Would you say something is a trend when it reaches a small city of 18k people? I bet! Today I read about a continuous Improvement initiative in a US city named Wisconsin Rapids. The mayor Zach Vruwink announced in the city’s newspaper that 25% of the city’s employees have been trained in Lean Six Sigma and promoted the Rapid Improvement online platform for project suggestions by the citizens.
At first sight it might seem unfamiliar using Lean Six Sigma, a Process Improvement method popularized by big production enterprises like Toyota, Motorola, General Electrics, for improving administrations in a small city. However, at second sight why not using a scientific based management method with a proven track record in various sectors to make government more efficient, effective and customer-friendly.
Since UK National Health Service began in 2005 to utilize Lean Six Sigma to improve the quality of the four publicly funded healthcare systems, the implementation of Process Improvements in healthcare gained worldwide recognition. Obviously it inspired other governmental services to increase efficiency with the Six Sigma method. In 2013 the London Underground won the British Quality Foundation’s Lean Six Sigma Award with a project that undertook the overhaul of all 63 trains of the Jubilee line fleet in-house at significantly lower cost than it would be possible with external services.
When you think how expenses for governmental services sum up even in a small town like Wisconsin Rapids, it is consequent to think about a method to improve their operations. One of the big challenges in such an endeavor is to see citizens as customers and also the fact that citizens might not want to see themselves as customers or consumers of governmental spending. Hence, the ‘Rapid Improvement’ initiative by Zach Vruwink was clever enough to implement a online platform for citizens and to give citizens and businesses a voice in process improvements.
Another challenge is that a mayor is not the only policy-making body but usually shares power with a city council that has to administer through consensus, although consensus is not always easy to reach. Process improvement and efficiency, even if it is in the city’s best interest, might not always be in the main focus of all council members as they rely on the support of their voters. However, I would love to read about reactions and outcomes of Wisconsin Rapids’ improvement initiative and wish them best of luck.