Why did we decide to do Lean process improvement within the Health, Housing, and Human Services department? Finding a better way to do things is good for individuals, families, and the community because it means higher quality services, more capacity for services, less waiting, and less hassle. It's also better for staff because it reduces the time we spend doing things that feel like a waste of time.
What is Lean?
Lean is a set of concepts, principles, and tools used to deliver the most value from the customers' perspective while consuming the fewest resources.
Principles of Lean
- The customer always defines "value" for the process.
- Lean improves systems rather than pointing fingers at people.
- The people who do the work improve the process using lean tools.
- Learning to improve work is as important as doing the work itself.
- Lean is a visual system.
- Reducing waste builds in quality.
Why so much focus on process improvement?
- Better results for clients: This is about providing more value-added services to more people.
- Giving Staff a voice: Those who do the work usually have the best solutions.
- Resilience during stressful times: Improving processes keeps everyone engaged and provides positive jolts of energy.
We are currently in the fifth year of our Lean journey. Since 2010, more than 270 employees have attended at least one of the Lean Process Improvement training classes. The department has conducted 150 Rapid Process Improvement (RPI) events, saving more than 10,000 hours of staff time and numerous small, daily improvements by staff within their respective work units. In July 2014, the department received the coveted National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award for our Lean Process Improvement Program.
"This is the best process I have been involved in for improving the process and I feel that this has a better chance for success than any other process improvement activity I have been involved in."
"Management and staff can work together for a common goal."
"The managers and supervisors that participated in the RPI event did not overwhelm the process. They allowed us to put together solutions that worked for all the individual work groups."
"This RPI process helped us all better understand each other's work and made clear the importance of each of us doing our part correctly in order to avoid creating additional work downstream in the process."