Indiana State Budget Committee, FSSA and Welfare Eligibilty Modernization

Friday, October 23, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt
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I decided to jump into the Suburban this morning and go to Bloomington for the Indiana State Budget Committee meeting.  Never have I attended one of these events, but I plan to attend more if my schedule allows.

The main event was to be the Secretary of FSSA giving us the good, the bad and the ugly on the Indiana Welfare Modernization project.  However, I was treated to the budget review that showed that budget forecasters had missed the revenue mark (another word for taxes) by a large margin and for all intent and purpose had not figured out why.  I was left shaking my head through the explanations as I really can’t imagination how much time, money and energy will be wasted trying to reconcile the short-fall.

Finally, the Secretary of FSSA was called in where she answered some questions left over from the last budget meeting regarding the Welfare Eligibilty Modernization debacle.  Here are some items that stood out to me with my comments:
  •  There has been a 30% increase in enrollment since 2005 for Welfare programs and an increase of staff of 36%. (Now that is modernization we can believe in.  Unfortunately, similar modernization projects in the UK have had the same results.  The focus to reduce costs always increases them.)
  • Training was identified as the problem and a 10-week training program has been implemented, plus a testing program.  (One fact I have learned from working with my Vanguard partners in the UK is that government overspends on training, when training is not the biggest lever for improvement.  The design and management of work is our biggest lever for improvement, starting with understanding client demands and designing the system against demand allows for something worthy to be trained on.  Further, the High Frequency Value demands are the only ones to be trained on and probably cut training down to a couple weeks once the system is redesigned.)
  • Doubled the data-gathering effort. (There was no conversation on what data was being gathered or why or for how long.  Many governments institutionalize waste this way.  Just because we have IT to collect data . . . we do.  I can only hope these are  measures related to client purpose and measures of failure demand.)
  • Focus on the client experience, face-to-face contact and improve timeliness of determinations and pre-determinations.  (Sounds hopeful, but didn’t get much explanation or detail.)
  • Move from a task-based system to a case management system.  (With great confidence, I can say that a case management system poorly designed can have more problems and costs than a task-based system, but does sound better.)
  • Specialized team for the Elderly and those with Disabilities.  (Is this more scientific management theory and the functional specialization of work?  Does this require a different group of workers?  I don’t know why the client demands call for this, specialization can be very ineffective.)
  • On-line applications, ability to check status by phone and paperless case files.  (All these items have the potential to add costs and not save them.  Checking status by phone is a type of failure demand and we are locking in the costs of a poor work design.)
  • Working in teams, so if someone is gone they can have someone to follow-up on the case. (If the work design allows for a case to be done timely, why do we need follow-up, hand-offs and other waste?  Can’t workers decide for themselves how to handle vacations, illness, etc. with out a command and control dictate to establish teams?  Teams are best pulled and not pushed upon workers.)
  • We had fraud of $1 million from 2002 – 2005 and have a two-tiered system to prevent it.  (What really is happening here is developing an inspection regime to hound workers.  These systems cost organizations and government many millions to save $1 million.  Guaranteed to lock-in waste.  Government management thinking and work design is at fault here.  We can’t prevent the next financial meltdown through more regulation either as the next one will be different than the last one.  But we can waste a lot of money trying.)
  • 22-different contracts currently held by IBM will be turned over to Indiana with a performance matrix with the IT contracts going to the State CIO, operations to someone else, etc. (All I can hope for is that the end-to-end system works for the client, the functional separation of these contracts with performance matrix calls into question the ability to get economies of flow and whether these contracts are filled with targets and incentives that will further sub-optimize the system.)

I was privileged to hear Senator Vaneta Becker outline the problems in Vanderburgh county and how other Indiana folks had stepped up to fill the void at great cost both emotionally and financially (the unseen ones not in the State financials).  Two people in her district had died and as she said probably would have died anyway because of the illnesses, but they spent their last days worrying about eligibility and sending emails and faxes.

My Indiana-based company is not IBM, Accenture, Crowe, ACS, Xerox, EDS, etc. but we have a new way of thinking about the design and management of work that can help prevent the experience Senator Becker has had to endure the past 3 years.  Let’s hope that FSSA respects Representative Welch’s call to be open to new ideas and approaches.  I can only hope.

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Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from "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 or LinkedIn at


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