Quality in Government: Maintenance vs. New Development

This month, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski explores the issue of quality within government:

If you have ideas of what it would take to make quality in government the rule rather than the far-too-seldom exception, please tell us. If your view on the prevalence of quality in government differs, please share your view as well.

Although it’s been a busy month, and I just recently returned from the ASQ World Conference, I admit I’ve been putting off my response to this topic. I feel like I should have something to say because I’ve worked in the government – as part of a national laboratory – for more than a decade. But what insight could I bring to this story? I’ve really been challenged to figure out what it is.

Finally, in a conversation with a friend who’s dealing with a philosophical shift in thinking about quality at his company, I remembered one of the biggest strategic challenges that we had encountered in this environment: Maintenance vs. New Development.

Funding is always a driving factor in planning for activities that fall within the federal domain. And there’s never enough of it. As a result, there is always tension between allocating funding to maintaining and continuing the quality of existing functionality vs. innovating and creating new functionality. If you want to push forward and create new value, you’re going to have to shave resources from doing what you do now. As a result, relaxing standards for quality is always a consideration. It’s a modern-day Devil’s Pact.

I believe that employees in the government sector are not unaware of the requirements for achieving quality; indeed, most of the people I worked with were VERY aware of what was required to achieve high quality in products and processes. But because of continued pressure to move forward and innovate, which is (of course) required to remain modern and relevant, the external pressure regularly led to unconscionable compromises.

So to me, the question is… when are we, as constituents, going to pressure the funding agencies to allocate the appropriate resources to achieve consistently high quality?

One comment

  • Great post Niccole – I spent 12.5 years as an elected city councillor in one of Australia’s largest Regional Cities Wollongong (Aboriginal Word for “Between the Mountains and the Seas”)

    It seemed to me that Government Leaders like the kudos that goes with launching & opening new projects & facilities – maintaining existing ones is just not “sexy” or appealing to the media. So the existing program almost has to fall in a heap to be reincarnated as a new project or initiative to attract media attention

    Does this happen in the USA too ?



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