It's Hip To Be Square: A Retrospective On Earlier Versions of Challenge

Challenge took on a new shape from 1997. While its form stood out, many of the concerns of the day still resonate today.

From small and squat to long and lean: Challenge metamorphosed into yet another shape from 2002. Check out the May/June issue to find out more!

Two years after Challenge started in 1995, the magazine was revamped into a square format. The editorial team then didn’t print why they chose that rather unusual new shape, or why the magazine’s masthead changed thrice from 1997 to 2002.

But perhaps the magazine’s varying looks reflected its focus on continual improvement. On the inside, stories on spurring productivity and innovation abounded – and even simple ideas from public officers were feted. To improve writing skills within the Public Service, for instance, Challenge highlighted new writing courses at the Civil Service College and a public officer’s suggestion to have a booklet of guidelines for various kinds of communication.

Even then, a fondness for acronyms was evident. Public Officers Working on Eliminating Red-tape, or POWER, was set up to bust bureaucratic barriers by scrapping “cumbersome and obsolete public sector rules”. Public officers could send suggestions to a POWER website or attend POWER sessions to discuss Government Instruction Manuals.

In a regular column, Mr Lim Siong Guan, former Head of Civil Service, often mused on real-life events or proverbial tales. Once, he told of a choked, smelly drain that had not been cleared for some time as no one knew who was in charge of it. (Sounds familiar?) Eventually, the PUB’s Drainage Department was made the lead agency for all drainage issues. They would receive and re-direct feedback regardless of who owned the drain – long before the Municipal Services Office of today!

    Mar 18, 2015
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