Much like Paul Mueller Company, Greene County was having a rough time after 2008, but when it tossed around the idea of trying open book management to improve the county’s budget constraints, everyone had the same thought—this would never work in government. Turns out, it does.
“We’re not in sales,” says Cindy Stein, Greene County auditor. “But we figured out we could still meet and go over our monthly finances.” One of the biggest takeaways for the county was understanding the importance of financial projections. Until the county started open book management, it was forecasting budgets three and five years out. Instead of working closely with the financial team, departments looked at their yearly budget and assumed they’d spend everything they had.
As a result, county employees hadn’t seen a raise in six years. “If you looked at every department's budget projections, they had spent everything,” Stein says. “So it looked like we didn’t have the cash for raises.” But by the end of the year, departments had spent less than projected, and raises could have been part of the county’s budget. “This showed why projections are important,” Stein says. “It also showed our employees that they do have an impact on the bottom line. Knowing their department’s numbers allows them to control whether they get a raise.”
Stein saw a good example of how every single department can impact the bottom line when a member of the county’s janitorial staff attended one of the weekly huddles. “He went back to his team and suggested they start measuring the chemicals they use for cleaning,” Stein says. “By simply using the recommended measurements, that department saved thousands of dollars.”
Now, the county does county-wide huddles and uses the event to get different departments together to make sure everyone understands the why behind each department and how they can interact with each department. “Planning for the long term is important,” Stein says, “but we learned that we need to be more involved in the today.”