Run a Lean Government
White Paper

Five ways cities can improve services and lower costs with technology

The idea of governments “doing more with less” has been around for a long time — and it’s no surprise that the concept continues to generate interest and support among citizens and elected officials alike. Not only is it a catchy phrase, it’s also a laudable ambition. The original goal was to lower costs and streamline the delivery of essential services by reducing waste, redundancy and unnecessary expense, which would also free government workers to devote more time to the needs of the constituents they serve. Yet for far too many local governments, running a lean operation has become synonymous with cutting jobs.

One reason “doing more with less” has fallen out of favor with many local government officials and employees is that it often begins with deep budget cuts. In that scenario “less” is guaranteed, making “more” all but impossible to deliver. Rather than finding ways to lower costs by improving efficiency so that budgets can be reduced gradually, budgets are often slashed at the outset, frequently due to funding shortfalls or changing priorities at the federal, state or local level. That leaves local government leaders scrambling to meet rising expectations for more programs, more services and greater transparency, but with less funding, less staff and fewer resources. Worse, many local governments are expected to keep using this model to deliver “more for less” year after year. While this approach may show some initial short-term success, it is not sustainable and ultimately leads to service cutbacks and unhappy constituents.

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