Lean Government Conference: Lean Best Practices in Public Sectors in Lithuania and in the UK

2017 09 05

Lean Government Conference held for managers and leaders of the public sector on the 19th of June focused on how to encourage public sector institutions to work more effectively. Lean Process Management System is designed not only for private businesses but it also is universally applicable in the public sector. Representatives of the Administrative Board of SODRA, the State Tax Inspectorate, the Ministry of Transport and Communications as well as guests from the UK National Audit Office, the UK Ministry of Education and Denmark’s Bakke School shared their practical experiences of how it works for them. Government Chancellor Milda Dargužaitė in her welcome speech to conference participants, emphasized the importance of efficiency in the public sector.

The ISO 9000 and CAF quality management standards currently widely applied by the public institutions are no longer considered advanced. Lean and Six Sigma methods firmly rooted in the private sector are only starting to be implemented. A scientific research of experimental implementation of Lean Government methods conducted by Lithuanian Society of Young Researchers, who are partners to Lean Government project, revealed the following fundamental obstacles to innovation:

  • Lack of knowledge and information
  • Management practice
  • Current habits and culture
  • Passivity

According to Vidas Petraitis, a practitioner at Lean.lt company that helped run the project, the aim of the conference is to share good practices from Lithuania and other countries where Lean Management philosophy is being applied on a much broader scale. He believes that successful practices of various organizations may lead to a more decisive action in developing an effective public sector.

A successful practice of STI Tax Obligation Department, which has been applying 5 methods of Lean Management (5S, Kaizen, VACA, PDCA and standardized work) since 2014, shows that even small ideas bring tangible benefits. For example, the time spent on document administration and the probability of error have been significantly reduced after the archival boxes in the document storage were visibly code-labelled. Stasė Aliukonytė-Šnirienė from STI Tax Obligation Department said that the biggest challenge was an attempt to implement Lean System without destroying already functional and value-generating existing system. However, building and retaining employees’ motivation is not a smaller challenge.

According to Director of SODRA Mindaugas Sinkevičius and Deputy Director Ježys Miskis, the first results of Lean motivate to seek more and adapt the system to the widest possible range of activities. The institution is currently attempting to split its processes into small steps based on the VACA method with the aim to get rid of various non value adding activities. The implementation of certain changes to the IT system should save approx. 3,150 working hours each year, which equals to a year’s work of 1.5 employee. Significant time savings are also planned in other areas: procurement, sickness benefit payments, and calculation of compulsory health insurance premiums.

Increasing efficiency through the implementation of process management practices has become mandatory in the UK. As of 2011 all the government departments in the country must have a sustainable development strategy as well as an annual improvement plan. The representatives of the UK National Audit Office and the Ministry of Education shared their main advices on the implementation of Lean in the public sector. One of the most obvious benefits of Lean in improving the UK’s Education system is a school that soared up by 500 positions in the ranking after the introduction of a Continuous Improvement System. Such a leap was determined by the enhancement of lesson quality and gradual improvement of students’ academic achievements.

According to the UK Government representative Alec Steel, Lean has positive results to an organization only if the implementation is quality-focused. The conference guests stressed that it is necessary to prioritize what is important today and what can wait. The focus should be only on the essential tasks. With a long-term view and Continuous Improvement mindset, it is important to always remember what key issue we are trying to solve. The speaker also emphasized that a fast and forced implementation of a new approach to management is not the answer. For this reason, a constant engagement of managers is essential. No innovation will take root without it.

Vidas Petraitis expressed his hope that this conference would not be the last. The more organizations will acquire knowledge and see examples of possible ways to improve their activities, the faster the expected changes in the public sector of Lithuania will be implemented on a wider scale.