The main purpose of many public projects is to streamline a task area.
But can this be considered a benefit in and of itself? Let us say, that we can now receive our payout using half the resources after the project is completed. Is that a benefit in and of itself? The answer is no, and it is more than just academically interesting to understand why.
If we can complete a task using half the resources, middle managers and employees will first and foremost be curious to know, what will happen to them afterwards.
Will there be firings, reshuffles, reorganization or will we just have more time to do our job? If these questions are not answered, it creates uneasiness and lack of focus on the change itself.
Different types of benefits
Imagine an example, where an initiative exists for the purpose of ensuring, that data can be shared more effectively within an organization or externally.
Maybe you spent 10% of your workday prior to the initiative sharing data, and you expect to reduce this to a mere 2%. Classic streamlining. But what is the benefit?
Below you can see different types of benefits – and it is obvious, that it means a great deal to middle management and employees, which benefits are sought after in any given streamlining process, and how they are realized.
- You need to save money on the whole staff, for the organization’s budget
Perhaps because the total expenses have to be cut, or the executive committee wants to prioritize the resources elsewhere. This demands that the benefit-responsible manager har a clear-cut strategy, for benefits realization – and for firings, natural attrition or perhaps for when surplus manpower is relocated to other positions within the organization. This type of thing has become common during the years after the financial crisis, within municipalities and government organizations.
- You have to complete a higher number of tasks using the same number of resources
This has been the case for the health sector within the regions and the senior citizen sector within the municipalities, as a result of the aging population. The same pairs of hands are now required to handle an increased number of customers/users. For the benefit-responsible manager, the objective is now to implement new referral norms, duty rosters, task distribution routines etc. for their employees.
A variation of the 2nd point is where there are more tasks for less growth in staff resources than usual
This means, that the organization for instance can take 20% more tasks, for a growth of a mere 2% of staff resources. Actually, this can also be seen within the health sector and the senior citizen sector in the municipalities. The benefit-responsible manager, aside from implement new distributions, now also still has to recruit staff. Once again, an essentially different situation for the staff and manager.
- It also might be the case, that the newly available time must be used to improve quality and result in streamlining
Perhaps there has been challenges with service, too many mistakes, poor results etc. Instead of hiring new staff, the newly available time is used to strengthen the tasks that foster quality.
I was told this strategy a few years ago by a CEO who chased wasted time within jobcentres, to transfer it to value-creating conversations between the unemployed and consultants. It is important that “quality” does not become an indefinable term. Quality is just as tangible a concept as profit, but you cannot be sure that managers and employees are working with the same definition. This is an entirely different problem that needs to be solved. How can you do good work, if you do not know what good work is?
- Finally, it might be the case, that the newly available time must be used to reduce the pressure of work
It might be the case, that the job satisfaction reports have, over time, shown an experience of overly intense pressure of work, after a longer period of task growth, that did not take the adequate measures to reduce the pressure of work. The benefit-responsible manager thus has to, just as the manager in the 2nd point, realize new referral norms, duty rosters, task distribution routines etc. for their employees.
The point of this short article has been to make an appeal for higher precision and attention to the so-called “streamlining benefit”, because it is so important for changes, that there is clarity within an organization with regard to how it is used. Perhaps it is one of these factors, that makes benefits realization and streamlining so difficult – there is a lack of experience with and maybe also interest in being precise.