5 April, 2009

Values of 1 Malaysia – Part 1: A Culture of Excellence


Since I took office as Prime Minister, I found it very encouraging that public acceptance of the 1Malaysia concept has been warm and enthusiastic. While we continue to strive and double our efforts to improve our actions and processes within the government, another key feature in ensuring our success are the values that we must instill to complement our efforts. True enough, action speak louder than words.
While these values are not mutually exclusive, I have chosen a set of eight values that I believe are important to us all. I encourage you to continue visiting my personal website as i introduce these set of values throughout the month. Hopefully we can all take these values to heart. Please continue to share your views and constructive criticisms; it is a clear sign that our dialogue is gaining momentum.

I start today by introducing the first value – Culture of Excellence. You can watch the video here and read the transcript of the video below.

CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE

I truly believe that for us to transform Malaysia and take Malaysia to greater heights of success and achievement the one overarching value that will ensure that Malaysia is on the right trajectory is to make sure that we are imbued with the Culture of Excellence. Because if you have a set of values which would indicate that you have the Culture of Excellence, then everything else will flow and emanate from having this Culture of Excellence.

It is basically a work in progress. But you have to set into motion the kind of things that will actually lead to people realizing the importance of having this Culture of Excellence. For example, by introducing more and more the principle of meritocracy. Then you are stressing on importance of performance, and performance is very much related to the Culture of Excellence.

On the aspects of the Culture of Excellence

I think we have to identify the subsets that relate to the Culture of Excellence. For example being known as a society which believes in the principles of precision. That is a subset of the Culture of Excellence. In other words, you are precise. You are precise in terms of measurement, in terms of time management, in terms of delivery schedule, in terms of quality. If Malaysia is known as a nation that emphasizes on quality and excellence, then every single product that comes from Malaysia, every single service that originates from Malaysia would be seen as having this quality and excellence which is demanded by the world.

I hope to stress a lot on performance based leadership. In other words if you want to transform Malaysia, transformation must be based on performance-based leadership. In the sense that you have specific goals, and your performance can be measured. You can keep track, you can monitor, you can make corrective action. You can even make whatever changes necessary along the way. But it is important for us to have a sense that we are progressing, we are getting better.

I mean, this whole notion of time, Malaysian time, which people make as a joke. Being timely – timeliness in whatever you do. I think that is something people can relate to and see that in the daily lives of all Malaysians. These are the things that I think we can bring about, this greater awareness for us to make the necessary changes. And if you say in terms of how do we internalize this change, I mean, certain expressions like lebih kurang – it should not be that anymore as part of our lexicon of words that we use on a daily basis. We must be more precise in whatever we do, we say, in whatever we want to achieve.

On learning about the Culture of Excellence

My late father was a great motivator, although I didn’t realize it at the time. But very subtly, he imbued us with this desire to succeed and to be the best amongst us, amongst my peers in class, for example. My late father instituted a kind of reward scheme, a small sum of money. Not a princely sum, a small sum of money will be awarded to us if we were to achieve being the number one, top of the class in a given exam or test. It’s not just the money, but you could see the happiness in him if you were to become the top student in your class and the sheer disappointment etched in his face if you fall less than that. That was the starting point in my life to realize how important it is to succeed and to do well in everything that you undertake.