Background. Whether studying life, calculus or how to turn an aircraft carrier, the conclusion is the same: Change comes an increment at a time. However, that doesn't mean change has to be slow and unrewarding. Just like the cumulative effect of interest on your investments, every step adds to the gains of the previous one. The lesson is, step early, step quickly and keep stepping. This is about the time value of ...more »
Background. Whether studying life, calculus or how to turn an aircraft carrier, the conclusion is the same: Change comes an increment at a time. However, that doesn't mean change has to be slow and unrewarding. Just like the cumulative effect of interest on your investments, every step adds to the gains of the previous one. The lesson is, step early, step quickly and keep stepping. This is about the time value of money and about the money value of time. Labor is ultimately the cost of everything we do and so productivity is the measure of import. Everything we do takes time and the inefficiency with which we do it is the anchor slowing us down.
Discussion. We have yet to reap the majority of savings achievable through business process automation and improvement in this country. Tools such as TurboTax (r) and TaxAct (r) have shown how to take a complex process and make it simple and relatively fast and error free. The government has a few excellent examples of this (and some that aren't as great), but the majority of our daily processes are undocumented, unfacilitated and inefficient. Almost every job we do needs process help. Our most complex and valuable or critical systems use checklists to operate. However, most of our labor goes into more basic business processes (such as performing analyses, preparing decision packages, providing services) that are unaided in most cases.
Recommendation. Start a nation-wide effort to take on 10% of our core processes per year. Identify the processes, gather ideas from the workforce and start a steady stream of process improvement events. Document the processes while building web-based automation and support for them. Apply process improvement. Provide for user feedback direct to the process owner. Populate with instructions and reference material. We only have to do this one step at a time to make lasting and large differences. The differences will not only improve efficiency, but effectiveness, morale and customer satisfaction. The most measurable savings will be in potential workforce reductions. However, by retaining and retraining much of the affected workforce, the application of the new culture created to every other aspect of our activities will yield far greater savings to the nation.
Results. Efforts like this have yielded up to 30% savings on the first pass. Even assuming a 10% net savings on 10% of the processes or 1% of perhaps $900B being spent on labor in the government, the annual savings potential after the first year is $9B. Assuming $6B of that workforce is kept to apply to improved productivity, $3B could be saved on labor alone. The impact on other government-wide costs would only increase the benefit. There is no reason the long-term net result would be less than $100B per year and perhaps up to $300B through reduced workforce. The benefits to the nation would be incalculable as the culture spreads to industry, but would equate to many multiples of the direct savings due to increased productivity.