Tan Hwee Hwee | Interview with Kok Ping Soon
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Interview with Kok Ping Soon

My article on Kok Ping Soon, Deputy Secretary (Development) of the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore came out in Challenge magazine, which is published by the Prime Minister’s Office.

You can read the article at

http://www.challenge.gov.sg/print/a-cuppa-with-/i-believe-in-over-communication

An excerpt of the interview:

 “I Believe In Over-Communication” – Kok Ping Soon On Communicating To Affect Change

Mr Kok Ping Soon uses his passion for communications to create impactful change within the Ministry of Manpower.

One of the first things Mr Kok Ping Soon did upon joining the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in 2014 was to tag along incognito with officers on their inspections of chemical plants, shipyards and foreign workers’ dormitories.

The then recently appointed Deputy Secretary (Development) saw dorms resembling military barracks and construction sites with shaky scaffolding. He also gained a better picture of how MOM’s inspectors enforce safe working environments.

Visiting worksites and housing was quite a change, Mr Kok jokes, from visiting theme parks and high-end restaurants as part of his work assessing tourism products in his previous jobs with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and later the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

But those undercover trips showed him, first-hand, what some of the MOM officers do. Mr Kok then shared his experiences in his blog on the MOM intranet, so that others would know too.

Talking a mile a minute and peppering his observations with colloquialisms and Singlish, Mr Kok is clearly passionate about communication at work. He is also fond of using abbreviations. The 45-year-old describes his role at the MOM as being about the “three Es — making the MOM more efficient, more effective and more engaged”.

“My job includes looking at how we can be more effective and clearer in our communications to staff,” Mr Kok says.

He hosts lunchtime meetings, called “MOM Bites”, to help MOMers, as staff in the ministry are known, understand policies better. Mr Kok also holds informal engagement sessions with MOMers — so far, he has met almost 500 officers (out of a total of 1,700 staff) through these dialogues. These sessions bring together people from different parts of the organisation and allow many who have never met before to interact. At the same time, it provides him an opportunity to get feedback on organisational issues.

As most MOMers do not know what happens in senior management meetings, such sessions are also opportunities for Mr Kok to share the latest developments and priorities. He also uses his blog to respond to any unanswered questions after townhall sessions. As he puts it: “If you bother to ask, I’ll bother to answer.”

“I believe in over-communication,” Mr Kok continues. “I believe in anchoring the organisation on its mission, vision and values. I over-communicate on these three things as a way to align MOMers to our business objectives and promote our organisational initiatives.”