go back

5 Types of Waste in Government

My counterparts in the UK (Vanguard Consulting Ltd.) identified five types of waste in the public sector.  After review, I had a V-8 moment and said these are the same problems we have here with the US government.

Here are the 5 types:

  1. The costs of people spending time writing specifications.  The massive amount of growth in employment in government has nothing to do with public sector innovation or improvement.  It is all of those people being hired to develop specifications, standards, performance targets, contracts, reporting schedules and other non-value activities that command and control thinkers love.  This stuff is based on opinion and bi-partisan ideology not knowledge.  This is a tremendous source of waste as their is no value in this stuff.
  2. The costs of inspection.  Next comes the inspection for all these specifications.  Checklists and training for inspectors.  This inhibits public sector innovation in favor of compliance.  More and more auditors are hired and now we have auditors to audit the auditors that creates waste and huge costs.  Worse we have auditors dictating methods to workers even though they do not understand the work.
  3. The costs for preparing for inspection.  Schools, agencies, state governments, etc. spend lots of time with copying and preparing reports for the auditors.  More documentation is sought to keep the auditors away.  Consulting on how to pass inspections.  All preparation for inspection is waste.
  4. The costs of the specifications being wrong.  The worse cost is the cost of compliance to specifications which actually results in worse performance.  We get the double whammy . . . bad service and high cost.  The nature of arbitrary and opinion-based requirements and specifications without knowledge increases waste.
  5. The cost of demoralization.  The pass/fail, good/bad nature of inspection in accordance with compliance to specifications can demoralize the worker and the public.  Especially, when they can tell the mandate is making things worse which happens more often that not.
Systems thinking offers a better way.  Instead of compliance, we need public sector innovation.  People doing the work need to be able to be able to act in the best interest of their shareholders.  Government management needs to be responsible, they need to chose what to do free from compliance.

Performance inspection in systems thinking is concerned only with the measures that government management uses to understand and improve the work.  Managers should be free to use new methods to achieve these measures.  Public sector innovation would explode and eliminate the 100s of billions of dollars spent in the specification, compliance, inspection, and preparation for inspection.  As a bonus we get government management and workers wanting to help rather than comply.

My counterparts in the UK are implementing as much of this thinking with local authorities as possible.  Their central government stands in the way of removing more waste.  Find out more at www.thesystemsthinkingreview.co.uk.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control management and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking.  Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.

top of page

Bryce Harrison, Inc.
Free Download
Get started with Understanding your Organization as a System. Click here to get your free download.
Buy the Books

Latest publications for the private and public service sectors. Click on book to purchase.

System Thinking in the Public SectorFreedom from Command & Control
eNews Sign-Up