Public sector performance enhancement

Let’s not get run over again

There are quite a few performance enhancing methodologies for administrations available on the market today. Most have not proven to be that successful all the time. However, under pressure to enhance performance, the public servants hope if or rather when someone turns government around, they don’t get run over again.

Potential added value of performance related methodologies

Can we integrate some of these approaches and methodologies into a comprehensive, sensible whole? There are four methodologies that can be integrated into one relevant, value added approach that has a real potential for adding value. The integration may prove relevant for administrations because most of the analyses executed in the past years can be used to feed this integrated approach. The investment in analysis and development of the past years will not necessarily go to waste. This reduces stress on the public servants that are trying to do their job.

Combining four existing methodologies in one new approach

How do we go about developing the best possible solution for the execution of a given role or responsibility? We aim to hit the optimal total cost to society for a public service or good. Which methodologies and/or tools would I use in what order?

  1. Extended burden measurement – I suggest starting with an extended burden measurement in order to determine the actual total administrative burden to on the one hand the citizen and/or organization impacted by this responsibility and on the other hand the government charged with preparing the legislation, implementing it and ensuring compliance. Based on this initial calculation, we need to determine which activities or requirements can be cut at what level, where cutting is the most optimal. Important: I am not starting from the assumption that we need to cut burden to the citizen or the organization first. We need to cut where the effect of cutting is the most relevant, i.e. reduces the total cost the most. The burden to the citizen or the organization, as defined by the Standard Cost Model, is a function of the time invested in complying with the requirements and the out of pocket costs which are part of the compliance. These are very direct costs, as these are cash-outs directly related to the role of the administration, which is bothering you until you comply. The costs to government, while less direct in nature, are still cash-outs, as these are being paid for by our taxes. These costs to government are the subject of our second methodology.

  2. Cost optimization at the level of the administration – When an administration is tasked to execute a role, it needs three elements: it needs people to execute, processes which these people need to follow, and technology to support these people and where possible replace them in repetitive work. This costing exercise exists under many names, but has been executed one time or another in the past years in most administrations. The data gathered here can easily be used to determine the cost elements internal to the administrations in calculating the extended burden. The risk of unchecked administration bloat needs to be countered using ideas on lean administrations.

  3. Lean administrations governed by management contracts avoid administrative bloat: once beyond a certain size, traditional organizations in both public and private sector no longer exist to fulfill a purpose, but primarily exist to maintain themselves. Using management contracts limited in time which define SMART outcomes the relevance of which is questioned on a regular basis, and which can be achieved with the right resources while maintaining a positive cost/benefit balance, managed by risk metrics has been the subject of a previous post.

  4. Risk metrics based on well-defined and researched risk management systems which are tasked with monitoring the weaknesses of and threats to the achievement of objectives by an administration are an essential tool to make sure that the effort of the administration, in terms of both budgetary means and resources, remains focused where it needs to be.

An approach well beyond window dressing

By integrating four of the most current public management methodologies, i.e. burden measurement, cost optimization, lean administration/lean government and risk management, we can develop an approach which makes sense to the public servants and finally gives them a shot ata structural improvement of their activities, which goes beyond current window dressing with maturity assessments which only identify a problem based on interviews and are not made for or capable of providing a comprehensive and pragmatic solution. Making the performance optimization effort transparent will significantly increase the credibility of the public sector as a whole.