Feminine values and performance of the International Cooperation Department of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) of Vietnam

The Department of International Cooperation is one of the functional units of the Vietnam National  Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), a national leading center of civil servant training. In the process of country renovation and public administration reforms, NAPA has been faced with new requirements of quality improvement to respond to the changing situations. New challenges in international cooperation practices also requires NAPA to make changes for sustainable ts international cooperation, which, in turn, is used as crucial means to realise the academy’s development objectives. It is also expected to extend the organization’s international relations and develop its prestige in the foreign arena. International cooperation also enables exchange and transfer of modern modern management skills for enhanced the capacity of training and researching in public administration and public policy and high quality administrative  human resources  to  meet requirements of the country’s industrialization, modernization and international integration.

Globalization and international integration has brought about new opportunities as well as challenge for NAPA’s international cooperation . In a changing world, NAPA is taking a shift from stability and continuity in focus to flexibility and responsiveness in all organizational practices in general and international cooperation activities in particular. International copperation is, therefore required to be more innovative and of high quality and become a a continuous learning inspiring innovation in  NAPA’s training and researching .

While assuming workload of much higher volume and quality with limited human resources, maily of them are women, the International Cooperation Department (ICD) has been sucesfully  promoting the dominant feminine values to take advantage of these unique features to overcome the challenges, constantly improve performance, build a positive working atmosphere, and develop solidarity, cohesion, and a helping-hand habit among staff foer their well-being.  to balance their family life and career. This article refers to the feminine values in  the organization, their application and promotion for enhanced department performance and atmosphere of in NAPA’s International Cooperation Department.

  1. Overview of values and feminine values

Values are what we consider important and bawsed on which we make choices and decisions and take actions and behaviors. Values are the driving force for the actions of individuals, therefore, the value of an individual push him/her to act in a certain direction, which can be consistent or inconsistent with the organizational’s expectations . Organizations can only function well if its members share common values. Values are a kind of glue of sticking people, make people act in the same direction, make them more comfortable, forming an harmony atmosphere  and a healthy culture within an organization. Obviously, in management practice, it is the values which decide a person’s attitude and behavior in an organization, attitudes and behavior, in their tuurn  determine the operation of an organization.

In tracing the emergence of the concept of the “masculine” and “feminine” values, the Sociologists and anthropologists considered that each culture produced specific “masculine” and “feminine” capabilities. The value of “masculine” is often associated with the ability of hunters, warriors, prone methods disrupt the balance of nature. In contrast, the value of “feminine” are often tied to the capacity of the farming and cultivation, associated  with a deep understanding, the intuition on the nature, which is the strength of women. On the other hand, the role of a mother, a wife of the woman in the family, in terms of sociology, physiology, is also a role in the direction of “production” and “creation”.

According to Daniel Bollinger and Geert Hofstede (1987), masculity and feminility are two poles of a continuum determining the importance attributed to the values of the success and ownership (masculine values) and the values of the social environment and mutual help, mutual assistance (feminine values).

Odile Solomon (2008) suggested that the “masculine” values are ​​produced from the normative behaviors, often constructed by men group who dominate our previous cultures. These values ​​are easy to recognize because they dominated socio- politic  and working relationship environment. In short, theses values are ​​associated with rationality, antipodal or unipolar, scientific thinking, self realisation, competitiveness, combatting, self determination, power ambition, competition, fighting, dominance, the ability to make decisions and independent.

According to this author, the feminine values derived from the feminine competency that women have developed, derived from physiological characteristics in the process of giving birth, raising children, in the course of existence in the history of the development society as a vulnerable group. So feminine values ​​associated with what belongs to the “life”, “growing”, “cultivation”, more specifically, it’s associated with strong intitution, reconigning implicit or invisible thing, understand more complex relationships, empathy with the natural environment, relational ability, sensibility, the ability to listen, receive, ability to learn, more sensitive to others, flexible, adaptable, easy to accept the change and uncertainty, there is significant demand for more work needs to survive. Feminine values are associated with specific thing, searching for a balance between the different moments in the life.

From the perspective of organizational management, masculine values are ​​associated with the capacity of rational thinking, assertive, competition, risk taking, decision-making ability; feminine values ​​associated with the capacity to listen, support  and respect for others, the intermediate trend, specific reconciliation, details, sharing, searching for unity, understanding the complexity,  searching for meaning, cooperation and balance between family and career.

It is noted that the feminine values are more present ​​in women, but does not mean that only women have these values, men can fully receive and develop them, and vice versa, women can also receive and develop masculine values, in addition to their own value system.

  1. Promote feminine values ​​for the effective operation of the ICD

In the context of globalization, information revolution,  increasing competition, financial crisis, organizations need to be more flexible and adaptable, and build partnerships. The role of the feminine values ​​in effective performance of an organization is therefore increasingly recognized. A recent study by the Center for Applied Research Management of the University of Nice has shown that organizations with female nature management style is better able to cope with the crisis and conduct therefore transition more successfully.

Being awared of the increasing requirements of international cooperation and department;s characteristics, the International Cooperation Department has applied a values based management model, which promotes the  dominant  values of women   to build a common culture of the organization, focuses on five fundamental values: 1) Flexibility – adaptation; 2) Cooperation ; 3) Sense of responsibility; 4) Respect for difference; 5) The meaning of the work. We refers  to these values ​​and contributions of the feminine values ​​in establishing organizational values, enhancing the performance of the organisation.

2.1. Flexibility and adaptation

In order to cope with competitive pressures and changes in the functional environment, NAPA has to switched its orientations to adapt to the new requirements. As a critical supporting tool to  this transition, the international cooperation must quickly identify the new requirements of the change, the overall objectives of NAPA to to redirect and to support it timely. In the same time, it has to reconsider its current way of working,  looking for new ways of doing  more appropriate to the new situation.

In this context, the leaders of ICD always have to be flexible, quickly identify the orientation of changing of NAPA, which is  not always clearly stated. In fact, in the recent years, ICD has provided practical and timely support to the academy’s major transformation of NAPA from theory oriented to practice-oriented training, from service category -based to position-based training, from supply-based to demand–based training delivery, including delivery of master training programs in public financial management, public policy, etc.

It’s not always easy to implement change, especially when changes occur frequently, quickly and resources for change are limited. The reason why ICD is successful in implementing transformation and adaptation is it knows how to refer to strong feminine values as sensitive, flexibility, adaptability, and  ability to listen. Specifically, it has focused on the organization’s objectives, identified and analyzed the situation and seized opportunities,. ICD maintains thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation to be ready to change its  direction in the line with the general direction of the Academy. ICD search partnerships, resources and support for the NAPA development in the context of resource constraints. In action, the ICD officers are always looking forward, adjust their behavior and adapt themselves to new organisational circumstances and requirements, supporting in the most active manner to the development of NAPA. ICD has also  made innovative  and feasible proposals of innovation, and persuade NAPA leaders to support and approve the proposal realization.

2.2 Cooperation

Gabriele Eibner has said: “It is critical to the weak gender to collaborate together to be more powerful,”. In fact, the ability to collaborate is one of the dominant values of women. Leaders of the ICD  has recognised and taken this advantage to develop “cooperation” to be one of the important values ​​in the unit, which did not prevail in the context of international cooperation was considered as specific activities not requiring participation and linkage with general activities of different faculties, departments, and units inside NAPA. Relationships with international partners was scattered, passive, dependent on the partner’s assistance, and dit not focus on NAPA’s development objectives. Programs, collaborative projects have therefore been unsustainable and exerted positive impacts on NAPA’s performance of.

To make “cooperation” a common department value,  ICD has built up an oganizational structure and operational mechanism and  work assigning in the way of facilitating the collaborative process. ICD leaders share with their staff the meaning of the cooperation and partnership building for the common work of the ICD, to create favorable conditions to support the members of the unit in building effective cooperation relationships with other units and individuals inside and outside NAPA. At the same time, the ICD leaders must help the staff in the unit to solve the problems encountered in the process of cooperation.

In relations with international partners, the ICD represents NAPA to  exchange and cooperate with different international organizations, training institutions of different continents, with different levels of development, the specific and divers cultures, which are sometimes very different from the Vietnamese national one. The ICD has paid attention to determine the types and strengths of the partners to establish and maintain partnerships according to the development orientation of NAPA. It has adopted  the result based management approach to etablish and implement  partnerships in line with NAPA development objectives. On the other hand, the members of the ICD actively participate into the negotiation of agreements, on the basis of mutual benefit (rather than waiting pasively for suggestions from partners like before). The exchange of information with partners also occurs frequently and more rapidly, to ensure commitment in the implementation of the mutual agreement, this helps to build a trust relationships with partners, enhancing the “ownership” of NAPA, the prerequisite for the development of a strategic effective and sustainable partnerships.

In relationships with clients, the ICD has to contact, support and respond to the needs of the quite  wide  range of   customers, from students for degree trainings to the middle and high ranking officers of different countries in the South East region like Laos, India, Bangladesh, MSc student under the Government Manager Training project of  165. In the process of operation and service provision, the ICD has evaluated and respect the needs of the customers, try to satisfy their needs within the limits and constraints of the organization.

In addition, the ICD has etablished the partnerships with various organizations and institutions ouside NAPA such as the ICD of the Hochiminh National Academy of Politics and Public Administration, Office of manager training Project of 165, Ministry of Home Affaires, Ministry of Foreign Affairs etc. It  has been succesfully established a sustainable and truthful partnerships with  these institutions, facilitating significantly the process of activity implementation.

ICD is on of a few departments maintaining a diverse and regular cooperation with  other units inside NAPA: ICD coordinates with the Post Graduate Faculty in joint master training program  and Laotian graduate student management, with the Department of Civil Servants Training in position based training imprementation and management of international students, with the Institute of Public Administration Science in organizing international conferences, international joint research, research skills training, with the General Office on  the logistical issues, and  with different faculties in the elaboration of international cooperation projects, professional activities, with the Organisational and Personnel Department in selecting the  personnel to participate in overseas study visits, with the Center for Information and Documentation Library, Archives, etc.

The partnerships are also developed inside the ICD. The relationship between leaders and employees, between diferent divisions is  a based on exchanges, negotiations, to realise together the common works by sharing, recognizing and supporting each other, not by imposing whether the ICD leader is the person making the final decision. This partnership based relation makes ICD officers more proactive, inspire their creativity and innovation, allow them to live in an cooperation environment, making the cooperation a common  organisational value, a natural and automatique mechanism in the way of thinking and doing of the members of ICD, make them feel more comfortable and self-conscious in building and maintaining a partnerships.

Undoubtedly, not any international cooperation activities are conducted  without the involvement of the other units in NAPA, which is very different from what happened in the past, when international cooperation had been seen as the special activities purely belonging to ICD. In fact, the participation of other divisions in NAPA helps ICD to understand their difficulties, their needs to design relevant cooperation projects and programs to better satisfy their needs. At the same time, this cooperation allows to mobilize the strengths, the intelligence, promote the synergy to solve multi-dimensional and complex problems to improve efficiency and provide good service cooperation in training and research .

Coordination with the various organisation and institutions, on different subjects  with different cultures and values is not an easy task which requires ICD officers a broad expertise, general background, a capacity to listen in order to decipher the needs and capabilities of potential partners to  mobilize their active and effective participation on the activities of international cooperation.

Moreover, the application of the customer oriented service management is not quite simple, especially in the context that the “ pro-customer culture” is not seen  yet as shared values ​​in NAPA, which somtimes makes the ICD officers feel  frustrated, even hurt  when encountering the conflict of values. Thus, the development and actualisation of the value of “cooperation” in the ICD is long-term and incremetal process, which requires values such as patience, flexibility, dedication, respect, sharing, etc. which are specific feminine values. On this aspect, it seems no coincidence that officials in the ICD often account for a large proportion of women, from 80-90% and is now 100%.

2.3 Sense of responsibility

One of the important qualities of women is a sense of responsibility, dedication to work and caring for  others. The ability to determination of the rights and obligations and the scope of their own responsibility, restect of the organisational objectives, accountable for the consequences of their own actions and decisions, bravely faced with difficult and finding solutions is indispensable quality  of international cooperation officers. Moreover, working in an international environment, with international partners, sometime a broad requires strongly the sense of responsibility for themselves, for the work and with others, which ensures  that the international cooperation officers behave correctly, with cultural values, well realise the activities,  avoid risks and regrettable mistake. The image of the organization and the country was reflected in ICD officers who represent NAPA to carry out international cooperation, therefore, more than anyone, they have to convey the image of an officer responsible for themselves and for their work.

The sense of responsibility, dedication to the work has actually become common values ​​and frequently reinforced inside the ICD.  The members of ICD have determined the individual responsibility, the organisational responsibility in each task, promptly rectify the lack of responsibility, but they are also given a safety space to be encouraged to admit their shortcomings as well as their responsibilities of the problem and have the willingness to fix them. Value of the “sense of responsibility” is magnifested by specific consistent, daily basis behavors. However, having sense of responsibility, be responsible for the consequences of their own actions and decisions doesn’t mean looking for “blaming”  others. When problem occurs, it is important not to determine who’s fault but how to solve problem and what lesson to learn from this. This is deep  common value-based motivations and concerns  guiding ICD officers   actions .

In fact, in  the past years, the ICD officers have always been well appreciated by their sense of responsibility and dedication to work. This allows international co-operation activities done, completed on time with increasing quality, helped convey to the domestic and international partners a positive image of the NAPA staff, creating goodwill and trust among the partners with officers of ICD in particular and NAPA in general, contributing to the maintenance and development of  sustainable partnerships with traditional partners and building the cooperation with new potential ones.

2.4 Respect for difference and the ability to work in a multi-cultural environment

Due to the nature of work, international cooperation staff often work in multi-cultural environment, which requires them to have cultural sensitivity, ability to manage uncertainty, has the ability to communicate on the multiculturalism, cross-culture context and build commitment. To be able to work in a multicultural environment, they need to respect differences, which is basic cultural behavior of people engaged in international cooperation.

In the context of the NAPA to extend cooperation to the different partners in many countries, on all continents with the ethos marked by different national cultural, institutional history and economic development level. The understanding, respect for differences in values, cultural diversity, ready to  receive the different way of thinking and doing, and adapt to these differences is essential to establish and maintain a partnerships. While men embrace unipolar or bipolar values, women emphasizes diversity, looking for similarities in the relationship, this is favorable natural factors allowing female staff of the ICD to work easily and effectively in harmony with international partners.

The ICD officers is not only an partnership agent but also a cultural bridge to convey the meaning and value of cultural characteristics from one cultural environment to the other one, to create harmony, fit in the process of working, learning and researching  between international partners and NAPA.

2.5 The meaning of the work

It is true that the quality of the organization’s activities depends largely on the motivation of its employees. The motivation is not  only cteated by external factors such as physical benefits, but also by internal factors, especially the  meaning of work itself. Women, with their perfectionism, are always looking for improving the quality work without caring to much to the pers. Their joy is often not material benefits that is the meaning of his own work to do.

To help ICD officer to be more awared of the meaning of their work, ICD leader exchanged with them the mission and operational objectives of the ICD in line with the common goal of the organization, encouraged them to think futher about the meaning of work itself. The labor division and organization of ICD are also made to make compatibility between job requirements and the personnel competency, forcussing  job enrichment and enlargement (rather than specialized) to to allow them to manage their tasks as a whole, with more creativity and autonomy, to better feel the relationship between their efforts and work results, and to better see the meaning, the importance of their work, even of each stage of  the workflow so as well as the role of each individual in the overall results of the ICD. At the same time, ICD leaders explain to them the potential consequences due to their error or negligence, fairly reconigned their effort, their progress their successes as well as their contribution to general performance of the ICD.

On the other hand, the ICD female staff are also created the opportunities to contact and exchange with international partners from different cultures, to share their  life style, their ways of thinking, to  learn from them, which cultivate, foster and develop inside  them the pride of their work and the feeling of being useful and doing meaningful work. Through these contacts and exchanges they have larger vision, wider knowledge, know their weakness to constantly improve themselves. It’s efforts of continously improving themselves gives them the satisfaction, the pride and excitement of each working day. It’s this desire to improve themself whis is important factor pusshing ICD staff to continously evolve, improve their performance, to overcome the organisaional difficulties and challenges with the  most strong and determined attitude.

We can say that women working  in the Department of International Cooperation are actually awared of the meaning of their work. According to them, there is no noble or mean job, just a useful or not only. Therefore, they are willing to do the job seemingly trivial and smallest task as long as it’s useful for the common work. It is really important to them is not “doing more” or “more beneficial” but “doing better” every day.

Meaning of the work is a not personal value anymore, rather a collective value among ICD as a whole. Personnel  Management, ultimately is making people work together with sense (Pierre De Cell). Sense means the capacity and strength of each individual is managed and mobilized to carry out the mission, vision and goals of the organization. The ICD has clearly defined the meaning of the international cooperation activities as a means to achieve the general development objective of NAPA. Determination of a common sense has led to the ICD to orient their activities, working in the right direction, in a  more efficient, faster, better manner, just as the ships when it has been determined their habour.

In summary, in the innovation process to responde to rapid changes and an increasingly complex organizational environment, we need more and more people “cultivator” and “gatherers” to cultivate and develop the human relationships and adapt to the organisational changes. We are looking for managers and colleagues with higher emotional quotient (EQ), strong feminine values, since theses qualities and values ​​allows us to effectively handle complex organisational problems and adapt better to the transition. In the condition of women accounted for 100% like in NAPA’s Internation Cooperation Department, the recognition and promotion of dominant values of female staff allows it to mobilize the strengths, potentiality of their staff, make contribution to the overall performance of the Department, create an atmosphere of solidarity, friendship and mutual support among the organisation, and build a balance and harmony between family and work. Recognizing not extremizing  the advantage of the role of the feminine values, leaders and officers of NAPA understands very well that the harmony between male and female values ​​is the right path creating a balance, allowing successful adaptation to the organisational transition. In addition to identifying, maintaining and promoting the feminine value, ICD women staff, especially female managers need to be receptive to learn and develop the masculine values to  add to their own competency “storage”, meeting better the job requirements in a world in transition and increasingly diverstified

Pham Thi Quynh Hoa, General Director of International Cooperation Department, NAPA, Vietnam

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