Friday, May 25, 2012

Quality & Efficiency in Government...Really??

In his latest blog posted in May, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski shares his thoughts on "The Government/Quality Puzzle". It is a puzzle in deed. As a lean six sigma practitioner, I have always thought of governments in general as being full of waste, errors and inefficiencies. I used to tell people that if government actually allows improvements to happen, we would be out of debt by now! Why is it so difficult then? Well, there are plenty of reasons. Check out this article posted on Industry Week website in 2011.
ASQ conducted a survey and "Survey respondents identified the biggest obstacle to implementing Lean Six Sigma in U.S. government is the very structure of the U.S. federal government, which they say can be a barrier to comprehensive evaluation." It also goes on to say that obstacles such as "conflicting strategies, goals, and priorities", "a lack of familiarity with Lean Six Sigma" and "ongoing political partisanship" hurt the advancement of performance improvement in government. When someone new comes into office, he/she may put a stop on years of effort because they have the power to do so. Unfortunately, politics and personal interests may get in the way. The following article by Thomas Pyzdek is a great example of successful improvement efforts by current office and the discouraging plans of the incoming executive. I guess the good news is that there was some success to reduce waste even though it wouldn't last long. Thinking back a few years, I remember the discussions that took place in my six sigma black belt class. There were a few candidates sent from government agencies and their stories were similar to the above. Challenges facing quality and performance improvement exist in almost all industries, but they are more pressing in government. We read about ad hoc improvement projects, awarded agencies, successful efforts that are encouraging at times, but in order for the government to embrace quality and performance improvement, there must be a commitment to long-term transformation. Do you think it is possible?