Efficient Government Needs Effective Process Redesign

This is the first in a series of articles about creating efficient government - whether at the federal, provincial or municipal level. Following articles will lay out a structured, step-by-step approach to finding and implementing these efficiencies.

Downsizing, 'budget review', cut-backs, etc. etc. etc. It's all the news in the Canadian federal public service right now. And since the government has proceeded in the time-honored fashion of setting reduction targets first and then figuring out the implications later, this leaves lucky public sector managers the task of making it all work. 'Let's operate first, doctor, then we'll figure out what the disease is'. (ahem! If I sound a little jaded, it's only because I was a public sector manager for 10 years, and 'bin dere, dun dat' ;-)

So, what's a manager to do? Let me first suggest what you don't do; you don't rush out to buy technology to solve your problem. You can't automate or 'informate' your way out of poor process or organizational design. For example, while we sell performance measurement software we don't recommend you buy it until you have figured out your business by modelling activities, outputs and outcomes and developing robust and relevant performance measures that accurately reflect your business strategy.

Which brings me to the first necessary step in the hunt for more efficient government - assessing the current situation and linking efficiency goals to the organization's business strategy. In other words, making sure you are seeking improvement of the right things.

Next, you need to examine your organization's activities at the process level - i.e. process mapping. This is followed by identification/analysis of the activities that don't contribute to business or clientele requirements.

With an idea of what needs to be changed, you need to assess your organization's change readiness - i.e. do you have the resources necessary to carry out the change.

And, you will need to make the case for change- i.e. costs, benefits, impacts, and consequences. In other words, how will the future environment be better than your current reality?

While this may seem like a lot of work, remember this: you must not only create efficiencies, you must also be able to prove that the redesigned processes are in fact more efficient. There are no shortcuts, you need to do your homework before you launch a change initiative designed to create more efficient government.

Over the next few weeks I'll be expanding on the steps outlined here, and walk you through the process in more detail. The PRS partners have had some good successes in the area of process redesign, and we're willing to share!

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