What exactly is a “management system,” and how does the Arizona Management System differ from all the ones that have come before it? The concept of a management system probably originated with cave men, once they figured out they needed to work together in order to survive. As the size of the tribe grew beyond the chief’s ability to personally maintain control, he needed a system for keeping everybody in line.
Over eons, as societies became increasingly complex, they required ever more sophisticated systems for tending business, achieving common goals and solving problems. Thus was born the modern bureaucracy, complete with its complicated sets of rules, policies and procedures, and methods for holding people accountable for performance as well as compliance. Fortunately, humans are an evolving species capable of learning from experience and adapting to changing needs. Management systems have evolved over time, too, such that the leading edge model today fits with the pace and demands of the 21st century global economy. This is the model embodied by the Arizona Management System. It looks like this:
- Customer focused and data driven
- Great processes executed by a lot of good people rather than a few heroes overcoming some really bad processes
- Standard work deployed, monitored and tested in controlled prototypes for continuous learning and improvement
- Small teams with short spans of control aimed at collaborative problem solving
- Highly visual work places where problems are made visible so they can be quickly fixed
- An engaged, motivated workforce committed to the mission and sharing mutually beneficial outcomes
- Leaders and managers who get out from behind their desks and go see the work as it’s being done to deeply understand how, but always with an eye for helping teams improve
The Arizona Management System is distinguished from other management systems because it’s based on Lean principles, including profound respect for the people who do the work. As a people-centered approach, our Arizona Management System is being done with you, not to you. It will be sustainable in the long term because employees will enjoy greater creativity and influence in solving the problems that frustrate them and inhibit their performance.
Future administrations will no doubt decide what policies and priorities get attention, but employees in the trenches will determine how the works gets done. Once they see how their jobs become easier and how freed time can be put creatively to more productive use, Lean will be the one best way for fulfilling agencies’ vital mission work.