Governance is a theme that caught my attention of late thanks to the recent developments in my country, India. As I type this post, innumerable discussions are going on about maximum governance, reducing red-tape, ensuring transparency, and accelerating decision making. While it is heartening to see that the debates center around good governance, I am a bit surprised that nobody is talking about the elephant in the room ? processes.
In the previous post I wrote that governance involves two acts: legislation and execution. Legislation is a relatively easier task in comparison with execution. Ensuring that the policies are implemented and services are rendered is easier said than done. In my opinion, governments are gigantic service providers. Their purpose is to deliver services to people. Whether it is about providing infrastructure, enforcing law and order, securing the nation, or providing licenses or permits governments are in essence rendering services to the masses. The magnitude and variety of services rendered depends on the jurisdiction of the respective government body. So one thing is clear; rendering government services cannot be done in an ad-hoc manner. There has to be well defined processes behind every government activity. These processes are to be aligned perfectly with the people and information involved.
The key process aspects that can deliver effective governance can be modeled after the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) model. However I would like to change the dimensions and split them into four initiatives: Definition, Awareness, Execution, and Monitoring.
Clearly defined processes are a must for any service rendered by a government body. Whether it is about issuing birth certificates, driving licenses, or building permits, or procuring defense equipment, or building nuclear reactors there has to be a well-defined process on how the government body executes the service. The process objectives are to be clearly identified. The execution path of a service delivery should be documented in detail with the roles of various actors involved. The process inputs and outputs should be listed out clearly and so should be the rules. One of the most important aspects of any process will be the SLAs and the same should be captured on the overall process as well as individual sub processes if any.
Creating process awareness is as important as defining the process itself. If one were to approach the city administration for a building permit, she should know how the process works, what information she would need to provide the administration office, and what is the timeline in which she could expect a decision, and what she should do to ensure optimal outcome. Process awareness should be an integral part of the government?s service delivery since both service recipient as well as the service provider would understand how the process works in non-ambiguous terms. It is essential to train the government officials as well as spread the awareness among the public on how the processes work.
Any process initiative would fall flat if not executed properly. The government body has to ensure diligent execution of the given process whatever the circumstance may. It is imperative that governments look at ways of automating processes as much as possible. Adhering to SLAs is a very important aspect of the execution process. Well defined BPM or case management systems can ensure effective execution of the processes.
How will the head of state know how his government is functioning? How will the mayor know what is going on in her city? The answer is process monitoring. The process needs to be monitored real-time. Monitoring should be possible at various abstraction levels. Process monitoring should be rolled up to the highest level. The head of a government will not be interested in specific transactions, but he will need real-time summations of the various initiatives. At the lower levels SLAs will need to be monitored and escalations should be analyzed. At the higher level dashboards should be provided. In one dashboard the head of the state should get a birds-eye-view of the performance of her government.
Process improvements are not overnight activities. It takes quite long to get going. There has to be a start somewhere though.