Driving performance in the public sector: what can we learn from Malaysia’s service delivery reform?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which Malaysia’s most recent public service reform has improved service delivery and governmental performance. It also endeavors to identify critical success factors that explain reform performance and draw lessons based on the Malaysian experience.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts a case study approach and draws on data from both primary and secondary sources. Besides a thorough review of official documents and existing literature, the author conducted 20 individual interviews with key informants representing government officials, academics and civil society organizations.

Findings: The study shows that despite some pitfalls and misgivings, the Government Transformation Program (GTP) has produced concrete improvements in service delivery areas where previous reforms failed. One of the factors that underpin GTP’s relative success is the detailed performance management framework, which helped foster inter-agency collaboration and enforce accountability for results at various levels.

Practical implications: The GTP success highlights the significance of adapting reform content to local situations especially when reforms are based on external models; sanctions from the highest political office; a dedicated unit to drive the implementation and an effective performance management framework through which individuals and agencies would be held to account for results achieved.

Originality/value: Despite many and varied reform initiatives attempted in the past, cases of successful reform are rare, especially in developing countries. Little is known on what makes a reform work, a gap exacerbated by notable absence of systematic research on this topic. The paper contributes to address this by reviewing Malaysia’s innovative approach to reform and the insights that the Malaysian experience offers.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Productivity and Performance Management
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Key performance indicators
  • Malaysia
  • New public management
  • Performance improvement
  • Service delivery

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