The names might sound unfamiliar, but a story in a Pakistani newspaper reports on inefficiencies in local community boards that might well be in your own hometown.
According to Khalid Hasnain of the Dawn Newspaper Group, the district government in Khanewal, Pakistan has approved development projects for citizen groups with a failing track record.
This follows some 1.5 million rupees provided for milk chillers, another 1.5 million for furniture for a high school, and just under 1.1 million rupees for an ambulance—none of which have actually been purchased. There are also questions about proper coordination between various offices as well as whether or not application timelines have been enforced by the Executive District Officer.
Sound eerily familiar? Almost every organization around the world deals with challenges in workflow and process management. In the case of this particular story, the process improvement issue has to do with the difference between what was planned and what was actually executed. The report tells a story of a process littered with inefficiencies and process breakdowns. All of this resulted in a tremendous waste of resources, and most importantly, the failure to deliver the contracted services and products. Whether this is fraud or simply incompetence will have to be a detail for future investigative journalism.
The coordination between different departments, agencies, and other stakeholders is always a challenge, not just for governmental entities like Pakistan, but for any organization taking on a major project. It’s rare when a project can be completed without some degree of process sharing. Even small businesses and nonprofits require collaboration with other entities from time to time to accomplish certain goals. And the more complex the collaboration, the greater the opportunity for inefficiencies that can cost valuable time and resources and destroy credibility when services aren’t delivered. That means the creation of a precise workflow and careful monitoring of progress to ensure completion of the project.
Success in these ventures requires two critical components: communication and accountability. Communication channels and processes must be built in to the overall workflow to make sure all the moving parts in the project can talk to each other. This eliminates delays and inefficiencies waiting for answers to process questions. Accountability pieces must also be implemented, not only to identify the sources of process breakdown and remedy them, but to prevent allegations of impropriety like the ones facing the Pakistani government officials.
Even in the most innocent of circumstances, processes go awry. Absent communication and accountability processes, those breakdowns often go unreported and the project simply and silently comes to a halt until it catches the attention of someone who happens to be looking. Meanwhile, money and time needlessly slip away. And if it’s a lucrative project, the potential for fraud and intentional inefficiency is always present.
That’s why each project must have an overseer, a “buck-stopper” who enforces accountability, implements necessary changes, and reports progress to relevant stakeholders. It’s this person’s job to look for the inefficiencies, to anticipate and proactively prevent breakdowns when possible, and to actively step in to restart processes that have run into road blocks. Without this person, we see the all too common breakdowns in process like the ones happening in Pakistan.
To understand how a company or non-profit can improve, business consulting firms like AccelaWork recommends starting with a workplace diagnostic. This helps identify key components of every activity and provides opportunities to transform workflow for the benefit of stakeholders. Although you may not be wrestling with funding issues for municipal projects in the Punjab province, your organization may have inefficiencies that warrant further investigation. Contact AccelaWork to arrange an appointment today!