Ask Ellie & Jill: Cost Saving Ideas

Posted on August 2, 2018

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In the series, ELGL members can anonymously send their questions, difficulties or scenarios to and receive a response from the ghost writing response team. Your name, organization and other details will not be shared in the posting or subsequent response.

Dear Ellie & Jill,

I have a few good ideas for potential cost savings in my organization. I don’t want to offend the department which I feel is spending too much in certain areas. I also don’t want to offend the finance director and city manager. At the same time, I want my ideas to be heard. What would be the best approach?


Thrifty Coworker

Dear Thrifty,

Now THAT is a can of worms! So. How do you ensure your organization is operating efficiently without becoming “that person”?

First of all, walk the walk. Your suggestions and ideas for cost savings will be better received if you are already known and respected as a creative problem solver and have a track record for achieving meaningful savings. Focus on your own area of the organization first. Not only will you develop credibility, but you might learn a little about why other departments are doing things the way they are.

It might be that your city is limited in its options due to outdated procurement code or contractual terms that make agile spending decisions difficult. If that’s the case, rather than pointing fingers at individual departments, maybe the more important target is the procurement system.

Next, start with root cause and assume good intent. Don’t go into a conversation a preconceived idea about what a department should do differently. Seek to understand the process used to make a vendor/product selection and the underlying problem that this purchase was made to address. It’s possible that on the surface it might appear that the expenditure was unwise, but when the whole story is known, what is being done makes sense.

If, after all this, you still believe that the spending is over the top, proceed with caution. Going up the chain of command with what is essentially a case that another department was irresponsible with City resources is a tricky situation. If your conscience won’t let you sit idly by, schedule time with the City Manager, be humble, and once you’ve shared your information, let them handle it.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Rather, think about how you can help your organization make better spending decisions on a regular basis. Could you volunteer take on a procurement code re-write? Start a pilot program related to continuous improvement or innovation? ELGL has several members who have been involved with citywide continuous improvement and innovation programs focused on empowering employees to question the status quo who we’re sure would be happy to help you out.

Best of luck!

Your friends,

Ellie & Jill

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