Editorial: Bottom Up Efficiency

The Leesburg Town Council this week got updates on a series of staff-level initiatives that hold the promise of making the government work better, in little ways and big ones. The work represents a refreshing change from the top-down directives that, especially in Leesburg, tend to cause more waves than results.

One exercise involved town staff members stepping back and taking time to ask fundamental questions about why they do things the way they do them—and how things could work better if done differently. It’s a simple, commonsense process, but one that is difficult for managers and front-line workers to execute amid their hectic day-to-day schedules. On the development review side, the effort even included industry representatives and county government staffers around the table. The result in both studies is that the town staff and their “customers” will have a clearer set of expectations and a shared responsibility helping the town run more efficiently.

The second program may be more unsettling for any bureaucracy. That involved inviting experienced managers from outside jurisdictions to Town Hall and allowing them to poke around the staff to find areas of frustration and friction. The recommendations of the International City-County Management Association team would address some of the identified employee concerns, but, more importantly, may carry more credibility with the Town Council than if the suggestions had come from its own staff.

The rewriting the town’s procedures for its leaf and brush collection service won’t, by itself, increase the quality of life in Leesburg, but the creative thought behind it is a promising—and productive—example to follow.

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