November 9, 2018

Risk-Free Process Improvement for the Public Sector

Many public sector organizations are stuck in the status quo. Why is that? There are a couple of reasons:

In some places, the pressure to change has not reached a critical level.

Making changes entails risk. The perceived risks outweigh the rewards.

The current budget situation has been placing huge stress on many public sector organizations. The typical response has been to cut services, since these leaders do not see the waste that exists in their organizations. People who practice “lean” techniques can identify waste and then apply methods, techniques, and countermeasures to eliminate or shrink these wastes. If waste could be cut 20-30%, services could likely be maintained. Our Analyzing and Improving Office and Service Operations (Lean Office) seminar trains participants to see waste in their own organizations. By using lean tools and techniques, these wastes can be dramatically reduced.

What about the risk of making changes? A mistake in the public sector is disproportionately punished, especially if the mistake gets in the news. It is safer to maintain the status quo, even though the status quo is incredibly inefficient. So what can be done to make change safe?

The first and most important step is to test, practice, simulate, or role play the change. If we were using a military metaphor, we would not be using live ammunition. Of if we use a sporting metaphor, this is what a professional football team does from Monday through Saturday, practice. Hardly any organization tests, practices, or experiments with the changes they are considering. They go from idea to doing. Then they pick up the pieces.

If we precede every process change with a safe test, experiment, role play, or practice, then we can work out the “bugs” until things are going smoothly. We can do “what if” analysis in our practices, tests, and experiments. We can stress the new process until it breaks. Once our testing, practice, or role play is running smoothly, then we can up the risk a little.

The next step is to conduct a pilot program with the new process. Here we are using “live ammunition” so if something goes wrong it could have negative consequences. We reduce the risk by watching and monitoring the pilot very closely so we can react immediately to any issues. Secondly, because it is a pilot, the process change has not been rolled out extensively. Once the pilot has been operating successfully for some time, then we can begin to expand the process change in other areas. In fact, those who worked in the pilot can become trainers for others in the organization.

Make testing, practice, experiments, role plays, and simulations a part of your organizations change management approach. Stress the process change in a safe way to find its weaknesses. Do “what if” analysis in your practice or role plays. These techniques allow you to safely change your processes while dealing with the pressures of budget reductions. Manage the organization in a state-of-the-art, best practice fashion. Continue to deliver needed services, even though your budget is reduced. If you want to learn how to experiment, practice, test, or role play process changes, contact us at 925-459-8755.