NEWS – Business school professor Norman Faull is appointed to run a program to improve service delivery across South Africa government.
Africa-base Institute for Security Studies reports that at least five service delivery protests occur in South Africa every day. Now a professor from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (GSB) says that there is an effective and simple solution to the country’s service delivery challenges and it lies in proper and effective operations management.
Speaking at a special event at the business school recently, Emeritus Professor Norman Faull (who is also Founder and Director of the Lean Institute Africa) said that sound operations management, specifically the implementation of lean principles, can bring rapid improvements in systems. “Sometimes you can fix a problem in a week,” he said.
“We can bring about huge transformation in the way an organization functions by implementing lean principles,” said Faull. “We need to think inside the box. Systems speak to us, they speak in a language of problems. If we listen and respond correctly, we can and will improve the system.”
LEAN PRINCIPLES AT WORK
Faull has been given an opportunity to practice what he preaches. Recently appointed as an advisor for the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) within the presidency, he is helping to design and roll out an operations management support program across government departments, with the ultimate aim of fixing service delivery in South Africa.
“It’s a preposterous plan,” Faull told the GSB gathering. “But it could just work.”
Lean management is essentially the intelligent management of resources needed to deliver the goods and services clients want, or, as Faull describes it, the “making it” side of any organization.
The effectiveness of the approach is already paying dividends for the City of Melbourne, which is rated year after year to be one of the most livable cities in the world. Since 2009, the City of Melbourne has successfully rolled out lean principles across its operations and is frequently held up as an example of best practice in this area (Denise Bennett from the City of Melbourne, who will be sharing these lessons at the summit organized by the Lean Institute Africa in Cape Town in September).
In this sense, Faull’s “preposterous plan” is in fact a pragmatic plan that aims to engender good performance in the public sector. It proposes teaching a system of lean principles to selected government service nodes (hospitals, police stations and schools) to solve specific problems (lack of textbook delivery or long queues in outpatient units) and then cascading this knowledge throughout the service delivery chain.
The plan consists of three components: a preparatory phase, core action phase and research phase. The preparatory phase is to get word out that the plan exists and to recruit government departments into the process. The core action phase aims for rapid process improvement and the inculcation of sustaining behaviors. And finally, ongoing research will inform how the plan evolves and what lessons are learned and applied to keep things moving forward.
“We are proposing to government that by implementing lean principles there can be impact, ability to scale up and sustain improvements and develop capability to continue improvement,” he says.
A provincial health department has been the first in line to start to implement the plan. “I was called to their office recently and the MEC for Health asked for our program to start virtually immediately,” said Faull. Two two-day workshops were attended by CEOs of all of the provinces hospitals in July. “It’s very exciting to have begun the process, because we absolutely have to address public sector service delivery in this country,” he concluded.