“The public service is being asked to do the impossible,” says Tom Jenkins, executive chairman of Open Text. When the private sector wants to become more efficient, they usually invest to achieve greater productivity. The public sector, however, is being asked to cut, but without the investment in tools or processes to do so. “And taking the lowest bidder on an RFP is a disincentive to innovation.”
The responses to the demand for cuts is similar to the answer to the philosophy 100 question: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” Many public servants see the demand to “do more with less” as an externally imposed negative, in the midst of downsizing and layoffs. Yet others are enthused, and eagerly seek how to become more effective while reducing costs.
According to Jenkins, and to BMO vice president Kevin Lynch (who was head of the Public Service of Canada from 2006-2009), who both spoke at the IPAC annual conference Monday, the productivity gap in the private sector, between the U.S. and Canada, is about 25-28%. But we don’t know what it is in the public sector – no figures are available. We could be less, more, or just as effective as our counterparts in other countries. How can we find out?
An approach Jenkins recommends, used in the U.S., is to allocate 5% of the budget to innovation, and to expect a return of 5% or greater in efficiency.
And how to move the cynical glass-is-half-empty people to enthusiastic half-full ones? “Provide incentives to change behaviour, and embrace innovation in procurement,” Jenkins advised. What are your thoughts?