We Are 20! A Retrospective On Earlier Versions of Challenge

This year, Challenge celebrates its 20th birthday. Over the next five issues, we shall look back at the various forms that Challenge has taken on in its journey to communicate the values of the Public Service and the PS21 movement.


Do you know why the magazine you’re reading is called Challenge? The title is not just about the trials of working in the Public Service! Within it are also embedded the words “all” and “change”.

Challenge was started in 1995 by former Head of Civil Service Lim Siong Guan, then Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, in conjunction with the launch of the PS21 movement. PS21 aims to inculcate a culture of change across the whole Public Service, to prepare Singapore for the challenges of the 21st century.

The first Chairman of the Editorial Committee, Mr David Ma, proposed the name to acknowledge the challenge of making PS21 a sustainable movement, with embracing “change” being necessary for it. The word “all” implies that every public officer plays a role in being part of the change.

The first version of Challenge was a 12-page monthly newsletter, with a focus on explaining the purposes of the PS21 movement. The movement builds on the Work Improvement Teams (WITS) and Staff Suggestions Scheme to encourage all officers to share ideas to improve public service. Much of PS21 was based on Mr Lim’s decade-long experience at the Ministry of Defence, where he started the MINDEF Productivity Movement.


To promote the spirit of encouraging change, Challenge mainly featured articles on awards and highlights on service improvements. In an effort to engage everyone, there was also a competition inviting readers to design the logo for the PS21 movement. (The winning logo, which some of you might still be sporting on your access cards, has the shape of a gliding bird that also subtly forms the letters “P” and “S”.)

Challenge covered events such as the 1995 PS21 Public Sector WITS Convention, where ExCEL (Excellence through Continuous Enterprise and Learning) was launched as the new name for the PS21 Functional Committee for WITS, Staff Suggestions and Training.

As you can see, Challenge has come a long way from its humble origins as a newsletter, produced inhouse by the editorial team to report on events and awards. In the March/April issue, learn more about the subsequent version of Challenge, which came in an unusual squat, square shape.

    Jan 13, 2015
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