3 Ways Lean Can Reduce Government Waste
All over the world, governments are constantly looking for ways through which they can offer better healthcare, improved education, better transportations and better pensions, among other services. This is because they know that the electorate demands change, and fast. However, the funds required to achieve these expectations are huge – especially when it comes to developed economies that have rapidly aging populations and government’s productivity fails to keep up with the performance of the private sector.
In order for the problem to be addressed, many leaders within the public sector are looking at the lean techniques that have found considerable adoption and success within private industry. From processing of tax returns to repair of military equipment, from urban planning to healthcare management, lean has shown that it is not only possible to improve service to the public, but to do it in a cost-effective way through the elimination of non value-adding processes in the following ways:
- Taking the Perspective of the Customer
All activities carried out by an organization need rigorous testing to ensure that they provide value to the customer. They need to be double-checked to ensure that they are in line with the government’s goals and that there are no unnecessary processes or costs.
If a retailer or car manufacturer does not add value, then their customers will go elsewhere. However, in public institutions or governmental departments, it is much more difficult to identify customers and fulfill their needs, as it is in private industry
A major reason for this is the lack of competition. The government’s customers – for instance, patients or job seekers – normally have no other choice. The demands of the customer is rarely in focus, resulting in costly, inward looking solutions from government agencies, which come at enormous cost but offer little or no value to citizens.
Lean helps government to identify and focus on the customer, encourages discussions between leaders and staff and improves service delivery in a way that is not only customer-focused, but cost-effective.
- Definition and Management of Processes
When a lean system is being developed, end-to-end processes are identified from the point of view of the customer and then designed so that materials and information keeps flowing smoothly from one step of the process to the next. However, many managers in the public sector lack the mindset, expertise and experience to take this approach that comes as second nature to most leaders in successful private enterprises.
In the private sector, the only way employees and leaders can understand and control a process it by seeing how it works. However, when it comes to the public sector, leaders do not necessarily see themselves as managing an operation, since it is not usual for an individual to be in charge of an entire process.
To overcome these difficulties, governmental decision makers need to foster a shared understanding of the challenges faced through an entire process. This will help in identifying where inefficiencies occur, and will aid in removing any superfluous steps or tasks that cost money without offering any tangible benefit to citizens.
- Finding and Solving Of Defects
Among the key characteristics of lean organizations is their ability to improve themselves constantly by bringing any issues to the light and working toward resolving them. In this case as well, the public sector is often found wanting, due to geps in mindsets and skills.
The move from papering over problems to actually finding solutions to them is an especially difficult task for governments because of a lack of requisite skills and political considerations. With the exception of the military, management of operations is not a traditional career path that leads to the top tiers of government.
To further compound the problem, top civil servants are often culturally and operationally detached from frontline service delivery. What this means is that decision and policy makers are isolated from the realities on the ground, and often make costly decisions that do not take the effect of customers into account.
The open management style that involves all levels of the organization which is part of the lean methodology’s principles allows even the topmost cadres to be fully appraised of any issues that affect government’s processes.
Implementing lean needs much more than courage to unearth deep-seated problems within an organization; It also calls for leaders and staff to be able to deal with job losses. By dealing with this simple truth, leaders in the public sector and politicians can outline the changes needed to make processes effective.
To find examples of Lean and Six Sigma applied to government agencies, visit LeanSixSigmaGovernment.com