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Productivity Expert Suggests Integrated Approach for Productivity Improvement in Public Sector

Professor and Chair of Public Administration at Rutgers University in the USA, Dr. Marc Holzer, has commended the Government on its efforts to modernize the public sector but emphasized that Government needs to adopt an integrated approach if it is to achieve significant and comprehensive improvement in productivity in the sector. He says that significant improvement in productivity will only be achieved when there is integration between the internal capacities of the public sector and the services it is expected to deliver.

He was speaking at a two-day symposium held at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and Conference Centre at the UWI, Mona Campus with the theme Productivity Improvement: Managing for Quality Outcomes. The Symposium was organized by the Department of Government, Mona in conjunction with the Public Sector Reform Unit, Cabinet Office. It brought together public sector managers, members of the academic community and the private sector to discuss productivity enhancement experiences, strategies that have worked, and challenges to improving productivity. It also aimed to develop policies and strategies for productivity improvement within an appropriate ‘change timeframe’.

Professor Holzer, who specialises in public sector productivity improvement and is the Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Public Productivity, made his comments against the background of the Government’s documented reform agenda/vision as set out in its Summary Document of the relevant Ministry Paper, “Government at your Service: Public Sector Modernisation Vision and Strategy 2002-2012”

He identified five factors which he said were critical to improving productivity in the public sector. These were Managing for Quality, Developing Human Resources, Adapting Technologies, Building Partnerships and Measuring for Performance.
He argued that any attempt to improve productivity had to have the full support of top management in order to succeed. The public sector needed to be customer focused and there also had to be long-term strategic planning to ensure that goals and objectives were met. Critical to this approach, he said, was employee training and recognition. Employees should be involved in finding solutions to problems, as this would empower them and encourage team work. At the same time he noted that efforts had to be made to continually improve quality so that performance standards would be met.
Dr. Holzer told participants that effective human resource management was critical in the effort to improve productivity. He said companies had to develop their human resources by recruiting the best and the brightest and providing them with the assistance they needed to succeed. This included the provision of systematic training, but also providing facilities such as day-care centres for those who needed them, and helping employees to deal with personal problems such as depression, alcoholism and similar health care problems.
The fourth ‘best practice’ approach to productivity improvement involved adapting technology to provide the necessary services. Dr. Holzer said that a range of technologies exist to help deliver on the public’s demands. He emphasized the importance of e-governance and said every effort should be made to facilitate open access to government services and data through facilities such as public libraries and the use of public kiosks for those who lacked immediate access to the web. Every effort should be made to use automation for enhanced productivity, he said, as well as to introduce cost-effective applications and cross-cutting techniques.
Professor Holzer said that many opportunities also existed for government to build partnerships with citizens and volunteers, the private sector, other public sector partners as well as members of non-profit organizations. In this way, government would be able to bring in expertise which it lacked, to assist in achieving its objectives.
Finally, Professor Holzer argued that government had to establish goals and measure the results, justify resource requirements and reallocate resources where necessary in order to develop organizational improvement strategies and motivate employees to improve performance.
The opening ceremony was chaired by Head of the Department of Government, Professor Stephen Vasciannie. Also addressing the participants were UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor the Hon. Rex Nettleford, and Director of the Public Sector Reform Unit, Mr. George Briggs.

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