Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lean in Government - Part II

By Pascal Dennis

A colleague, who I'll call Anne, returned to work a few years ago after raising her two boys.

She had been a senior leader with an international firm famous for its Lean activities.

As you might imagine, head-hunters beat a path to Anne's door.

Given her interest in health care, she decided to join a world-renowned Canadian hospital.

Its executives had painted a rosy picture indeed:

"We're a cutting-edge organization, a world leader!"

(I should explain that Canadian hospitals are funded by the state.)

Within a month Anne realized the so-called 'world leader' was stuck in the 1970's.

Slow, inert, backward in its thinking and processes. Full of so-called leaders biding their time to retirement.

Turns out, the hospital's reputation was entirely due to brilliant, dedicated researchers -- and not all to the somnambulists in management.

"People who join us either leave very quickly," a colleague told her,"or they stay forever..."

As you might imagine, Anne skedaddled, and now is a leader in a truly world class company.

A happy ending for Anne, but not for our society.

Knowing what I know, I'll never trust the hospital in question.

If a family member has to spend any time there, I'll question every prescription, every procedure.

And yet, I've no doubt the people want to do a good job, and are full of ideas of how to make things better.

If only they were given the chance...

Last time I asked, "How will we engage civil servants in continuous improvement?"

A corollary is, "How will we encourage professional management in the civil service?"

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


1 comment:

  1. Robbie B WestmorelandJune 15, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    I think that as long as we expect civil service leadership to apply Lean Thinking purely out of altruistic dedication to the public good rather than for the enlightened self-interest that makes Lean the winning strategy in the for-profit arenas, we are going to be disappointed. I work for a US federal government element that actually gives some rewards to units that operate efficiently, and even in that environment a focus on quality to the customer and efficient use of resources is difficult to inspire.