Improving Processes… to Change How Customers View the Government
The days of ‘because this is the way we have always done it’ are over. Agencies face demands to be more mission-focused and customer-centric.
While ‘innovation’ is the word of the day, leaders are forgetting the power of documenting, measuring, and improving processes across Government – and the link to supporting the mission. It is time to go back to the basics of process improvement since it is common that funding is not available to improve the information technology systems that can help make more dramatic improvements.
The significant emphasis on ‘Agile’ approaches to software development makes it easy to forget how much an agency can do to make processes better – reduce handoffs, create standard operating procedures and follow them, measure and improve processes.
Process improvement often has a direct impact on an agency’s customer – whether it is for a flood survivor to apply for individual assistance, a passenger who goes through a security checkpoint, or a veteran seeking health care. A streamlined customer experience results in a positive perception of the efficiency of Government service.
Tactics for Leaders – To communicate the importance of change, senior leaders must start by doing, improving processes in their own offices as a model for their workforce. Leaders should focus on a few key tactics:
- Clearly communicate the need for Government employees
- Collect and publish data about the efficiency of current processes
- Align performance goals with the requirement to improve processes
- Listen to ideas – from employees at all levels in all parts of Government
- Recognize great examples of process improvement – doing more with less
- Share stories of process improvement success with customers and with the workforce, leading to more improvement or maybe even more dramatic innovation
Case Study Highlight – On one of our projects, we took over a large, mission-focused business function. When we took over the operations, we found that none of the processes were documented. The prior team did not have effective mechanisms to track the work and there were no productivity measures. So we started with the basics. Our team:
- Developed standard operating procedures, validated them with our client, and followed them
- Measured the throughput, made it visible, and set productivity targets for the team
- Recognized the teams and individuals that were achieving results
With standard processes and productivity measures in place, the team recognized nearly a 20% improvement in performance and had the foundation to improve processes and easily measure the success of future change. The end customer sees a faster, more accurate turnaround in all requests.
After we made the improvements within our project, our Government clients asked us to help them improve some of their processes that integrated with our processes. Now, process improvement is something that happens every day.
A culture of continually improving processes has the power to get more work done, improve how the Government performs its mission, and change how customers view the Government. And how the Government views itself.