1st Edition

A Public Sector Journey to Operational Excellence Applying Lean Principles to Public Policy

By Kate McGovern Copyright 2023
    256 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    256 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    256 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    A Public Sector Journey to Operational Excellence links effective government operations to the ability to accomplish bold social goals. The book illustrates how the principles and techniques of continuous improvement can be applied to public sector management and public policy development.  The linkage of management to policy is woven throughout the four sections:

    Part 1 begins with the history and application of the principles of continuous improvement (CI). Readers are introduced to Lean and related methodology.  CI principles are then juxtaposed with John M. Bernard’s categorization of three stages of maturity in government. Next, guidance is provided on how to launch a CI initiative in the public sector, leading to a discussion of public administration in theory and practice.

    Part 2 examines the application of CI to governmental operations. Examples, such as the VA’s hiring process, underscore the need to Lean bureaucratic and regulatory processes.  Profiles of CI work in several states illustrate both the potential and the pitfalls, leading to recommendations for an optimal model.  

    Part 3 acknowledges that among the responsibilities of government, the public policy function is the most difficult to Lean. It discusses the complexities inherent in government since the public policy is both a political and an administrative function. Toyota Kata methodology is illustrated, with its potential application to the challenges of policy development. It could be a force multiplier when civics and politics meet CI.

    Part 4 links the promise of CI to make government more effective, enabling it to solve complex problems. Strategies are proposed to overcome the threats and sustain the gains in these initiatives. Cognizant of the many challenges, the book closes with a range of recommendations and a reflection on the purpose of government.

    About the Author

    Section I. The Foundation of Continuous Improvement and Operational Maturity
    1. Introduction to Lean and Continuous Improvement
    2. The Three Stages of Maturity in State Government
    3. The Kaizen Concept, 4. Lean Management
    5. Theory and Practice
    Section II. Leaning Government Operations
    6. Breaking Bad Bureaucracy
    7. The Goldilocks Standard for Lean Regulation
    8. Moving to Results-Based State Government
    9. A Model for CI in State Government
    Section III. Leaning Government Policy
    10. The Three Ps: Politics, Policy Making, and Public Administrators
    11. A Case Study of Unlean Public Policy: U.S. Health Care
    12. Applying CI to Public Administration
    13. Lean Policy Development
    Section IV. A Lean Future State
    14. Leaning Government Operations
    15. Continuous Improvement for Thriving Communities
    16. Diffusion of Lean Culture and Level Three Government
    Appendix A. Deming’s 14 Points for Management
    Appendix B. ASPA Code of Ethics
    Appendix C. Applying the Lessons
    Appendix D. Internal Training Programs
    Appendix E. Annotated Bibliography of CI Literature on My Bookshelf


    Kate McGovern, MPA, Ph.D. is a Lean trainer and practitioner in the public sector. In addition to facilitating kaizen projects for state, municipal and non-profit organizations, Kate taught Lean Belt programs and public management classes for New Hampshire’s Bureau of Education & Training. She has worked as a Lean trainer for the states of Vermont, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Massachusetts through Daniel Penn Associates. Having previously taught at Springfield College, School of Human Services, Kate is currently an instructional faculty member at College Unbound in Providence, Rhode Island. She is a contributor to the PA Times and the author of Challenges in Pension Governance: A Case Study of the New Hampshire Retirement System and A Public Sector Journey to Lean: Fighting Muda in Times of Muri.

    At a time when an increasing number of Americans are seeing the pursuit of happiness as nothing more than a pipedream, we need to rethink how our government goes about the people's work. Kate McGovern's book makes a compelling and timely case for taking what the business world has learned from applying lean principles to how we address our most complex social problems.

    • John M. Bernard, Author, Government That Works, The Results Revolution in the States


    With real-life examples and drawing on her experience, Kate McGovern demonstrates how lean can transform government. She shows us what’s possible and offers proven roadmaps to success. This is a must-read for any government entity that wants to improve how it serves the public.

    • Tony Rodriquez, President, Daniel Penn Associates LLC