Lean in Government – Why so difficult?
Having spent some (not a lot) time implementing Lean Systems in the government sector it is apparent that there is a perception within government that the value of a system, report, method etc is dependant on a) the cost and B) the difficulty. If a system has a high capital cost and is difficult to implement then it must be more effective and valuable than a low cost and easily implemented system.
This is very much a misconception that must be broken if lean thinking is ever going to be highly effective in the government sector. Look at the world’s greatest exponents of lean and you will see a common trait of their systems. The world leaders ensure their systems are easily accessible and easy to understand to enable the systems to be utilised by every employee within the organisation. They don’t rely on big budgets to bring in expensive external consultants to evaluate or review their processes only to offer expensive fixes. The staff think lean as part of their everyday work; this creates an environment of continuous improvement.
The essence of lean is to eliminate or reduce waste from the processes and systems from the value stream. For this to be effective it is critical this mindset be shared throughout the organisation; from the very top to the very bottom. Bringing in external facilitators at high expense to is not lean. Training employees and teams on the lean philosophy and tools and making lean a part of every employees daily working life is what lean is about. Only when this change happens at the top will lean start to become effective.
So how can this happen? Easily, the solution is to implement lean thinking from the top. When government management teams go beyond seeing lean as an opportunity to reduce costs and see it for the waste elimination system that it is the change will occur.