A Canadian discussion on how to use, improve, and share within the larger GovLoop Community (but open to everyone!).
A great place to start when looking to connect with other Canadian Civil Servants.
Government Service Standards – Are they really working?
November 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm #84737
More and more it seems like Public Service is turning to promoting service standards from getting “a birth certificate within 15 days or your money back” to returning phone calls the next business day.
Commitments to excellence are popping up everywhere and standards certainly manage expectations, but are they really effective? Are better services being delivered or is it all about perception?
I’d like to hear what is working for you and any advice you might have in implementing new service standards.
November 4, 2009 at 5:44 pm #84745
ServiceCanada, ServiceOntario, following Service Australia/New Zealand/UK/USA (under different names) — it’s the current wave.The new ServiceGov’t organizations have been instituted and now they are trying to move the larger public/civil service forward in terms of improving service delivery. We need to be improving our service delivery, definitely, but not sure if these elaborate branding exercises will get us there. Regardless, they are here to stay for awhile, so we must work with them.
For now it’s going to be much more about perception, because actually improving service delivery is going to require looking at the larger systems, changing the actual bureaucratic machinery and integrating different ministries/departments/jurisdictions. Yes, the Ontario Gov/t will issue you a birth certificate in 15 days, but you can’t apply for that until you get your official record from your municipality first, which might take a month. The perception is two weeks, but the reality is six.
What we can do at a local level is to advocate for meaningful performance measures in the work that we are being expected to produce (if your metrics don’t make you a bit anxious, they’re probably not significant), and making the powers-that-be aware of the connections to other areas that impact our local performance. This does require planning work to develop signicant metrics, especially if you want to leverage them for changing your organization (i.e., the metrics won’t be static, because as they move the organization forward, they will need to be updated).
November 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm #84743
The other point I would make about service standards is that performance measures are not the right thing for the organization to focus on. Contrary to the common belief that “what gets measured is what matters” — the things that are actually needed are accountability, focus, teamwork, quality. These things don’t come about through measurements. The more engaged employees are, the more connected they are to their work, the more of these things they will exhibit.
Focusing on the metrics ends up becoming what matters — the petty requirements of measurement rather than the larger purpose of the work being done. The metrics should be seen as feedback mechanisms that help us to see our environment, our relationships to those we are serving, what change is happening, our impact. Too often they end up becoming the focus of our work and our service comes to revolve around the narrow focus of the metrics.
November 4, 2009 at 9:00 pm #84741
I see this internally as well – the HR and IT support functions in my org have implemented service standards. Recent experience with receiving services from both these groups tells me that it’s quite easy to blow past the promised turnaround times. Makes me wonder how much thought has gone into setting them up.
IMO, part of the issue is that often group X in the org was charged with setting up the standards while unit Y delivers the service – and X and Y don’t like to talk to each other. So while the standards may be out there publicly, they lack legitimacy internally. Which is of course a recipe for disaster…
December 9, 2009 at 9:15 pm #84739
There probably hasn’t been too much thought given to them, since what is really needed would require much deeper changes to the system. That would mean a lot of effort and focus on changing the infrastructure and superstructure, and that’s just not sexy. And then there are the power struggles of the various empires that have been built up unnecessarily, and individuals managers/senior executives have hired their own people which they will fight to keep…
Back to the original blog post… it tends to be all about perception. In the Ontario Public Service, we have a new organization called ServiceOntario that is bringing a new private-sector business approach (my charactertization) to delivering gov’t services (they don’t serve citizens, they serve “customers”). I was in a ServiceOntario office last week to renew my driver’s licence and I waited 65-70 mins. Doesn’t seem like an improvement to me.
But then, in the private sector, perception is reality. To go deeper is to have to deal with bigger and bigger problems, and who wants to do that? It’s easier to try and change perceptions.
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