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Friday, March 1, 2024

Quality management system for governance

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"Only 25 percent of government agencies are ISO-certified. Why the low compliance?"


Even as we deplore the awful running of some government agencies and their abysmal delivery of  front-line services to the people, methods and techniques exist that can help improve their governance and administration, and that of any organization whether public or private.

One of these methods is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 Quality Management System. The adoption of a QMS in all agencies and departments of the executive branch of government, as well as in all government-owned and –controlled corporations and government financial institutions, is directed by Executive Order 605, s. 2007, which also requires that all QMS be ISO certified.  

As for other branches of government, state colleges and universities are “enjoined” and the judiciary, legislature, local government units, and constitutional offices are “encouraged” to establish their QMS.

EO 605 was issued by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was the first technocrat head of state, but she was unable to institute technocracy all across the board during that time.

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Her EO 605 was a significant step towards ensuring that people in the executive branch, from decision-makers to support staff, are held to international standards in their work performance.

Technocrats value this method so highly that during the Aquino administration, the establishment and maintenance of a QMS was tied to an agency’s incentive system, in that without a QMS, government entities cannot avail of the performance-based bonus or PBB.

I am now helping a small national government agency establish their QMS. For technical assistance, we reached out to the Development Academy of the Philippines, which conducts QMS trainings for government agencies.

Our small NGA was fortunate enough to have been selected as a beneficiary agency of the DAP and the Government Quality Management Program, which saved us from having to pay the tuition fees. Through this project, agencies with low budgets can still avail of technical assistance for their QMS.  

The QMS is aligned with the ISO 9001:2015 standard, “which ensures the consistency of products and services through quality processes,” as EO 605 puts it.

A DAP consultant said that to date, only 25 percent of government agencies are ISO certified. But it has been twelve years since EO 605; why the low compliance?

One reason is that some government agencies anticipate that ‘going ISO’ will involve a lot of work that they don’t want to do. This is true; aligning processes with the ISO standard means extra work for the personnel involved, work on top of their regular jobs that they still have to perform. It means stress, late nights, rushing to and fro, and general ngaragan.    

But nothing worth having comes easy, as the saying goes. As a prominent strategic planning consultant told me, for the organizations that take the plunge, there is one generation that is the ‘sacrificial lamb,’ the batch of personnel that take on the responsibility and make the short-term sacrifices not only for themselves but for those who come after them, and for the agency’s future.

As with many other endeavors, it’s starting out that’s difficult. After obtaining ISO certification, it’s only a matter of maintenance and improvement—easy!

What should an organization starting its QMS journey need to know?

It’s important to form a group that will be the Core Team and another that will be the Secretariat. The former includes top management, senior and middle management, the planning officer, and other relevant persons—the thinkers and writers.

The latter group will bear the brunt of the grunt work—booking the training venues, reproducing and distributing materials, making sure ‘homework’ is submitted on time, gathering everyone for trainings and meetings, and more. There should be a mix here of doers, thinkers, and writers.

There is going to be a tremendous amount of writing, particularly when it comes time to write the organization’s quality manual. All processes under the scope of certification will need to be scrutinized, adjusted, and streamlined into their best versions that will deliver the highest quality goods or services to the customers or stakeholders.       

In case the agency lacks sufficiently trained or skilled manpower, it’s time to review the human resource plans and processes for training. The hiring criteria might need to be overhauled as well.

I’d advise looking for people with technical skills, because there are many in government who are not tech-savvy, as in they can’t even use a laptop or software like Excel (but they’re a whiz on Facebook and othe social media!). As a result, they are not pulling their weight, and a lot of the tasks they should be doing have to be farmed out to better skilled employees—an unfair situation.

However, the strategic planning consultant told me, “Hire mainly for attitude, not so much skills. Skills can be taught, but it is very difficult to change attitude.” Shun the whiners, the pessimists, the negative thinkers, the gossipers. Choose those who can work well in teams, have integrity, passion, and a desire for excellence, and those who have malasakit for the agency and country.  

Before embarking on establishing a QMS, have an agency-wide strategic planning session first to determine or refresh the organization’s vision, mission, values, strategic objectives, and societal impact. All these shall be required in the QMS (they are included in the QMS Manual).

To all the NGAs, GOCCs, and GFIs undergoing QMS training and gunning for certification, good luck to all of you and thank you for taking this step to ensure that you are delivering quality services to the people.

May other uncertified government agencies soon follow suit, and may those who haven’t undergone full scope certification do so soon, so that the people may be assured of quality processes and performance in all aspects of  those agencies’ operations.

Good governance and management is results-based and quality-oriented. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

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