Fixing a Broken Government in the Information Age
by Larry English
Originally published May 13, 2009
In all the discussions about the failure of the financial sector, I have not heard or read a discussion of one of the major root causes – lack of quality information that would have revealed where the financial sector’s real problems were, so they could have addressed them before the meltdown occurred. To be sure, executive “greed” was a major cause in the failure of the industry – that must be addressed as well. As a consultant, I have been brought into a number of financial institutions to help solve their information quality issues. Some of these institutions had no idea how to value the loans in their bundled investment packages.
While consulting to one of the federal agencies, we discovered it had overpaid $1.7 billion to unqualified recipients and had underpaid qualified recipients by an additional $600 million – a total of $2.3 billion misspent. That is equivalent of giving more than $1,000 to each of the estimated 2 million people in Washington for Obama’s inauguration. Beyond this, agencies have squandered more than $1 billion on information systems that failed to meet requirements or got scrapped. Based on 20 years of working with business and government clients, I can say that most organizations squander from 20% to more than 30% of their operating revenue or budget in “information scrap and rework” – a pure waste of our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Some federal agencies waste up to 40% of their operating budget in information scrap and rework. As we try to make government more effective and efficient, the best costs to cut are the costs associated with the waste caused by broken program and information processes. We can solve this by error-proofing our program and information processes.
To be sure, many huge problems face us. We can solve them, but we must have accurate, complete and timely information to identify root causes and to improve business and information processes to put the government back to work effectively.
After World War II, Japan, taught by America’s own quality gurus, W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran, created the first quality revolution. Japan had made quality a national agenda item of its government, led by Kaoru Ishikawa, the great Japanese quality guru. Even as we speak, Korea and other Asian countries appear to be emerging as the next quality revolutionary force.
Will America Be Left Behind?It is time for America to get on the new Total Information Quality ManagementRevolution to rid government and industry of the waste caused by broken information processes and the costs of recovery from the process failure and information scrap and rework. The same principles that led to the total quality management revolution in manufacturing are the same principles required to bring in the Total Information Quality Management (TIQM) revolution in the information age.
Here’s how we can do it:
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