Here we go with another “plan” to reduce spending in government. I plan to post a more in-depth piece to the Rivlin-Domenici Plan. Not bad people, but the same old worn out approach where politics takes precedence over method.
One of the first things you read about from the Debt Reduction Task Force is the word compromise. The minute we read this word we should realize that we are in trouble. Compromise means that we aren’t going to get something that works, it means that we get something that can be agreed to.
The second glaring problem is the word plan. The traditional approach to improvement is putting a plan together. The Task Force may understand the size of debt, but to put a plan together without knowledge is misguided. This doesn’t mean they didn’t spend some time studying, but the report indicates high-level learning that leads to assumptions.
The plan is devoid of evidence that any of the measures will work. Big plans based on compromise rather than knowledge and method is sure to make the deficit bigger. This plan will kick off legislation and other plans that will cost billions before we ever see any action. And when action comes, we have no idea whether the Deficit Reduction Plan will work.
Other troubling keywords are modernization and shared services. The word modernization tells us that we can expect people to want to get rid of paper and automate things. Too often in government we make the assumption that information technology will make things better, when in reality it increases costs as poorly designed work is the problem, not automation. We wind up with entrapping technology that locks in the poor design.
Shared services typically only looks at functions and not the demands that are placed on government. An agency might have the different demands going into each function, just combining them won’t reduce costs. In fact, once shared we are seeing shared services departments spring up that cost us more money and adds more to the deficit.
To win this battle against the deficit, we need all hands and brains and to keep the political players from compromising, modernizing and planning us to bigger deficits.
We need to engage those that are going to improve the system and must include those that have knowledge of the work . . . as for the rest they need to get knowledge by performing “check” with those in the work.
By understanding customer purpose and the demands constituents place on the system we can develop an understanding of the causes of costs. Taking direct action on the system we can experiment with method and redesign the work to eliminate failure demand (demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for a customer) and improve flow.
Having worked in government management, I have seen the massive amounts of waste and sub-optimization that exist from poor design and outdated thinking. Politics and compromise have no place in improvement, we must have method.
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Tripp Babbitt is a columnist (Quality Digest, PSNews and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.