Only eight percent of government workers believe the U.S. federal government is running efficiently, adding that shifting priorities and fears of job loss pose major obstacles to making improvements, according to a recent ASQ survey.
In January, ASQ surveyed its members and customers who work in a diverse range of government sectors including defence, health care, military, transportation, finance, and agriculture.
Thirty-one percent of survey respondents said shifting strategies, goals, and priorities are the biggest challenge to implementing quality improvement methods in the federal government.
Other survey highlights included:
- 19 percent said the biggest hurdle is overcoming organizational fears about the impact of cost-cutting on jobs and project funding.
- 14 percent cited the greatest challenge as a lack of awareness about quality methods like Lean Six Sigma and how they can benefit the organization.
- 12 percent said the biggest challenge is viewing quality improvement as a temporary trend.
“The federal government has a great opportunity with the application of quality tools reduce waste and, as a direct result, decrease the burden on the taxpayers,” said Mark Abrams, chair of ASQ’s Government Division.
“Quality tools have proven successful in a variety of sectors including manufacturing and health care, and can be used at all levels of government to increase operational efficiencies and improve taxpayer experiences.”
In addition to noting challenges with the federal government’s structure, survey participants ranked quality improvement tools they see as having the biggest potential for reducing federal waste. Seventy-six percent said lean would provide the greatest benefit to increasing efficiency, followed by Lean Six Sigma at 71 percent, and Six Sigma at 48 percent.
Quality tools such as Lean Six Sigma have been highlighted by past U.S. presidential candidates as a tool for reducing waste and improving efficiency in federal government. Of those surveyed, 42 percent have implemented Lean Six Sigma in their organization. Of these 42 percent, more than 86 percent said it’s been somewhat, very, or extremely efficient.
Federal Government Agencies That Need the Most Help
Fifty-eight percent of respondents ranked infrastructure as the area federal government could most benefit from reducing waste and cutting costs. Furthermore, 55 percent of respondents said Health and Human Services and National Defense would best benefit from quality tools, followed by Immigrations and Customs at 54 percent, and Homeland Security at 53 percent.
First Steps in Ensuring Success with Quality Methods
Possible first steps suggested by respondents for government to effectively implement quality tools like lean and Six Sigma, include:
- Generate a stronger commitment from management/leaders and integrate into performance standards.
- Present clearly defined goals and use selected quality tools to implement processes.
- Provide training for key members of the administration and government agency management teams.
- Educate government officials at various levels on the quality tools available and techniques that can be applied to their specific situations.
- Mandate the use of selected quality tools and give them time to work instead of quickly switching to the latest “great” thing.