RCSC leadership assessment raises eyebrows

Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC)

The commission said it will continue to manage out underperforming civil servants regardless of seniority and position

LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu

Even as the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) implements a paradigm shift in leadership in the civil service, there continues to be debate as to how efficient these measures will be in gauging their performance.

The RCSC may, on grounds of public interest, have a well-established mechanism to manage out persistent sub-standard performers from the service. But the debate relates to whether such a level of the evaluation procedure is appropriate to remove them.

For instance, the RCSC’s process included assessments based on the executive’s work plans, responses to realistic work-related scenarios, leadership feedback provided by their supervisors, peers, and subordinates, and performance during group and individual interviews.

In this connection, there appear to be deeply held views that such a procedure is not an honest reflection given that leadership feedback and performance assessment (Individual Work Plan) has been the root cause of problems among civil servants. It has been accused of being one individual’s prerogative and thinks the rating is unjustified.

Some even say that such performance assessments are complicated, which has deterred the management to yield expected results and has caused them to “turn a blind eye” to those underperformers thus affecting the overall performance of civil servants.

While the RCSC did not respond to this development, an official said that accountability is the main driving force to fundamentally reshape the civil service into an efficient and effective institution that delivers the national objectives.

“The panel assessed the executives’ personnel management instincts, their ability to approach issues from a higher vantage point, collaborate with one another beyond their organizational boundaries. Among others, their drive and ability to deliver results, as well as their ability to prepare themselves, their teams, and organizations for the future is also considered,” said the official.

However, the official added that these unprecedented leadership assessments have underscored the importance of having a system that continuously assesses the current performance and potential of civil servants, at all position levels, to effectively differentiate better performers from the underperformers.

Some say the assessments are not focused on the leadership of the candidates. They say some executives who got through the assessments are those who got the gift of the gab with bad leadership qualities while some being managed out are those who speak less but shouldered the most important qualities of a good leader.

In addition, while the RCSC assures securing a better future for children, past experiences reveal that there has been no culture, among elected or civil servants, whereby they have asked their subordinates what they expect of them as a leader.

Going forward, the official says the performance will be closely monitored to bring their performance up to the required standard. Under the system, good performers will be given due recognition and rewards, whereas underperformers will be managed out.

“Collectively, these initiatives represent the fundamental shift in the RCSC’s approach towards leadership selection and performance management,” the official said, adding that the current personnel management system is under review to shift the entire civil service to a more effective in supporting transformation.

Further, it is also a customary practice that the executives’ job is just to sign the papers while some do not even bother to read the papers before signing. Some heads of organizations don’t even know what is happening within their own organizations despite being well-informed and warranting urgent measures.

RCSC says it remains committed to ensuring that the civil service leadership has the necessary competencies and foresight to navigate the complex challenges that we are grappling with as a nation.

“The decision to manage out the executives who did not meet expectations has been a difficult but necessary one to emphasize that performance and accountability start with the top leadership,” added the official.

Meanwhile, during the past couple of months, the country witnessed important reforms in civil service that had an impact on the role and position of senior and executive civil servants where they came under pressure.

While 40 percent of executives at the Secretary, Director-General, and Director levels could not excel in the leadership assessment exercise, it was learned that some chiefs and senior officers have already submitted their voluntary resignations.

The assessment will manage out civil servants, regardless of seniority, who find themselves unable to keep pace with these changes and therefore unable to effectively serve the citizens.