The Lean government paradigm promotes the analysis and implementation of efficient administrative and customer service process in order to reduce the cost of government while maintaining quality customer citizen service.
Some have characterized this with the phrase “do more with less.” While this reflects a public policy that would shrink the size of government just for the sake of shrinking it, this is poor public policy and clearly not the purpose of the lean government initiative.
Lean government practices will allow government at the local, state and federal level to provide better services with the same dollars that exist and in the long run meet the needs of all citizens who need it, rather than some. Public managers in conjunction with legislators and executives have the challenge of maintaining this balance. They must be cognizant of the pluralistic influences of their customer citizens, legislative overseers and the importance of facilitating exceptional employee performance.
The difficulty arises when accurate process maps have been completed, budgets for the cycle have passed and realistic staffing measures and related overhead costs set. Shortly after this momentous time, which falls annually or biannually in most jurisdictions, something changes. Customer need increases, public support for the program weans or some unforeseen employee performance issue arises. Public managers need to include some flexible contingent plans for these changing times. Where in the private sector new staff can be brought on board when production needs change relatively easily, in the public sector this is more difficult due to equal opportunity human resource policy in government.
If public budgets are built upon the a lean process model without any contingencies then there will be a probable chance that vital services may not be available at some time in the future. This would be devastating to those who depend on government services for survival. Accurate process analysis combined with workable contingencies will prevent this kind of difficulty in the public sector.