Ramil Villasis, 2015

PAHRODF Case Studies

Results Story 10:  Restructuring the Organisation

Human Resource Rationalisation and Maximum Productivity

The Provincial Road Management Facility or PRMF, funded by the Australian Government, aims to develop good governance in connection with road projects. As Australia Awards Scholarships recipient Ramil Villasis puts it, the very nature of his office’s work involves close collaboration with the facility. “Our main concern is infrastructure. If you look at the carriers of the Province of Guimaras, infrastructure cross-cuts everything - the economy, health, environment, land.  There is always infrastructure support.”  The role of his office, the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) of the Province of Guimaras is in management development. This includes personnel, construction supervision, project implementation, road safety, etc. “The challenge for me is how to organize the people,” he stresses.

For one reason or another however, government offices generally tend to be overstaffed. The Guimaras Local Government Unit (LGU) where Ramil works as acting provincial engineer is no exception. Originally, his Re-Entry Action Plan or REAP focused on the use of computer aided design in the application of engineering and operations techniques. However, while pursuing his Masters in Engineering Management at the University of Newcastle in Australia, he changed his mind. He muses, “I believe computer-aided skills can be obtained at home. We have training for that.  We can buy books for that.”

What actually triggered his change of heart however was the organisational diagnosis conducted through the PRMF which disclosed that there was an excess of non-technical personnel in the PEO. The human resource imbalance at his office was glaring and could not be ignored. “Actually my REAP, a plan designed to apply his learnings to organisational gaps,was to enhance our office. But that idea (the diagnosis) triggered me to change my REAP from computer aided design to organisational design,” he adds.

So the first thing he did upon his return was to submit a proposal for structural reorganisation. The output, intended to address the imbalance in the staffing of his office, received prompt support from the Provincial Government of Guimaras. An output of this REAP is the reorganization of the PEO structure and his plan to provide a manual of work flow within the office.

To achieve these objectives and promote a sense of ownership, he has tried to involve his colleagues in his REAP, believing that their collective efforts would yield a greater good. “I told them, ‘This is our situation now. We just don’t realise that we are spending much, but we are not getting the output needed for our office.’ By telling them what is happening and what we should be doing, we can make a change that is not only mine, but ours. We will be doing good and it will be our legacy to this office,” he shares.

Overcoming the obstacles

However, while the organisational restructuring plans have been approved, according to Ramil, its implementation may stretch to more than a year since it will require the staggered release of personnel. His REAP, though ready to get off the ground, cannot be fully realised as it is dependent on certain parameters. “We have to wait for some people to retire, or be accommodated elsewhere. To tell you frankly, my REAP is not yet fully implemented because people tend to refuse if you try and bring them outside their comfort zone and organisational restructuring will affect many persons. Our office was always known to have an over supply of workforce. Over-manned because a lot are just drivers who take personnel to other offices to augment their services. But the composition of technical staff is very low. We were just 24, with only 11 engineers out of a workforce of 71. So that’s the basic challenge in the implementation.”

Then, there are budgetary and human resource issues that need to be addressed.  Reorganisation means increasing the number of technical staff while decreasing the number of non-technical staff. Understandably, there is apprehension on the part of some personnel whose numbers may be affected. “But I told them that they are part of it - the change, and I also let them feel ownership of the change,” he quips.

Superhero status

Coming home, an amusing sidelight was the reception he received from some members of the Guimaras Provincial Government. “They looked at me, or treated me like a superhero;  like I knew everything, being a scholar from Australia. So a lot of responsibilities were given to me. I had to attend various seminars. In one seminar, one module took one week. So I had to go home, change my clothes, do some laundry, then go again to attend another seminar - very hectic. But I told them it may not be very effective for me to do so many things. Eventually they realised that I am not a superhero.”  And so, the extra work load was delegated to others.

Support as key

Despite the difficulties, Ramil is thankful for the support he has been receiving. While trying to identify positions required, he has managed to get some ideas from colleagues as to how they can be more effective and efficient in the delivery of services. He adds, “And then, there is also the support of other provincial government personnel. It was a very good experience coordinating with them. You can feel how important what you are doing is. Nakakataba ng puso (It’s heartwarming.).”

Ramil also discloses that his biggest hurdle was when there was a change in leadership upon his return. Aside from contending with issues within his office to effect his REAP, he was also faced with the bigger dilemma of getting the higher-ups to approve it. This is obviously a challenge to the implementation of any REAP, as what may have received the nod of a previous administration, may not necessarily earn the support of the next one.

Fortunately for Ramil, he managed to get the governor’s consent to proceed with his REAP. “Change in leadership means change in priority. So what I did was set an appointment with the new governor. I brought my organisational structure, the financial analysis, and explained how it will be balanced with the work assignments of the PEO. It’s good that he (the governor) understood and gave me the go signal.  That was really a fulfilling moment.”

Becoming more proactive

While Ramil’s REAP is still waiting to bear fruit, he has not remained idle as he currently concerns himself with the implementation of good management practices. Ramil believes that even though his key result areas remain essentially the same, what he is currently trying to do will however have a great impact on the effective and efficient delivery of services.

In fact, the organisation has already undergone notable transformation. Making it a point to share and institute his project management learnings from his studies abroad, Ramil says that PEO has now become proactive and transparent. He explains, “Actually my learnings under the programme of engineering management are very important. Before, we were reactive in doing things. We waited for problems to come up, then we took the responsibility of addressing them. But we are shifting to becoming proactive, anticipating what should be done, so that we can avoid problems in the future.”

Taking the extra step to involve the community during project planning, Ramil says that they too feel ownership of the project. By getting them on board - explaining their role, the output and results, the community feels very much a part of it and knows what to expect. “Now in doing project implementation, we are more transparent. They know about the project and they feel ownership of the project. That is management.”

Likewise, his openness to share with his personnel what he has learned regarding project management, including the engineering tools that he has acquired has increased the competency of his people. As testament to this, two of them have already been pirated by other offices. “They are doing very well. I am glad about that,” he proudly says. Believing in the abilities of many more in his organisation, he continues, “I know that some of the personnel now are being ‘capacitated’. I just need to put them in their proper places in order for them to give maximum output to the Provincial Government of Guimaras.”

Developing competencies

With all of the positive changes that he sees going on, Ramil can’t help but recall what their local chief executive once said.  Echoing what he heard, he says, “In order for us to develop in Guimaras, we have to strengthen our human resource and the answer is PAHRODF.”

Leaving a good impression on Ramil, he describes the people that run the facility as supportive and accommodating. He also thinks that the University of Newcastle was a good venue for the learnings, providing him with the “additional armour” he needs. As he puts it, “An armour of knowledge that I can use to address the gaps in our organisation.”

Having gone through the scholarship and feeling grateful for what he has gained, Ramil only wishes that others could also share the same experience. “I would like for them to share the competencies that are being achieved through that scholarship; to experience the opportunity of mingling with other cultures; to widen their perspective in life.” Sadly though, because of his colleagues’ failure in IELTS, his office has not been able to send other deserving employees again after his stint. “It’s really unfortunate that we missed the 6 slots,” he laments.

For Ramil, being able to send more people on a scholarship does not only improve their capabilities. Rationalising manpower is one thing but ultimately, there is no better way to maximise productivity than more people sharing similar competencies. “It will be easy for me to work with some colleagues that have these skills, scholarship, this programme. The more of us, the merrier,” he ends.

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