When we think about governmental activities Lean might not be the first thought. In administrations pressure is often high but job satisfaction low, customer service a foreign word and budget overruns are more rule than exception. But there is a promising Lean government story from Colorado.
This report clearly shows that there are opportunities for improvement and chances for achievement. One of the authors, Ken Miller, points out that the first step for a Lean transformation in Colorado was:
…recognizing that [the issues] are all symptoms of one problem: capacity. Simply put, government does not have the capacity to do all it needs to do or all its citizens want it to do. The demands on government far exceed the capacity of government, which in turn leads to budget shortfalls, long lines, low morale and all the other problems.
This finding is not too far fetched and shared by many other administrations. Since many seek the solution in higher budgets or cutting corners, when it comes to scarcity – also popular among many companies – the Colorado Lean Program tried to reduce the waste that limited the capacity of its administration to deliver customer value.
The program management categorized all improvement projects into three primary types:
- Mission critical,
- Customer service,
- Support services.
Each project was based on metrics and defined KPIs to measure the return of investment in costs avoided or time saved. The Colorado Lean Program sponsored by the Director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB ) and overseen by the Governor and members of the cabinet, directly supported 81 projects in 16 executive departments to improve government processes. The OSPB provided Lean training for more than 2,400 state employees to transform the mindset from 'We’ve always done it that way' towards the readiness to act and to improve.
Outcome of Colorado's Lean in government program.
Primary focus of the program was process improvement. With the program budget of $2.7 million the program resulted in savings of nearly $2.1 million on a ongoing basis, alone with the redesign of the tax document process, and brings businesses a reduced time for reimbursement payments from 84 days down to 15 days. Waiting and approval times could be reduced between 40% and 80%. Better service for citizens and businesses resulted in a more attractive climate for investment and new jobs. One of the greatest achievements – keeping in mind that 2/3 of change projects fail – is the improved sentiment and motivation of the governmental workforce. According to a OSPB survey 56% found the outcome of the changes positive or very positive, 44% slightly positive and none negative or with no impact.
The biggest value of Lean isn’t in the process improvements. The biggest value is how it has empowered employees and makes them feel valued.Reeves Brown - Executive Director of the Department of Local Affairs
It would be desirable that more administrations would recognize the power of the Lean principles ‘create customer value’ and ‘reduce waste’ as Lean in Government is beneficial for the administration and also for the people and for entrepreneurs that run or found businesses there.
The full report can be found on the website of the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting.