Lean Practices for Government Organizations
Lean has gone through a dramatic evolution from an obscure and isolated practice to a mainstream methodology. It is now a well-established thinking system to eliminate waste from processes and maximize value to the customer/end-user. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization.
Today’s government organizations must deliver more to their communities with fewer resources. State municipalities and agencies are adopting the principals of lean manufacturing to improve how services are delivered, from infrastructure improvements to municipal services to transportation to education.
Government entities that truly apply lean thinking to their operations and processes can realize significant and sustainable benefits by:
- Removing waste from internal processes, which results in happier, more productive employees and fewer resource-draining crises
- Fixing the problems that create major headaches for staff and customers
- Realizing better customer outcomes, better customer service and faster response times
- Responding to the evolving needs of their communities with high quality and low-cost services that are delivered efficiently on schedule
- Lowering operating costs across the supply chain
- Improving productivity
- Reducing inventory
- Reducing floor space
- Enjoying safer and cleaner workspaces
- Actively engaging employees with a continuous improvement mindset
- Developing higher quality services and solutions
- Improving delivery performance
- Maximizing value for taxpaying members of the community who benefit from state services
To achieve these benefits, government entities must cultivate new ways of thinking. Lean thinking requires a long-term perspective and perseverance. Done appropriately, lean thinking changes the focus from optimizing separate technologies and assets through value streams that flow across technologies, assets, and departments to the customer.
Unfortunately, many government entities have yet to put into place the strategic lean thinking and training necessary to transform how they operate.
Senior management and process leaders must first define how their agency’s lean journey will contribute to the organization’s overall objectives and build a strategy around it. The strategy must cultivate a sense of purpose and passion about that lean journey.
Ingredients for the government?
- Senior management is trained in lean practices and continually demonstrate their commitment and participation.
- Everyone sees and experiences senior management’s personal commitment, direction, and engagement in the lean process.
- The lean program must be in alignment with the organization’s priorities.
- A governance structure, i.e. a steering committee, directs and oversees the lean program.
- Deployment and communication strategies are well defined.
- Employees are actively trained to find and solve problems and take ownership of improvement solutions. Training helps them overcome any initial resistance to change and improve their problem-solving and analytical skills – a win-win!
- Before-and-after outcomes of lean (Kaizen) events are measured.
What practices do successful lean government organizations employ?
- They implement ‘morning huddles’ and ‘Gemba walks’ – lean practices that can include reviewing the performance dashboards and forming teams to actively seek ways to eliminate identified problems.
- They empower employee initiatives by implementing and actively managing a suggestion system.
- They provide lean training at point-of-hire. They get new employees on-board with lean by involving them in their department’s ongoing lean activities.
- They dedicate a full-time resource, e.g. a lean office, that supports lean efforts across the organization.
- They internally communicate lean efforts often and through multiple channels: newsletters, emails, groups, and company-wide meetings. They recognize and reward lean champions.
Cultivating a purpose and a passion will fuel your organization’s successful lean journey. But you must keep the candle burning. With ongoing support from management, the lean process itself is one of continuous assessment and adjustment. The result: a transformation of how your organization does business that drives customer satisfaction, product or service excellence, and financial rewards.
Daniel Penn Associates, LLC (DPA) has successfully helped government clients implement lean thinking to eliminate waste, realize improved processes, operate more efficiently, create a culture of continuous improvement and manage change. We understand that a sustainable lean journey requires more than simply deploying all the proven lean tools and tactics and hoping for the best.