Maximizing Operational Efficiency during COVID-19 and Beyond: Lessons from Government

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has pushed local governments to new heights of innovation as they try to manage response, containment, and the continued resilience of their communities in what is for most unprecedented circumstances. Weighing the need for safety and consideration of our most vulnerable populations against the needs of the economy and our workforce means government agencies are not able to manage this crisis with one clear timeline from lockdown to phased reopening to the all-clear – instead, we must find a way to manage reopening as safely as we can while giving clear public health guidelines and finding ways to keep the economy healthy, our people employed, and our government providing quick and accessible services.

New challenges ask us to find novel solutions, but those solutions can be built on a foundation of lessons we have already learned, saving time and resources when we focus on our institutional knowledge rather than reinventing the wheel. We have compiled recommendations for increasing operational efficiency, saving money, and improving service delivery from our library of case studies and expert analysis of government agencies, and selected those we believe are most useful to anyone working to respond to our new reality and to make government best serve people.


Case Study: New York City Office Space Optimization, An Operational Excellence in Government Success Story

  • Significant findings:
    • Put someone in charge. Having a single person responsible for managing their real estate portfolio gave leadership to the initiative and allowed for consistent follow-up as they worked to right-size their portfolio.
    • Rely on data. You can’t move forward without a baseline – how many resources do you have, how much does it cost, and is it being used? If you don’t have a baseline already, you have to start by creating one.
    • Rethink how much office space is needed. Workplaces that were slow to implement changes to office layouts and distance work before the pandemic found themselves acting with unprecedented speed in the interest of their employee’s safety. Now that the status quo has been thoroughly disrupted, how can we use the freedom this gives us to change how we operate moving forward?
    • Don't pay for vacant space. Changing the floorplans of workspaces, office sharing, and remote work will mean more vacant space, and giving up that space can lead to huge savings.


Case Study: Atlanta's Blue Ribbon Commission on Waste & Efficiency in Government Report, An Operational Excellence in Government Success Story

  • Significant findings:
    • Use data early and often. It’s not enough to use data to estimate cost and benefits; it must be shared with the entire time involved well before meeting, so that subsequent decisions are informed, timely, and appropriately scoped.
    • Borrow expertise and ideas from the private sector. Every industry has been and will continue to be affected by the pandemic, and idea sharing and lessons learned will be more and more critical, with public-private partnerships that ease the burden of costs, materials, and expertise on all partners drawing from the best of both worlds.
    • Look at government’s cost of providing a service. Local governments already know that the majority burden of fines and fees are being born by those least able to afford them. As rising unemployment, wage disruption, and economic downturns make us keenly aware of how vulnerable many of our citizens are, making these fees equitable and means-tested will not only make life easier for citizens but can lead to an increase in revenue for agencies.
    • Create a Project Management Office. Having a central team that collects data and tracks progress with a clear system for sharing results with stakeholders creates accountability.


Final Report of the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee

  • Significant findings:
    • Outcomes-based Approaches. Focus resources one what’s likely to reduce cost and improve outcomes to create a win-win.
    • Use of Consolidation, Sharing and/or Centralized Services. Reduce redundancy – can centralizing administrative tasks like procurement cut waste?


Government Efficiency and Management Performance Review (State of Colorado)

  • Significant findings:
    • Going Green to Conserve Dollars. What’s good for the environment is also good for budgets. Green changes can help save money while mitigating the environmental impact of government operations.
    • Controlling Health Care Costs. Health care and personnel costs are often one of the biggest chunks of any agency budget. Finding ways to control and centralize those costs can have a huge impact on the bottom line.


Maximizing Efficiency in the New York City Government

  • Significant findings:
    • Update your fleet. Management of a city’s fleet, including maintenance and fuel costs, can easily run out of hand. Significant savings can be found in overhauling these costs, centralizing resources, and modernizing stock.
    • Efficient IT. Not only is new, updated, and tested technology critical in ensuring smooth operation, but getting rid of dead stock can help free up time, space, and resources spent housing and managing out-of-date tech.


North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform Report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations (State of North Carolina)

  • Significant findings:
    • Cross-train staff for multiple roles. When staff understand each other’s responsibilities and can step in when needed, sudden absences or massive projects don’t have to mean a slow-down in output
    • Evaluate positions when they become vacant. Vacancies are a great time to examine if a position can be consolidated, downsized, or take on additional responsibilities without affecting existing staff.


Other Useful Reports: