Initiate Process Reviews in State Agencies

State agencies can save money and improve customer service by initiating ongoing reviews of their critical business processes.

Texas state government is experiencing severe fiscal pressures. Meanwhile, citizens expectations of government have risen as private-sector services have improved. But while people often can receive a same-day loan or ship packages across the country overnight, government cannot boast of consistently responsive, high-quality service.

Diminishing resources, higher service demands and rising public dissatisfaction with government all dictate that the state seek revolutionary approaches to improve the effectiveness of its operations.

State agencies may not feel they have the resources to change, but these agencies already have the most important resource their own employees. The front-line employees who regularly come face to face with the state s customers are ideally qualified to help improve government because they know the processes their strengths and weaknesses and have the experience to bring about intelligent change.

State government is starting to tap employee expertise to improve its business processes. Governor Richards has en couraged all agencies to undertake such efforts and has named a Xerox Corporation executive to serve as the Special Advisor to the Governor for Total Quality Management.

The Comptroller s office has initiated such a project. Known as the Renaissance Project , the program is under the direct leadership of executive administration and is operated by a steering committee of employees. The Comptroller and Deputy Comptroller set out the project s principles and guidelines, while the steering committee designs a program that requires no permanent staff and uses existing personnel.

After the Comptroller approved the comprehensive plan for Renaissance , his deputy met with managers, supervisors and various employee groups to seek feedback and support for the plan. In June 1992, the committee identified a group of three agency business processes for the first round of studies and appointed teams to condu ct the reviews.

To provide team members with skills and motivation, an initial Renaissance training course communicates the program s broad purpose and project specifics. While the agency does not rely to any great extent on consulting services, guest speakers cover topics when in-house expertise is not available. Such speakers can be arranged at little or no co st through interagency cooperation. Other elements of the course include team-building exercises conducted by in-house personnel and an introduction to process review tools and techniques.

Each process review must have a specific time limit. To date, the Comptroller s office has completed reviews of its legislative analysis, cost-estimating and rulemaking processes and the process for disclosing information to the public in compliance with the Open Records Act all within one 90-day period. Reviews of wor k alternatives such as flexible time and telecommuting and the agency s staff development a nd education process are nearing completion. Another project, dealing with tax system modernization and information management, will produce changes (described elsewhere in this report) that will produce up to $30 million a year in revenue to the state.

These accomplishments are proof that employees can achieve improvements through process review without a significant investment in training or consulting resources. Some of the Comptroller s completed process reviews are discussed elsewhere in this report.

Since Renaissance itself is also subject to continuous improvement, the steering committee is now working in subcommittees to refine its team-member application process, its Renaissance course and the level and type of communication and support that the committee provides to its teams. Using evaluations completed by former team members and feedback from other agency personnel, the Renaissance project will evolve. While Renaissance provides one model for improvement, there are many other approaches for self-review. The important thing is to identify areas that could be improved and find ways to make them better.

State agencies should develop a formal program to review their essential business processes.

Review of the processes can identify ways to reduce costs and improve services to customers. Often, these opportunities are lost in the press of current operations. There are many ways to accomplish these reviews, but it is clear that they provide one of t he best tools to real improvement in the effectiveness of Texas state government.

No amount of external performance review can accomplish the dramatic results agencies can achieve thro ugh self-review when the necessary management commitment is present. By using front-line employees who know the agency systems well, combined with system users and employees who can take a fresh look at work processes, agencies can drastically reduce proc ess cycle times, increase the quality of services to their customers and focus their resources on the most critical agency responsibilities. Employee satisfaction will increase with their ability to bring about positive change.

Fiscal Impact
The fiscal benefits cannot be estimated because it is not possible to determine how many agencies would use the process or how often. Given the potential in the Comptroller s office alone to save several million dollars on various projects, the savings to the state could be much greater.