Cynthia Celebre, 2015

PAHRODF Case Studies

Results Story 3:  Enhancing Management Competencies

Towards Becoming a Centre of Excellence

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) leaders should be knowledgeable, innovative, visionary, credible, and have a passion for public service. These are the qualities Dr. Cynthia Celebre, head of PAGASA’s Research and Development division had sought to foster among the movers and shakers of PAGASA. With an intervention programme on management and leadership through the assistance of the Philippine Australia Human Resource and Organisational Development Facility (PAHRODF), she is confident that these qualities have further been strengthened.

Dr. Celebre, whose division oversees the conduct of PAGASA research and training courses, describes the intervention as being about enhancing the competencies of PAGASA leaders. Recognising the value of the intervention to her organisation, she also makes mention of its role in her own development. “During this intervention, we were able to review our SWOT – the strengths and weaknesses of the agency, re-visit our mission/vision, and develop the core values of PAGASA. My personal goal was to improve my own management competency and my working relationship with PAGASA leaders, as well as my communication skills.”

Unexpected bonus

Held from September 2012 to January 2013, the PAHRODF intervention was attended by leaders and members of PAGASA’s executive staff, comprised of agency heads, deputies and division chiefs.

In an unexpected turn of events during the intervention, she recognised and welcomed the unprecedented opportunity to get to know her peers. Working and interacting together in the course of the intervention, the participants came to know each other on a personal level.

“I have been working with PAGASA for 35 years. During my stay, I only met the leaders, the executive staff members, during meetings. It was all official,” she confides. The intervention provided the perfect milieu and opportunity to break down the walls that used to divide them, making future collaboration and working together easier. “Through knowing each other, we were able to establish a relationship so that when we get back to the office, we would not have to work so hard just to cooperate with each other,” she says.

She also lauds PAHRODF’s approach during the intervention. Emphasising that the programme was for the benefit of the agency rather than the individual, this really helped the organisation focus more on improving as a unit, for the collective good of the agency. “The intervention that they were going to conduct with PAGASA was institutional-based and not individual-based. It is the best thing that PAHRODF can offer the agency because it will really improve the competency of the agency leaders,” she notes.

Likewise pleased with the service provider, Dr. Celebre credits them as being professional, friendly, and giving their best.  This enabled her to learn and absorb more from the training. She explains, “If you trust your provider, you give the best that you have and also learn what you can get from the training.”

Though she admits that while there may be no barriers to fully implement and practice what she has learned, she really needs to push herself more. “You always have to think about the agency. I have to improve myself as a leader to be able to lead my staff well,” she shares.

The way forward

In meeting her Re-entry Action Plan (REAP), a plan designed to apply her learnings to organisational gaps in the agency after the intervention, Dr. Celebre focused on her top concerns. These include  the need to harmonise the technical and non-technical training programmes, and the improvement of current processes for awarding scholarships and fellowships.

In her opinion, a big obstacle to implementing the first part of her REAP lies within the two divisions conducting training courses in PAGASA: Dr. Celebre’s Research and Development division, which conducts the technical courses, and the Administrative division (HRMS), which takes care of the non-technical programmes. A  gap seems to have been troubling the two divisions for some time, little helped by the fact that work constraints have prevented the other division from attending the same intervention programme.

With the absence of HRMS during the initial intervention, the two divisions have definitely not been on the same page. The result is a continuing and frequent conflict in overlapping schedules, with the two divisions finding themselves in the same place, but conducting different courses. With better communication and coordination, a lot of resources – time, effort and travelling expenses, could be saved, while allowing more people to attend. “So we try to give our schedules. And at the same time, we get their schedules also so that we can harmonise,” she explains.

To this end, Dr. Celebre has instructed her staff in the training division to communicate with the training section of the HRMS, so they can coordinate activities to avoid overlapping and conflicting schedules. Her envisioned solution is to develop a manual of operations with clearly defined work standards that both training branches can understand. On completion of the manual, she plans to present it to the staff members, so that everyone can take ownership of these processes and make them easier to implement.

Also in the works is the revision of guidelines for the awarding of fellowships and scholarships, which is currently under review for the signature of the agency head. Though there is an existing policy, Dr. Celebre feels this needs to be updated to follow the structure of the REAP. “I thought about the REAP because I think capacity building is very important to PAGASA. We want to include the REAP because we think it is a good practice for the scholar to apply what he has learned to improve our agency performance.”

Ripples of change

While the manual of operations and the revised process for awarding scholarships and fellowships continue to be works in progress, Dr. Celebre feels that the effects of the PAHRODF intervention are already evident. The learnings she got have contributed to the agency’s accomplishments, citing the recent successful installation of two weather metbuoys in the areas of Palawan and Matnog.

Facing and convincing the mayors of Palawan and Matnog to install these metbuoys, Dr. Celebre owes her increased self-confidence to PAHRODF’s leadership intervention. A project implemented through the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology conducting research and development in the advanced fields of microelectronics, information and communications technology, Dr. Celebre discovered a newfound sense of authority in spearheading this endeavour.

“I was with ASTI talking to  the leaders to help us find a suitable site to install the metbuoys. We had to convince them that it was very important for them, especially for the fishermen, because it will help them know whether a typhoon is coming. It is a sort of early warning system.” The metbuoy, she went on to explain, is a type of automatic weather station. While the standard weather station is land based, the metbuoy is water based. With sensors for wind, temperature, pressure, relative humidity and rainfall, these are identical to those found in other automatic weather systems.

Dr. Celebre further shares that to be a leader, the agency needs to be assertive as well as visible. PAGASA, she ruefully admits, has never been very assertive. In terms of visibility, this is also key for the agency to be the authority on weather information. “Have you noticed how many pseudo meteorologists there are challenging PAGASA? So in answer to this challenge, PAGASA has crafted a strategic plan to make PAGASA the sole weather service provider.”

Part of this is “laymanising” their campaign, the objective of which is to create a better understanding of the workings of the agency. By educating the general public on the services and weather bulletins PAGASA issues periodically, people will hopefully know what to do in cases  of incoming weather disturbances.

Center of Excellence

In order to fully achieve her REAP, Dr. Celebre is relying on the full backing of the executive level. She notes that happily, staff support has so far been enthusiastic. In fact, because the PAHRODF programme has been well received, a second intervention programme on strategic planning was conducted, with staff from HRMS finally in attendance. “It helps because we all want to be the center of excellence. This is our vision,” she shares. With their common experience, understanding and desire to cooperate and work together, they can now walk side by side to turn this vision into reality.

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