Government management and elected officials in federal, state, and local government have but one method to reduce costs . . . look at the budget and make cuts.  This myopic approach to “right-sizing” government makes so little sense.  What makes it worse is the fact cuts are usually made to the people that actually provide services and not to those in supporting and management roles.

One thing I have learned from working with my UK partners is that focusing on costs . . . increases them.  Reducing services brings out complaints and lawsuits, but worst of all poor services to constituents.  Calls for cutting spending is the mantra of the day.  It’s time to take a step back and look at the real causes of costs.

Government provides a wide array of services and who is providing those services in how they are being provisioned.  A poorly designed system of  provisioning those services leads to increases in costs whether done in the public or private sector (outsourced). 

US government is full of rules and dictates and large sums of the money spent in government are to inspect or seek compliance for them (rules and dictates).  When not pre-occupied with the rules and dictates government management is usually trying to find money for their programs.  No one is asking about how to provision the services better.

In fact, many government executives have no idea what it takes to deliver the services or see them delivered.  This means they have no context to the decisions they make about the work.  Decision-making separated from the work makes for poor decisions. 

I was recently asked in a seminar how a government executive of a large agency could possibly have time to understand what happens on the front-line.  My response is they have a choice either go to the work and understand or quit making decisions about work they don’t understand.  Decisions made with the work with knowledge of customer purpose and demand will emit new customer measures that drive costs

I have talked about the causes of costs before and they are in the flow (economies of flow) end-to-end from a customer perspective.  New customer measures help reveal what really matters in the work to be done.  These measures should be known by all throughout the system, it gives people perspective about the people they serve.

When government workers and management have perspective on customer purpose and measures good things happen.  They may be restrained by legislative laws, but they soon realize that more rules and dictates only make things worse.  So few people in government have seek this perspective and instead enter with political agendas. 

Government can be fixed but we need to understand the customer purpose of providing the service and stop trying to legislate, edict, rule, inspect and monitor ourselves to death.  Understanding customer purpose and designing systems against customer demands will lead to more effective and efficient services at reduced costs.

Government management would do well to get knowledge before embarking on a mandate path.  Government workers will need to be involved in improvements if sustainability is to take hold.  To ignore this is to disrespect the worker and the customer . . . something government has gotten good at with great cost.

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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].  For government please link to  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at