The Harvard Summit on Shared Services: More on the Wrong Way

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt

Shared Services - OOPS!
A June article at  PublicCIO via (Shared Services Roadblocks and Rewards Examined at Harvard Summit) outlined a Kennedy School Leadership Summit on Shared Services.  Folks from all over the world coming to America’s top business school . . . to learn the wrong thing to do. 

The faculty chair (Jerry Mechling) of the Leadership for a Networked World program was there to explain what shared services is, how it can benefit government and the problems with implementation.  According to Mechling "the current economic crisis is a window of opportunity for government agencies to move to a shared services environment."  Mechling cites greater efficiency, but of course can NOT cite greater effectiveness.

The usual shared services strategy talk of sharing back office functions is noted.  No one ever asks whether we need the back office or talk of understanding demand.  Just that we can have improved delivery and boost local economies.  Improved delivery in our experience rarely (or never) happens.  And "moving out of Manhattan to someplace where it becomes an economic development tool" means robbing Peter to pay Paul.

As with most shared services strategy the focus is on cost-savings and improved efficiency.  I have written many articles on why focusing on costs always increases them.  These shared service projects wind up having to hire more people as service declines and agencies have to get the work done.

David Wilson (Accenture) topped of the madness by making the statement "Believe it or not, there are some governments where the corporate culture does not focus on cost-cutting and efficiencies."  Mr. Wilson, all I can say is you need to understand the management paradox that to focus on costs always increases them, but to focus on value will decrease costs and improve service.  Government management don’t be duped . . . there is a better way.

Relevant articles:
Shared Services

Service Paradox: Managing Costs Increases Them

Also, see:

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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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