Public Sector Quality Management

public sector quality management

Public Sector Quality Management Applications

There have been numerous attempts at implementing public sector Quality Management Systems (QMS) in the past decades.  These attempts have had mixed results due to a number of factors.  Many programs at the federal level, such as those incorporated by the Department of Defense (DOD) in the 1970’s, have been examples of success and continue to be effective in the increase of productivity.  Several states, including Florida, have incorporated programs to  to ensure Management Excellence, Customer Satisfaction, Treatment Excellence and Cost Efficiency in service delivery.  Municipal applications have striven to pursue quality of public services by Identifying and addressing community priorities, collaborating across departments, and ensuring accountability, transparency and measured results.

Differences Between Public and Private Sectors

There are obvious differences between the public and private sectors that inhibit effective quality management of government.  The public sector is not driven by market issues and does not need to maintain a competitive edge.  It is often driven by short term perspectives.  It faces a rotating tier of elected and appointed upper management that makes consistent application of a program difficult.   The public sector also has a tendency to rely on established processes at the expense of efficiency.

Public Transportation and QMS

Public transportation has been a good application for QMS.  This is largely due to availability of solid metrics.  Ridership, customer satisfaction, and effectiveness of vehicle and facility maintenance being such examples.  This is particularly important at a time where many transit arenas are showing  reduced ridership.  Of those programs that have been most effective focus has gravitated towards customer satisfaction, attracting new customers, and reducing costs.

The Need For QMS at the Top

For effective QMS businesses have realized that buy in is required by all stake holders and that upper management must fully embrace processes and the requirement for continual improvement.  Unfortunately this is not the case in very large bureaucracies where there is not a cohesive set of policies across departments.  Additionally, many programs do not have sufficient requirements for proactive evaluation of quality metrics.  In the case of the DOD for example, this often leads to cost overruns caused by quality issue delays in program development.

The Future of Public Sector Quality Management

While the need for effective QMS in the public sector is becoming more desirable due to limits in funding, many issues will need to be overcome in its implementation.  Key among these issues are a culture of complacency and a reluctance to change.  Growth in public sector makes these changes more and more necessary and many administrations of late have undertaken initiatives to make these changes.  It will be interesting to note how these systems evolve.


Kevin Gholston

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