7 Process Improvement Secrets for the Public Sector

When I worked in the public sector a couple decades ago, my main job involved process design and process improvement. It was good training for my subsequent work as a consultant. Here are 7 process improvement secrets for the public sector, learned over the last 30 years or so.

Secret 1 - Start smart. My number-one secret to successful process improvement is . . . measure to establish a baseline first. Any supposed improvement should show up in the 'success metrics' of the base organization - i.e. SOMETHING must be demonstrably faster, cheaper, or of higher quality, or else why did we do it? Measurement is how you know if the new process is working.

Secret 2 - Engage the right personnel. It hurts me to say this ;-) but consultants can't do this job FOR you; they can do it WITH you, however, if you engage the right people on your own team. This is true no matter how wise and handsome your consultant may be. Consultants can bring tools, experience, and guidance, but the real redesign has to come from the people most intimately involved with the process under review.

Just like performance measurement 'imposed' by outsiders, process improvement driven by external stakeholders won't find support in your organization. p.s.  the 'right people' also includes appropriate senior management representation.

Secret 3 - Select the right process. Process improvement consumes resources; make sure you are expending those resources on performance issues that are important to the organization. This is especially true because you need that 'senior management representation' and support as mentioned previously. It's got to be a hot enough topic to light the senior grown-ups' fire.

Secret 4 - Know the problem and the allowable range of solutions. Your team needs a clear understanding of the scope of the problem, their roles, and what they are expected to deliver. It boils down to answering the questions 'what does success look like'?, and 'what are we allowed/not allowed to do to get there'? Sometimes this is referred to as a Project Charter.

Secret 5 - The job does't stop with redesign. Redesign is the (relatively) cheap and easy part; making the new process work in the real world is another ball game. You again need a (bigger) team of the right people, a plan, and resources to make this happen.

Secret 6 - Consider all impacts. I've written before about Leavitt’s Diamond i.e the idea that any process change may have an impact on people, tasks, structure and technology. Your process redesign team has to maintain a realistic view on what is do-able within the constraints of these four factors.

Secret 7 - 'Downsizing' is not process improvement. And 'reorganizing' is not process improvement. 'Automation' is not process improvement, either. It's possible to do all these things and not improve a (measurable) thing. The process improvement secret here is, these three things might come about as a result of process improvement, but they're not the thing itself.


PRS and our associates have many decades of experience in process improvement/process redesign/process re-engineering in the public sector.

If you have process performance challenges, we can work with your team to find real-world, practical, implementable solutions. Contact PRS Vice-President Charlie Snelling to arrange a free no-obligation consultation csnelling@rogers.com 613 744-4084 or use the contact form below.

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