If you want to save taxpayers money, listen to frontline workers

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -Henry Ford

When state employees and managers at two Department of Human Services (DHS) offices came together in 2011 great things happened. By working together the team was able to reduce the typical three-hour application process time to just 30 minutes.

The effort, dubbed the “Lobby Project,” is a perfect example of how drawing on the knowledge of frontline workers can dramatically improve government services and lower costs for taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the lesson seems to be lost on Gov. Snyder and his department directors. Instead of modeling the successful Lobby Project at other DHS offices, the governor bypassed the union-management New Solutions Committee, as well as his own Good Government Initiative, choosing instead to spend $51,000 on a Florida-based lean consultant.

Wanda Withers, a Family Independent Specialist at a DHS office in Detroit, says she and her co-workers have ideas for improving services and cutting costs, but they are not consulted or listened to by managers.

“As someone who is working on the front line of the day-to-day operations of the state, I know that I and my fellow colleagues have the expertise and know-how to fix the problems in our operations,” said Withers, a member of UAW Local 6000.

“We don’t need a high-priced, out-of-state consultant to come in and tell us what we already know. Frontline workers understand the impediments to productivity, how to improve our clients’ experience and how to eliminate waste,” she said. “We just need to be listened to and respected.”

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