Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lean in the Public Service – Part 1

By Pascal Dennis

Lean (aka Toyota management system) has developed deep roots far outside of manufacturing.

I’ve been privileged to work in sectors as diverse as Healthcare, universities, home building, utilities and software development.

How about the Public Service? Does Lean apply at municipal, state and federal government agencies? I’ll explore this question in blogs to come.

The short answer is ‘Yes’. All work is a process, all work can be improved. Public service is Lean’s frontier and the potential is enormous.

An effective public service creates great value and strengthens a society. (An inept or corrupt civil service is the stuff of Franz Kafka novels.)

What are some of the challenges for Lean in the Public Service? It’s not the people – I’ve found our civil service colleagues to be capable and dedicated.

Civil servants seek and deserve what Deming called ‘pride of workmanship’. They have a right to be involved in designing and improving their work.

But too often they work in dysfunctional management systems, and under antique mental models. The problem is in the system, which senior leaders own.

What are some of the systemic problems? The absence of competition is perhaps the most important. Lean’s heart is value, and value’s heart is the customer-supplier connection (Rule 2 of Lean).

How to motivate kaizen where there’s no competition? How to motivate leaders to build good systems for the 4Ms – manpower, methods, materials and machines? How to develop a meritocracy?

(Can we engage international marketing organizations like, say, JD Power, in developing awards and recognition for excellence in public service?)

The stakes are high, as is the challenge. To our civil service friends and colleagues, full speed ahead.



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