemic. It is against this backdrop that this case study attempts to situate the productivity of government agencies from the perspective of 2,756 civil servants as they adopted alternative work arrangements during the community quarantine period in May 2020.

Conducted through an online survey and focus group discussion, the findings showed that the alternative work arrangements adopted during the community quarantine period under study, regardless of what type, had positive effects on the perceived performance and productivity of government employees. The satisfactory level of self-perceived productivity of government employees reflected their agility in adjusting to non-traditional forms of work arrangements and resiliency in remaining productive and efficient amid an unprecedented external shock. The expected outputs from the respondents were still delivered, although the individual and organizational targets have unavoidably changed to suit the evolving new realities. From the agencies’ viewpoint, some savings were reportedly realized but there were also additional expenses incurred. There were adjustments pursued by the agencies which also signified the extra effort they exerted to ensure that their core services are delivered despite the disruptions while also safeguarding the health of their employees.

Unsurprisingly, the availability of ICT tools and equipment provided by the agencies and the availability of strong internet connectivity facilitated the employees’ accomplishment of their tasks while working under alternative work arrangements. Aside from these ICT-related factors, organizational culture—particularly high levels of trust and support from management, and an ethos of communication and collaboration within the organization—also plays a pivotal role in maintaining employee productivity.

However, alternative work arrangements, especially remote work, come with additional personal costs which can be a burden to many. A majority of the non-managerial employees were using their personal computer/laptop and internet connection to work on their assigned tasks while at home. The physical environment at home also affected their productivity performance. Those who work-from-home reportedly get easily distracted by personal matters such as household chores and childcare. However, having a conducive work environment at home is already within the control of the employees but might prove to be extra difficult given the pandemic situation.

Finally, while government employees reported satisfactory levels of productivity during the community quarantine period, providing them adequate support to help them remain productive while safeguarding their overall well-being during this uncertain time is of utmost importance. From the case study’s findings, the key recommendations include 1) maximizing the use of digital technologies and leveraging individual competencies in using these technologies; 2) establishing concrete performance standards for functions and tasks done remotely; and 3) recalibrating policies and guidelines in relation to human resource and performance management.

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