By: Dr. Wayne Brock
Public Administrators are charged with providing services to a defined population normally mandated in the program or public service. The service to the public is often evaluated and many entities collect extensive quantitative data to identify the number of clients serviced during a given period, various demographics, diversity, and household information. The quantitative data assists in reporting and justifying funding with the ability to show how effective the service is to the program target population. Typically additional information is gathered on an intermittent basis to evaluate grant awards, program planning, and client satisfaction. The data is often qualitative and rich in providing a process for continuous quality improvement (CQI) through L3; Listen, Learn, and Link.
Program mandates, implementation, and the responsibilities of the public administrator require the need to gather information to show the effectiveness and efficiency of public services and justify the value provided to the public. The quantitative and qualitative data can provide rich analysis and synthesis of process and program improvement. The quantitative data impacts the immediate needs of most elected officials, public action committees, and public advocacy groups to show the program snapshot including the benefit to the clients and community. The qualitative data is available and the administrator should share with program staff to dialogue a process and program improvement initiative using L3.
Listen – the qualitative data typically contains open ended questions or comments from participants. Upon examination, the public leader should review the comments to identify the underlying issue, not just a surface issue. Understand what is being stated, what else could be an issue; how can the program change to be more beneficial to the client? Do barriers exist to improving the client experience? As example, a comment ‘I always hate coming here and waiting’ could lead toward understanding a process need (more time between scheduled appointments) or possible change in process using a team service delivery method?
Learn – The agency leaders need to review the qualitative data and learn from what is being heard. There is the ability in today’s information age to research and identify best practices. In generic benchmarking, there is the ability to search for best practices in and out of the public sector to modify and implement. Can the identified best practices be adapted to the agency? Do the practices require modification for adapting? Will the best practice improve the client interaction with the agency and increase effectiveness of the service to clients? The public administrator requires a commitment to learning continually to provide the best possible service to the public.
Link – The final point is linkage of listening and learning to the process implemented or the program for improvement. Link requires action from the listening and learning of the prior steps to ensure program improvement is attempted. There may be risk involved of creating barriers in the current process or program, yet the administrator can revert to the prior process, if the initiative implemented does not achieve the desired impact. Link is the action requirement to ensure a CQI in the existing public program.
The L3 diagram shows how to ‘close the loop’ to the process and program improvement. The loop is not an episodic event or end to the process; the loop is continuous quality improvement (CQI) through listening, learning, and linking. The need to improve services and programs to the clients served by the public administrator is an ethical, social, and agency responsibility. There is limited improvement without implementation of L3; one must listen to the constituency. To learn is to leverage technology and discover best practices; creating and adapting initiatives of prior success in agencies. Gathering data without analysis, synthesis, and action is to collect data; there must be a link for CQI. Public service can be improved through implementation of L3 analysis and synthesis of existing metrics.
Dr. Wayne Brock is the Director of Academic Affairs and Advance Certified Facilitator for the University of Phoenix – El Paso Campus. He is also the founder of the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Leadership Institute and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org