It's often said government should treat citizens the way businesses treat customers. But when it comes to customers, businesses have it relatively easy. They get to pick and choose which customers to serve, lavishing attention on those that are profitable and using a one-size-fits-all approach for the rest.
Governments don't have that luxury. They must serve every citizen, providing essential services that in many cases would never survive in the private sector. Helping those who need it most. Protecting privacy and rights. Providing security and defense. All while balancing a complex mix of conflicting demands from a diverse constituency and in the face of unmatched public scrutiny.
In the private sector, the bottom line is shareholder value. In government, the objectives can be harder to pinpoint — clouded by political agendas, turf battles, special interests and economics. But in the end, the basic goals are the same. Making efficient use of taxpayers' money. Striving for continuous improvement. And delivering maximum value for citizens and communities.
- Measuring performance: Governments need to continue to focus on gauging performance by what is achieved. Leaders should strive to understand the real results that are being delivered, and how much real progress is being made.
- Improving through competition: Government's position as a sole provider is often perceived as a liability, insulating agencies from constituent needs and creating a safe harbor for bureaucracy and inefficiency.
- Streamlining operations: Many government operations can be performed by third parties — often at lower cost and with equal or higher quality. Private enterprises have been streamlining themselves for years by spinning off non-core activities. Increasingly, government agencies are starting to do the same.
- Promoting efficiency: Most government employees are smart, industrious people. But like any workforce, their behavior is largely driven by the organization's rewards and incentives. Continuing reform of government workforce programs to create a model work environment is a high priority for leading agencies.
- Getting the word out: Government agencies aren't accustomed to marketing their services and often prefer to avoid the spotlight. The result? Outstanding programs can fall short of their full potential simply because people aren't aware of them.
Strategies for success:
- Align activities and investments with overall objectives — particularly citizen needs. Measure performance against that baseline.
- Get more value from non-core services and assets through shared services and privatization.
- Introduce competition into government service delivery through innovative partnerships.
- Identify innovative ways to reward government employees for performance — and for finding opportunities to save money.
- Aggressively market new services.
- Strive to be a source of best practices.