OPINION

Government management and efficiency should be top priorities for Kansas state government

By Wink Hartman
Special to Gannett Kansas

Two words that seem to petrify many but should not are government efficiency.

Government efficiency is not a way to make cuts that don't allow government to function. Rather it is a way to achieve cost savings and allow ways to rethink how government works in order to make government work better for the people. Government efficiency means innovation, better management and improved service for Kansans.

Over the past year, we have seen many instances where better management was needed in our state government. Who can forget the failures in the Kansas Department of Labor with regards to chronic computer system breakdowns and people being unable to access customer service? This was and is unacceptable behavior for our state government.

Better management in state government could have warded off many of the issues we faced last year. Call centers could have been staffed up quickly. Outside-the-box thinking could have been employed. Employees could have been cross trained and moved from one function to another in order to address shortfalls. Everything that happened last year should serve as a warning to Kansans that we need to change how are state government is managed.

We need to make government management and efficiency top priorities for our state. We need to look at every aspect of state government and figure out if we are getting the best bang for our buck from it. We need to look at ways to innovate aspects of our state government in order to address management issues. We can look at ways to combine services and cross train employees.

How can we better use technology to serve Kansans? Can we move more services online and create easy to use web portals and smartphone apps to get things done? Obviously, this will require a better information technology system than we have in place now. But hopefully last year’s IT failures will show a need to invest in modern IT systems.

In the private sector, we have to constantly look at ways to innovate and be efficient. We need to stay a step ahead of others and find better ways to serve our customers. Take consumer banking for example. The advent of ATMs in the 1970s allowed for banking to better serve customers by allowing to easily make withdrawals and deposits 24 hours a day, a system made even easier now by online banking.

At the same time, ATMs allowed in-person banking to become more efficient. Teller lines became shorter as people used ATMs for quick transactions and tellers for more complicated ones. Tellers could serve more customers every hour and move people out of the bank quicker, giving customers the gift of time.

Government innovation can easily work for our state. We can make government services at all levels easier for residents to access. Government efficiency needs to be part of any innovation process since this can show us what we can innovate faster and how best to innovate.

Government efficiency can also save us money in the long run by addressing duplicative measures or management practices that spent more than they should. This money can either be used to offset a tax hike or to fund a tax deduction.

Better management can help move our state forward.

Wink Hartman is the CEO of the Hartman Group of Cos. in Wichita.