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A US federal agency redesigns business processes

By introducing new business processes, an agency improved productivity by more than 50 percent, reduced a work backlog by two-thirds, and significantly boosted employee morale.

Challenge

As a result of the financial crisis, a large government agency had experienced a threefold increase in its workload. The organization needed help managing the increased volume of work as well as reducing cycle times—a key determinant of customer satisfaction—and supporting its overwhelmed employees.

The agency’s leaders turned to McKinsey for help. Specifically, the client wanted support in achieving three objectives: improving the agency’s operating capabilities through changes to its management systems, developing a capability-building program for employees, and rolling out the changes at the agency’s headquarters and across its field offices.

Discovery

Together with the client team, we first conducted a comprehensive lean diagnostic of the agency’s service operations. To identify opportunities for improvement, we used data analysis, employee and customer interviews, and office visits. We then partnered with frontline employees in two offices to design, test, and refine a set of solutions aimed at increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

To enable the agency’s frontline employees and leaders to roll out the solutions and sustain impact, we helped create and deliver an extensive capability-building program that consisted of leadership coaching and technical training for the top 25 executives, boot camps for those who would lead the program’s national rollout, and change-leadership training for the top 100 leaders.

We also helped the agency design and execute the national rollout. As part of this work, we helped define local resource requirements, develop an implementation playbook, and create an internal communications plan. In addition, we helped the agency design and implement a performance-management system, including a performance dashboard and a set of structured performance dialogues.

Impact

The agency is rolling out the operational changes at its more than 40 regional offices. It has seen productivity increase by more than 50 percent; backlogs have been reduced by two-thirds. The agency’s staff has built the capabilities to sustain these performance improvements. Equally important, the program has generated enthusiasm and buy-in among frontline employees. Internal surveys indicate that fully 100 percent of the agency’s employees feel they are “encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.”

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