File this one under “obvious,” but the Federal government finds itself in a budgetary bind. The talk coming out of every pundit’s mouth for the past few months has included “budget,” or “cost cutting,” and this could translate into a dramatically reduced Federal work force.
Can any agency afford to furlough, eliminate or contract its way to a slimmer budget? That was the question posed to government employees by GovLoop Founder, Steve Ressler: Can we really do more with less?
Some see the tightening of budgets as a way to inspire innovation.
“We can do more with less, but the process of prioritizing and aligning to strategic goals will be critical. … Also, leveraging the strengths of our employees is critical. Making sure that we have the right employees on the right seat on the bus. Employee are amazing when they are truly engaged, but organizations must realize the importance of this and put real effort in engaging employees,” said Laura Clellan, a VA employee in quality and workforce development.
Others saw budget cuts as a way to reflect on current priorities or practices, and potentially make improvements.
“We can do more with less if government organizations are willing to embrace social media and other IT tools that allow employees to collaborate from around the globe. … Maybe figuring out what our department’s priorities truly are, redistributing personnel, and putting some programs on hold until the higher priority programs are in the sustain phase is the smart thing to do,” said Daniel Crystal, an acquisition workforce development officer.
But the sentiment that tough economic times facilitate innovation wasn’t something all members shared.
“The ‘more with less’ mantra is not only a buzzword, but it’s a slogan that depresses morale in the public service, and creates huge amounts of cynicism on the part of government staff. We’ve all been there, heard the noise, and seen the results, which is often a move to lay off more people, increase work loads of the remaining, and also tends to end up with some of the less able staff members being the ones who stay, particularly when layoffs involve voluntary ‘leaving,’ ” said Robert Bacal, CEO of Bacal & Associates.
Ressler responded with his own suggestions.
“…when I was in a CIO shop, we had probably 4 layers of approval meetings for IT systems. Each meeting had a lot of prep costs where folks were paid to create documents and presentations. Is the process and approval costs worth the associated better management? Same way with folks monitoring purchase cards – is the cost of prosecuting issues more than actual costs of it?”
The reality is that agencies will need to think of ways to keep within their budgets, and still maintain a workforce and work flow that accomplishes all priorities of the respective agency.
William D. Eggers, Executive Director, Deloitte Public Leadership Institute, suggested that we need to move in a new direction altogether. “The key word is different,” he said. “You can only do more with less by doing things radically differently. Think Netflix vs. video stores. Amazon vs. bookstores. Cloud computing vs. traditional. Online learning vs traditional classroom.”