Borrowing evaluation techniques from private industry, Gila County hopes to streamline and cut costs — even it that includes reducing staffing levels.
Gila County Manager Don McDaniel presented his plan to evaluate county departments and revise the employee handbook to supervisors at a work session the last week of February. An analysis on the handbook has not been done for 10 years and departmental analysis has never been done.
“We’re looking to see if operations run more effectively and efficiently with fewer people,” said McDaniel in the meeting, “If we save money on personnel we could use the excess for salaries.”
In an interview outside the meeting, McDaniel indicated the county has no plans at present to downsize, but he wants to prepare as budgets get tighter and tighter.
“Businesses constantly evaluate their efficiency,” said McDaniel, “We in government often don’t.” He hopes to change that by hiring Pine resident Ernie Borgoyne, an independent contractor consultant for Ceptara Corporation.
Borgoyne’s approach uses the concepts first introduced in the book, Lean Six Sigma: Combining Six Sigma with Lean Speed, by Michael George.
McDaniel knew of the six sigma philosophy before hiring a consultant and has wanted to apply it to the county for some time, said Borgoyne. He also said other counties such as Orange County, California have initiated turning themselves into a lean county.
“He (McDaniel) had tried to introduce the concept before,” said Borgoyne, “So he knew about what type of consulting I do before I called.”
The county hired Borgoyne to provide 50 hours of training and workshops and has already completed the first session.
“I want to empower people to identify wasteful activities,” said Borgoyne.
Borgoyne said most people automatically assume when management starts an efficiency analysis, staff is the first to go. Yet, Borgoyne suggests removing staff might not create a better workflow. Often, just changing how business gets done makes a big impact on workload. Still, without enough staff, he said, the work can’t get done.
Borgoyne has found that unless businesses analyze work processes an organization cannot reach its goals.
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure,” said Borgoyne.
McDaniel said the county has just started the budget process. He did say that according to anecdotal evidence from discussions with other county managers, Gila County has more employees per capita than many other Arizona counties.
“We’re definitely not understaffed,” said McDaniel.