In my former position, CFO at a public career technical facility, we developed a culture of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the basis for “Lean” and is generally something seen in private industry. For many, the Toyota Production System, or TPS, best exemplifies continuous improvement in manufacturing. This culture and associated methodologies also apply to knowledge work.
In schools and other governments, process discipline and continuous improvement can be engrained into areas such as budgeting, reporting, year-end reporting, bidding, record keeping and record retention to name just a few. A few of the areas we addressed were:
- Procurement – Career and Technical Education (CTE) is delivered hands-on, meaning that an abundance of supplies and consumables are needed to deliver the education. To address this, we mapped the process of procurement, addressed vendor payment methods and vendor relations, taking the time to evaluate how the parts fit into the whole. The result? A digital process that provided a 30% reduction in process redundancy. Getting the materials in the hands of the students as quickly and efficiently as possible is the goal. It has also helped cut spending.
- In Pennsylvania, school districts can utilize a depository consortium called the PA School District Liquid Asset Fund, or PSDLAF. This fund streamlines the investment process for schools. It also offers a “procurement” card which charges zero interest, and it actually pays a year-end premium based on its use. We incorporated PSDLAF products into our school processes, making the processes highly efficient and as simple as possible.
- The budget-accounting-reporting-year-end closing financial process was viewed as a single process unit. Doing so assured greater consistency, and helped make financial forecasts more accurate and reflective of reality.
Again, these are just a few of the areas where process discipline was applied.
Let me make something clear; process discipline is not some impersonal system where the process takes precedence over people. Process discipline can actually engage people in collaborative work. Engaged people are effective people. And at the end of the day, effective people are happier people.
As I’ve said before, continuous improvement isn’t a methodology, it is a culture. When continuous improvement becomes part of the work, effectiveness soars. Ideas become essential. Searching for the “better way” happens on a daily basis.
In the end, “close enough for government work” doesn’t cut it!