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Book Review "Lean for the Public Sector..."

Eng Book Review

Reviewed by Michele Peach

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51+lvm 8Tis L._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_Lean for the Public Sector: The Pursuit of Perfection in Government Services
Bert Teeuwen (2010)
223 pages, paperback, $29.95
Kindle Edition also available
Productivity Press
ISBN13: 9781439840221


The term "perfectionist" is often used with a negative connotation. That being said, is striving for perfection the thing to do, especially in the public sector? And is it attainable? In Lean for the Public Sector, Bert Teeuwen admits you will never attain the perfect situation and changes are constant but aim for perfection nevertheless and the result is continuous improvement. I believe him. This book is a must read for all public sector leaders - federal, provincial and local.

After reading 12 chapters, I have concluded it is best described as an attitude - it puts the "customer" center stage, adds value to all processes, eliminates wastes and helps employees own government processes. I particularly like Teeuwen's take on the citizen - playing varying roles of customer, user, subject, voter, taxpayer, partner, administrator. For every action we take, for each process we have, it has made me stop and consider "who is the customer in this case"? and "are we adding value with this step of the process"?

The concepts outlined in this book are for creative and innovative leaders only. Especially when it comes to eliminating waste, which include well used checks and balances (aka red tape to the customer.) This is a difficult possibility for many public sector administrators (and politicians) who cannot accept anything other than zero risk of error, loss or embarrassment.  But with financial and human resources becoming scarcer every day, this kind of thinking is no longer reasonable and eliminating the red tape and managing (not eliminating) risk is critical.

Readers beware! Chapter 4 "Mapping the Value Stream" and Chapter 5 "Flow and the Pull Principle" took me forever to read - I found myself rereading many parts over and over.  Figures 4.2 and 4.3 definitely need to be shown together without having to flip the page and the "spaghetti" diagrams in Figures 5.4 and 5.5 make me cringe! But they are a crucial prelude to other "lean" principles, such as mobilizing employees and building Kaizen (continuous improvement) teams - so find a nice quiet place and settle in for some uninterrupted time before tackling these chapters.

Finally, the workplace organization 5 "S" strategies - sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain - may seem to be common sense, but the chapter devoted to this is practical and well worth reflection. One word of caution for Teeuwen - no mention is made of the Access to Information legislation most of us are required to follow so he may wish to reconsider his "when in doubt, throw it out" advice. I like this book and the concepts contained in it - it will help move my city forward.
The Pursuit of Perfection in Government Services

Reprinted with permission, eFocus Municipal Assessment & Taxation, http://www.COMvivio.com.


MpAbout the Reviewer
Michele Peach, CA, is the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Mount Pearl, NL. She has worked for 34 years in the public sector and was an Audit Manager with the Provincial Office of the Auditor General for15 years before beginning to work for local government. She can be reached at .


Packed with international case examples and clearly delineating principles as they apply to public sector organizations, Lean for the Public Sector: The Pursuit of Perfection in Government Services demonstrates that Lean in the public sector is neither rocket science nor a typical profit-driven improvement program.

The book begins with coverage of the basic philosophy of Lean before detailing specific methods for improving processes in the public sector. It addresses concerns specific to the public sector environment and considers the role of the citizen, not only as customer, but as a voter, taxpayer, and community participant. The author provides a clear explanation of methods such as 5S, kaizen, standardization techniques, and Value Stream Mapping shaped to Lean Government. His approach provides a reality-based view of value-added services and waste in the public sector.

Written specifically to address the application of Lean practices in government and the public sector, this how-to workbook gives you the wherewithal to combat the 'We don't make widgets' mentality. Providing the tools to manage the entire Lean transformation process, the book helps you immediately integrate the Lean way of thinking and its tools into your improvement program.