ASQ Survey: Federal Government Faces Challenges on Road to Efficiency

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ASQ members in government positions agree that quality improvement methods and tools could help reduce government waste, decreasing the burden on taxpayers.

The survey of ASQ members and customers who work in a diverse range of government sectors was conducted online in January.

A recent ASQ survey shows only 8 percent of government workers say the U.S. federal government is operating very efficiently.

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.

Only 8 percent of government workers say the U.S. federal government is running very efficiently, adding that shifting priorities and fears of job loss pose major obstacles to making improvements, according to a new survey by ASQ — the leading global authority on quality.

In January, ASQ surveyed its members and customers who work in a diverse range of government sectors including defense, health care, military, transportation, finance and agriculture.

Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said the biggest challenge to implementing quality improvement methods in the federal government is the shifting of strategies, goals, and priorities. According to the results:

  •     19 percent said overcoming organizational fears about the impact cost-cutting will have on jobs and project funding is the biggest hurdle.
  •     14 percent cited a lack of awareness about quality methods like Lean Six Sigma and how they can benefit the organization was the greatest challenge.
  •     12 percent said viewing quality improvement as a temporary trend was the biggest challenge.

“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 been 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 of respondents 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 an available tool for reducing waste and improving efficiency in federal government. Of the government workers surveyed, 42 percent have implemented Lean Six Sigma in their organization, and 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
In addition to the tools respondents say can best help the federal government, those surveyed offered opinions as to which areas need the most attention from quality.

According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents ranked infrastructure as the area federal government could most benefit from reducing waste and cutting costs. Furthermore, 55 percent of respondents say Health and Human Services and National Defense would best benefit from quality tools, followed by Immigration and Customs at 54 percent, and Homeland Security at 53 percent.

First Steps in Ensuring Success with Quality Methods
There were several ways the government can effectively implement quality tools like lean and Six Sigma to improve efficiency, according to respondents. Possible first steps suggested by the respondents 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.

About ASQ
ASQ is a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better. With millions of individual and organizational members of the community in 150 countries, ASQ has the reputation and reach to bring together the diverse quality champions who are transforming the world’s corporations, organizations and communities to meet tomorrow’s critical challenges. ASQ, with its world headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis., USA, operates regional centers in the U.S. and Canada, North Asia, South Asia, Latin America and Middle East and Africa. Learn more about ASQ’s members, mission, technologies and training at asq.org.

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Christel Henke

Kevin Braley
@ASQ
since: 05/2008
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