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Friday, 24 January 2020

Organisation with a heart ♡


How would one describe the public sector? Some would say 'a heart of service', 'welfare' or 'compassionate'; while other would say 'inefficient', 'bureaucratic' or 'uncompromising'. I guess it all depends on whether you are looking outwards or inwards. To its beneficiaries, the public sector shows compassion and kindness, or at least attempts to put on such a facade. But to its workers, it tends to appear cold, harsh, and even heartless at times (and I am speaking with the perspective of someone who works in the public sector).

At the birth of an organisation, the vision, roles, rules and relationships (what we call the V3R framework) are being set. However, as human beings, we tend to have different interpretations of the same vision, role, rule or relationship; and hence, problems and conflicts arise. To remove ambiguity and ensure that everyone is 'on the same page', standard operating procedures (SOPs in short) are written and are expected to be abided to at all cost. And as more problems arise, more areas of ambiguity are uncovered and more SOPs are written.

Over time, before every action or decision is made, one has to go through a series of SOPs to ensure that there are no negative repercussions for him or her. As a result, the room for individual discretion narrows significantly and any diversion from the norm warrants an investigation or some form of punishment. As someone who values freedom and kindness above everything else, I believe that while it is necessary to have a set of guidelines on how we should act and make decision, we should learn to take it with a pinch of salt. It is not the law; and even the law requires some level of human discretion. Furthermore, just as the law is not timeless, SOPs need to be reviewed, and challenged, over and over again to ensure that they keep up with the times.

I think my point is, we cannot and should not dehumanise the organisation. We cannot remove human agency from the organisation. While setting SOPs do indeed help to remove ambiguity and improve efficiency in certain situations, they should be practised with kindness and, frankly speaking, some common sense. The organisation is not a building, or a set of rules. It is the people who make up the organisation, no matter how big it may be. And so, it is absolutely possible to have an organisation with a heart.

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