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“Cash for Clunkers” Doesn’t Have to Be a Lemon

Over the weekend my father-in-law decided to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program and went car shopping. Unfortunately the Dodge dealer he went to in his home town of Paris, Illinois informed him that they had put the program on hold. Apparently they had sold five cars and had yet to be paid by the government. He then contacted another dealer in Indiana and was told that they had also stopped honoring the program. They had sold 38 cars and had yet to be paid by the government and were not sure if they would be paid. Thus, despite all the assurances and actions by congress and the President, poor execution by the bureaucracy is stifling the program.

Simply passing legislation does not guarantee results. Just as in the ARRA legislation, now under fire for not delivering the intended outcomes, organizational credibility is always a casualty in these situations. It is important that the extended infrastructure in such transparent initiatives be ready to implement the legislation. It is eerily similar to the problems that have plagued effective strategy execution in troubled corporations and spawned pundit pablum about how to effectively implement strategy.

One of the key reasons for missteps of any new legislation is the lack of focus on processes. Great people with good intentions working in bad processes still yields bad results. The responsibility to ensure new legislation delivers results falls to the executive branch, Cabinet Secretaries and the agency directors who report to them. These leaders must understand the capabilities of their (1) people, (2) processes and (3) technology to meet the unique requirements of each new law and react to deliver results “out of the box.”

Leadership must work together with the experts embedded in their organizations to find rapid, fact-based solutions to identifying and closing process gaps that often lead to failed execution. And while this is easy to say, it requires a lot of elbow grease, empowerment of associates and effective leadership to make it all work. Fortunately there are tools and methods from industry that can meet the needs of leadership even in these extraordinary times.

Leaders must challenge old thinking and get cross-functional teams into a room in a Kaizen fashion to dissect the new laws and policies, identify implementation requirements and chart how they might impact current people and processes. They must then compare this to current capabilities and complete a “gap analysis.” From this point it is possible to create a roadmap to close any gaps that exist before the new law/policy becomes a reality.

Next they must adopt tools such as Lean and Six Sigma in combination with cross-functional process reengineering teams to rapidly close these gaps. This has been done in government as well as industry – particularly at the state level – within days or a few weeks.

Finally they must put in place performance management tools to measure the processes and the outcomes. Front line tools such as Hour-by-Hour charts and visual management similar to what is in place at Toyota and other “Lean” companies can quickly highlight how effectively processes are working. In addition such tools as scorecards tightly coupled with appropriate metrics and KPIs can be used to measure the effectiveness of the legislation. And, of course, technology is a key enabler in eliminating process waste and robust performance measurement. It is often said that adversity creates crisis to drive change in an organization. At no other time in recent history have we had more adversity and yet we continue to see the types of results that have tarnished the reputation of government. Now is the time for change – not just in policy and legislation but in the internal machine that is the federal government.

By Ron Wince, CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions
Post taken from The Ascent Blog: http://blog.guidonps.com

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