With the public’s demand for greater service at lower costs, no organisation has the luxury of being wasteful. The public sector is no exception. Governments are asked to provide on-demand access to public records, the ability to retrieve and complete forms online, and an infrastructure that enables electronic payments— all with the same (or fewer) resources than they had in the past. Officials must also pay a great deal of attention to how they operate because their budgets are a matter of public record and are frequently scrutinised by taxpayers and the press.
Used properly, Lean and Six Sigma can help public sector organisations to maintain a high standard of services, despite the cuts.
There are, in fact, two ways in which to increase value: one, by reducing waste and thus the cost of a product or service; the other, by increasing value-adding activities. The challenge for public sector organisations is to reduce their spending whilst retaining, or even improving, their service delivery.
One of the reasons Lean Six Sigma has only been recently applied is that, unlike manufacturing, it is very hard to see a physical product in services and follow it through its key processing, from raw material to finished product. In the service world, the service product is hidden within many interconnected departments. This is why it can take weeks to complete a simple service. There may be invisible hand-offs, bottlenecks and non-ownership of the process as it crosses inter-department fiefdoms, all with their own measurements for performance.
Many managers lack the statistical knowledge and the ability to apply statistics to problem-solving. If you look at management development programmes, how many devote time within their programmes to practical and applied statistical methods? So the challenge is to motivate the managers to understand and apply statistical methods. It is a fundamental framework for managers to use these techniques for problem-solving within organisations.
There is a real gap. One of the problems is short-term thinking by senior managers. We need to change the mindset which thinks just about short-term results and consequently lacks a clear vision or strategic direction. We need to move away from creating fire-fighting managers who only tackle problems that arise on a daily basis without determining the root cause, so the problems come back repeatedly. There is a big need for a change in culture. We also need brave leaders, clearly setting direction and looking at how we can transform businesses.
Lean Six Sigma brings powerful methods for quickly combating recessionary pressures. Its application in the service sector and office environment unlocks significant opportunities to reduce costs, remove waste and improve the overall customer experience. It provides a compelling option for consideration, not least because it helps organisations across the public and private sectors to achieve cost reductions without sacrificing service quality.
Improvement activity must be tailored to circumstances if benefits are to be sustained and in reality, different approaches are often brought together to deliver the right result. ‘Lean Six Sigma’ recognises that the improvement strengths of Lean can be harnessed with the financial benefits and analytical discipline of Six Sigma to create benefits on a far greater scale.
It is a systematic method to improve an organisation’s capability to meet customer demands, and identifies ways to deliver improved customer service, at a lower cost – in other words: “achieving much more with less”.
By putting Lean Six Sigma principles into practice, we believe public sector organisations can offer high-performing services that typically achieve:
Please contact us if you need more details on how our expert team can assist you. We are simply experts in the application of Lean Six Sigma in the public sector.
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