This past March, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued its much anticipated report on "Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs" (click for REPORT). This was the GAO's first such report to Congress which henceforth will be reported annually. The report uncovered a staggering number of redundant programs in the federal government. As a small example:
Food safety: 15 agencies are involved in implementing numerous federal laws.
Defense: Numerous redundancies in the purchasing of tactical wheeled vehicles, procurement, and medical costs.
Economic development: 80 different programs spread across numerous agencies, often with similar goals.
Transportation: More than 100 programs run by five divisions within the Department of Transportation deal with surface transportation.
Energy: Eliminating duplicate federal efforts to increase ethanol production could save $5.7 billion each year.
As taxpayers this was something we all suspected for a long time, but never had any proof, until now. From all outward appearances the work of the GAO should be applauded as it has lifted the veil of incompetency of the government as a business. As feared, the GAO report shows the Federal Government for what it is, Parkinson's Law run amok. As any businessman can tell you, redundant work effort is not only costly, but the work of one may negate the work of others. It also opens Pandora's Box for people to exploit the system.
Regardless of how this bureaucratic nightmare was created, there is no excuse for perpetuating the madness. Failure to clean up the mess is simply reprehensible as the cost of government waste is in the billions of dollars which, of course, affects our federal budget. We would be derelict in our duty to allow the government to continue in this manner. The question to the president thereby is, "What are you going to do about it?" Throw up our hands and admit our situation is untenable? Correct it by simply reducing numbers? This may work for a while, but you run the risk of not properly serving your constituents. How about a little Enterprise Engineering instead?
Enterprise Engineering is a methodology we introduced back in 1988. One of its prime goals is to provide an organizational analysis of a business. To do so, we develop two models of an enterprise, logical and physical. The physical model tends to be easier to assimilate as it is conveyed through such things as organization charts, job descriptions, human and machine resources, and a skills inventory. The physical model reflects scopes of activity and administrative relationships.
The logical model is a hierarchical organization of business functions defining the fundamental duties and responsibilities of the business, thereby defining its mission as an enterprise. In developing this concept, we discovered that within any enterprise, be it business or government, there are only three high-level business functions which can be subdivided into no more than three levels of abstraction (for more info, click HERE). In fact, there is probably no more than 50 business functions in any enterprise, including the various departments of the federal government.
The logical model is relatively stable and will only change if the mission of the business changes. The physical model is much more dynamic and changes more frequently, even daily. In essence, the physical model represents how management elects to implement the logical. The real payoff in Enterprise Engineering is when you compare the logical model to the physical. This is when it becomes apparent that there are such things as: too many layers of management, overlaps and redundancies in work effort, omissions in properly implementing business functions, as well as inadequate skills and proficiencies. Only by developing and analyzing both models do we get a true idea of how well we are satisfying the business mission of the enterprise.
Regardless if you believe in flattening government or not, you cannot ignore the GAO's report providing an extensive list of examples of work redundancies and waste. The organization of the government can surely be corrected, but instead of by guess or by golly, why don't we employ a scientific approach for a change, such as Enterprise Engineering?
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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