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Road Work Ahead

By Ron Crabtree, CIRM, CSCP, MLSSBB | November/December 2011 | 21 | 6

Overcoming inefficiency starts with people

In the last “Lean Culture,” I discussed my work with the Michigan Department of Management, Budget, and Technology implementing business process reengineering and improvement initiatives. I named tworoadblocks to process improvements: unwillingness to break the status quo and focusing on turf instead of outcomes.

My position as a consultant and  mentor in the Michigan state govern ment has led me to discover three  additional roadblocks, as well as the path to take to wring out waste and bring about meaningful change.

1. Not facing the reality of cost. More than 80 percent of the cost  in government comes from staffing. The difficult truth is, if government operations are to cost less, there need to be fewer employees work ing smarter to provide high-quality services to the public. While leaders already are making efforts to ensure that government workers are compen sated equitably with the population at large, this is not nearly enough. We must accept that working smarter is possible; thus, we need fewer public employees.

Another startling fact discovered through lean six sigma and business process reen gineering is that, on average, 50 percent of every tax dollar spent in government operations is wasted. I am not trying to vilify the folks whowork in government. Nearly every government employee I know is at least as hard working and dedicated as those in the private and nonprofit sectors. I have seen many unionized government employees work willingly off the clock to make sure that public good is served.

The people who work in govern ment operations are not the problem. The problem lies in the wasteful processes these employees are  forced to adhere to. In fact, the  best solutions to eliminating waste are through inclusive approaches that involve current employees. This leads to the next roadblock.

2. Not leveraging people to enact changes. Who are the experts at  performing value-added work for  the public good? It is those individu als in government who currently per form those services. If we can engage the government workforce in innovat ing and reengineering how public  services are performed, maganged, and delivered, the results would be amazing. The will and the courage to make operational excellence an across-the-board mandate are crucial, as are the appropriate leadership and resources. In addition, we also must invest in the training, education, and support that employees will need to do the heavy lifting demanded by these changes.

3. Overlooking the importance of public awareness. Only an informed public can support nonpartisan approaches and the necessary leader ship and resources to effect change.

Getting directions
So, where do we go from here? For starters, get involved with your govern ment. Make sure your voice is heard.  I once learned a secret from a lobbyist in Lansing, Michigan: When a repre sentative gets a mere 10 emails about a particular subject, he or she gets nervous. Not hundreds or thousands, but 10.

Find the venue that works best for you to be heard on the topic of improving operations, and speak up. With a loud, frequent, uni fied, and nonpartisan voice insisting our leaders must lead transformation and eliminate waste, we have a shot at build ing the necessary momentum to make fundamental changes and implementing lean six sigma, operational excellence, and business process reengineering throughout all areas of government.

Ron Crabtree, CIRM, CSCP, MLSSBB, is president of MetaOps and coauthor of four books on operational excellence. He also writes an online magazine; runs an online radio show; and teaches, presents, and consults. He may be contacted atrcrabtree@metaops.com.

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