How to reduce costs and maintain public services?

Archived Article • 18 June 2010 • Opinion

Dr Zoe Radnor is Reader in the Operations Management Group at Warwick Business School. She is working over a long timescale with regional and national government and public service bodies on the implementation of 'Lean' and associated techniques in public governance and service sectors. Lean for the public sector is a way of working, adapted from manufacturing, to maximize customer value with fewer resources and minimal waste.

Zoe has published over 30 articles and book chapters including jointly editing a themed edition of Public Money and Management on Lean in Public Services. She is Management Practice Fellow at the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM]), considering sustainability of Lean in public services.

Organisations with which Zoe has been or is currently working include the Scottish Executive, HMRC, HM Courts Service, National Audit Office (NAO), Healthcare institutions, as part of the Anglesey Recovery Board, and Total Place. Total Place is a government pilot initiative that looks at how a 'whole area' approach to public services can lead to better services at less cost; 13 pilot areas are participating. Its remit is to identify and avoid overlap and duplication between organisations, and so deliver both service improvement and efficiency at the local level and centrally.

Zoe comments, "I recently led, with Professor John Benington, a workshop for 50 high-level directors and managers from the West Midlands and central government on the benefits of applying the principles of Lean. The gathering showed firm commitment and determination to organise follow-on events and activities, and full recognition of the need to work together.

"With the new UK Prime Minister David Cameron indicating a significant shift in the structure of government together with stringent cuts in funding, there is a real need for leaders of public services to be prepared to meet the challenges ahead.

"Lean is currently being used as an efficiency tool driving out low levels of waste within processes focused around cost reduction. However, it has the potential to deliver much more by being used as an improvement tool to develop quality and delivery that large professional organizations should have! My continuing research and advisory roles in the Government should help this agenda."

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