Mention the word ‘government’ pretty much anywhere in the world and you’ll be met by angry comments citing inefficiency, bureaucratic red tape and frustration. Arguably, no sector could benefit more from the application of lean management. Lean is all about simplifying and rationalizing, a need that will become more and more stringent for government organizations worldwide as their budgets are squeezed.
Experiments in the application of lean government in the public sector go back a few years, with a difficulty commonly raised being “seeing the work”. An early, notable and very successful example of lean government is City of Melbourne, where lean brought a common language that managed to link the work of 30+ government agencies. Other examples are Ministries in the UK, municipalities in the Netherlands, the Dubai Police and cities in the USA. In Grand Rapids, the Fire Department started a lean journey some 10 years ago, which ended up spreading to every other area of city government. There is even a state-wide lean transformation taking place at Washington State.
Lean government organizations provide higher quality, faster and more transparent service to citizens. Since lean thinking can be successfully applied to any human endeavor, lean government ideas can improve any type of public sector work, whether legislative, executive or judicial (see the work done in the HM Courts and Tribunal Service in the United Kingdom).