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PA IN THE MEDIA

It is not enough to look at the whiteboard – you must lead

This article was originally published on POV International in Danish. Read the article here.

The public sector has successfully installed Lean and other optimisation exercises in a few instances. However, our experience is that many civil servants are frustrated that they haven’t seen the anticipated results of their efforts. This is expected in a complex organisation and is often the result of not knowing how mature the organisation is, where the greatest potential is or where the focus should be.

For decades there has been a focus on optimising administrative processes in government and municipalities. Lots of work has been done on contract and goal management, processes have been Leaned and many institutions have introduced ‘whiteboard leadership’. However, due to increased efficiency requirements and continued high quality demands, there is still a need to constantly find new ways to optimise. People are looking for a quick fix, but there isn’t one.

Many may have succeeded in lifting productivity, but a change in legislation or personnel means that what might have worked a month ago may not work tomorrow. And then what?

There are six areas to keep in mind:

1.     Tasks

Do managers and employees understand which tasks are the core tasks? Who are the customers and what do they need? This is about the ability to uncover and understand customer segments, expected assignments and the value the tasks create. But it is also about the extent to which you can standardise the processes.

2.     Employees

Does the team have the right professional skills? Are they maintained and developed? And is the individual employee and the team aware of each other's roles and responsibilities in relation to the task management?

3.     Management

The manager and the employees handle management. That means they can manage and optimise utilisation of resources and competencies to ensure efficient job management. But it is also about the culture of the team. Is there any ambition for improvement of managers or employees or is there a state of resignation and acceptance of the status quo?

4.     Priority

Is there a link between the organisation's strategy and meaningfulness for the employees? And are the goals used for management and ongoing prioritisation? Do the employees know what is expected of them?

5.     Execution

Execution is about the ability to manage the task based on knowledge of available competencies. Visual tools such as whiteboards, tablets or monitors can support the daily execution, as they make it clear to the employees what to expect.

6.     Development

To ensure continuous optimisation, a development culture is key. It's all about solving and eliminating the problems and errors. But it's also about working in a structured way to improve processes.

You cannot do it all at once

Both as management and employees, there are limits to how many things you can focus on at a time. By checking the maturity of the organisation’s operational leadership, one can focus on the areas where they’re weakest.

Operational management is the most changeable factor. Employees come and go, times change, customers and citizens get new needs, and technology evolves. Therefore, you must constantly focus on optimising processes and maintaining a culture where your employees thrive. So, continuously repeat your maturity check to ensure continued development of operations.

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