Lean for the Public Sector

I recently spoke with Bert Teeuwen who has spent 12 years as trainer, coach, and implementer of Lean in both industrial and public environment and currently serves as a consultant with the WagenaarHoes organization. He recently published a book titled Lean for the Public Sector: The Pursuit of Perfection in Government Services.

I asked Bert: "The title of your book suggests that processes in government are so unique they demand a specific Lean method to improve them. Why are these particular methods needed?" Bert's reply was quite interesting:

Most books about Lean are written with industry in mind. All the examples are about machines and installations. Some books are about Lean in the office, but civil servants are not impressed by all these examples from businesses. Public servants want to read a book about Lean when it contains examples from their own working environment.

The main reason, however, is that Lean in the public sector is indeed different! Organizations in the public sector function on a non-profit basis, so what should they do with the time or money earned with Lean? Another point is that considering a citizen as a customer is not always correct. Citizens are customers sometimes, but often they are subjects, voters, taxpayers, and users. When a parking guard or a policeman gives you a bill for incorrectly parking your car. Are you his customer? Are you in the position to say no and go to a competitor? In addition, consider the application for a building permit. As far as the applicants are concerned, they can build perfectly without that permit. But the permit was not created to solely serve the applicants but, for example, to protect their neighbors against excessive and intruding extensions to the applicants' houses. There is a different discussion about who is adding value to whom in the public sector.

And what about the pull principle? What is pull in the public sector? Is pull in the public sector always better? No, sometimes push is better, because the government has a duty to provide certain services for its citizens, even when they don't ask for it.

What are your thoughts about Bert's reply? What do see as the particular needs of the public sector in regard to Lean initiatives?


John said...

The author is right that Lean in the public sector is different and has to be approached as such. For the most part, Pull production, Kanban, SMED and other watchword processes of Lean are irrelevent in the public sector. However, an extensive use of Kaizen and Workplace Organization (5-S or 6-C)could be of tremendous value. It's a simple matter of placing a focus on the "tools" that offer the greatest return on the time, energy and resources devoted to the effort. But it's somthing that is definately needed.

Dean Bliss said...

I agree with John. In Iowa, significant improvements have been made by various government entities, many in looking at throughput times for applications, forms, and inspections.

scm said...
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Logistics said...

Using lean in public sector is a good sign that tax payer's money will be spent effectively.

Berg said...

I agree, Lean is government IS different. I started implementing Lean in my government agency and I keep saying that if only do the first 3 Lean principles (Identify value, map value stream and create flow), we will see enormous changes and savings.

online tickets maker said...

When i trust Bob. Within Iowa, considerable enhancements are actually of various online tickets maker government organizations, a lot of inside taking a look at throughput instances regarding purposes, kinds, and also assessments.

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