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The Challenges Of Execution Within A Flexible, High-Velocity Environment


November 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

In our previous three articles in this series, we discussed the lean philosophy of public management, with its application-driven framework, as an intelligent alternative to the current ways of doing things in government organizations. As with any venture of organizational transformation, it is important for organizations to create within its formal context the capacity to execute, implement, and deploy the defined public policies, programs, and initiatives.

One of the most notable problems with the bureaucratic phenomenon is that these organizational systems don’t have all the capabilities to respond to the challenges and problems posed by a high-velocity, constantly changing environment. The main obstacle is the current organizational design of public organizations. To complicate matters further, the frenetic actions of other, competing countries put Puerto Rico at a crossroads: either change or yield.

To enable high-velocity activities and responsiveness within government, it is mandatory to establish linkages between public policy and strategy, administrative processes, actions, and culture. It is also an immutable principle of lean public administration to proactively manage cultural change, deploy overwhelming leadership, and fine-tune selection, recruitment, development, and retention systems.

The following diagram presents the core components that need to be synchronized to achieve a public administration system with a high execution level.

To initiate lean execution, goals and objectives must be established, shared, and understood by all public servants. This shared perspective will help people align their efforts accord to the stated organizational goals. Whenever there is an execution gap, leaders must ask if they are effectively communicating the strategy and the body of public policies that are being implemented. If the strategy isn’t understood, the attainment of the desired outcomes won’t be attained.

To complement the strategy, public administrators must define and revamp the current organizational culture. This means a new set of behavioral patterns and organizational values must be established to induce productive efforts. If lean behaviors aren’t embedded in the cognitive maps of people, the system will have barriers to unleashing enhanced productivity.

To channel efforts effectively, the process of value-stream mapping is needed to tip the balance in favor of public administrators. After the value-stream mapping methodology has been applied to transform public-administration processes, the linkages between behaviors and activities can be effectively managed. If public servants understand the aim of public policies and what behaviors are expected from them, they can use the optimized processes to enhance their contributions to their public organizations and to society as a whole.

We have been discussing the fact that management philosophy and organizational culture matter because these are often the areas where policies and programs succeed or fail. The future of public management will be determined by the initiatives performed, by the managerial knowledge mastered, and the working environment fostered by the people who will deploy it.

Transforming government will require the effective implementation of the lean public-management philosophy and its five action rules:

  • Specify the value of the product or service, providing value as defined by the end user, who is the citizen.
  • Identify the value stream, focusing on activities required to provide products or services to citizens, stressing agility, flexibility, and speed to respond to service requests.
  • Make the service flow, developing capabilities to identify the behaviors that add value to work flow without interruptions.
  • Deliver at the behest of the citizen, responding to the citizen’s demands in real time.
  • Pursue perfection, engaging in diligences to systematically identify and eliminate waste in processes and establishing self-correcting protocols.

Also, it will become important to manage the elements that are necessary to nourish lean thinking and lean management. These are organizational flow-physical changes and design standards that are deployed as part of the process; structure-identification of people’s roles and functions, training in new ways of working, and communication; process control-monitoring, stabilizing, and pursuing ways to improve the process; metrics-visible and results-based performance measures, targeted improvements, and team rewards and recognition; and logistics-definitions for operating rules and mechanisms for planning and execution management.

Finally, to start the process of immersing in the lean-management philosophy, the following steps must be followed by the elected government administration:

  • Diagnose culture before you develop the implementation strategy.
  • Communicate your lean mission with an eye toward shaping a culture capable of supporting it.
  • Reinforce the lean message.
  • Establish credibility through early concrete and public shared results.
  • Reach down into the organization to build allegiance and commitment.
  • Use and manage multiple cultures.

The execution imperative points to an all-encompassing view of productivity improvement, from the big-picture strategy through institutional structure, through the fine points of measuring and rewarding execution. The agenda involves developing high-execution agencies, linking execution to compensation and recreating management and employee relations to achieve competitive advantage. Yes, it can be done.

Manuel Angel Morales is president & CEO of Quality for Business Success Inc. and Manuel E. Maldonado is senior vice president of research & forecasting.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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