Discussion paper

Delivering for citizens: how to triple the success rate of government transformations

Government accountability Open government Government services Public sector innovation

Governments around the world know they must transform the services they provide if they are to be able to deliver for citizens. Aging populations are putting huge pressure on health and social services, education systems need to equip young people with the skills for a technology-driven world, and the changing shape of cities is creating new demands on infrastructure. Many government services lag behind citizens’ expectations, contributing to public discontent.

According to a survey of nearly 3,000 public officials across 18 countries, part of this landmark study undertaken by the McKinsey Center for Government, around 80 percent of government efforts to transform unfortunately fail to fully meet their objectives. The failure rate of government transformations represents a huge missed opportunity to tackle society’s greatest challenges more effectively and deliver better services for citizens. Were governments globally to match the rate of their most improved peers, they could save as much as $3.5 trillion a year by 2021 while maintaining today’s levels of service quality. Alternatively, they could release funds to strengthen high-priority services while keeping overall government expenditure constant.

The study also includes insights from 80 transformation cases and 30 in-depth interviews with leaders who have personally driven transformations in government. Using these insights we have identified five disciplines that together can more than triple the chances of success of government transformations. They may seem obvious, but our research shows that they are extremely difficult to get right.

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