5 Tips for Starting Lean Six Sigma in Government

5 Tips for Starting Lean Six Sigma in Government -

Government is challenged every day to get more done with less resources. In the public sector, change is often harder than in the private sector. But innovative leaders around the country at the federal, state and city/local levels of government are taking on the challenge whole heartedly, accomplishing their goals and improving the services they provide to their communities with Lean Six Sigma.

Here are 5 tips from Lean Six Sigma experts that will make your Continuous Improvement efforts in government easier and more successful.

Start Lean Six Sigma Training With Your Frontline Employees

“Everything successful about Kern County’s Continuous Improvement journey starts and ends with our frontline employees.

After some initial resistance to a “top-down” approach using experts, we focused on Lean Six Sigma training and engaging line staff in Continuous Improvement methods. As part of this training, employees receive coaching on how to facilitate self-directed improvements (“Quick Wins”) to address their individual frustrations with a process at work.

The philosophy of empowering employees to have direct control over change has produced an overall positive impact on employee engagement and staff morale. The intended downstream effect of this approach has been significant cost savings, improving services to residents, and providing better career development opportunities for staff.

This only happened when we fully considered and appreciated that most people go into public service to make improvements to their own communities. A very simple belief is at the core of our initial success: we trust those doing the work to make that work better and faster.”


Jason Wiebe
County Administrative Office Manager

Kern County

Stop Trying to Run a Lean Six Sigma Program Part Time

“Any government looking to implement a Continuous Improvement program should not be dipping their toes in the water. You need to jump into the deep end and start swimming.

Most governments assign process improvement as a part of someone’s job and neglect to create a place or space to actually run a thoughtful and deliberate program. This causes the employees who are assigned to the improvements to perform their tasks in addition to their normal work or even in their spare time. It is rare for a government to be successful running a part-time program.

If you are struggling to get a full investment, try putting together a short time window to demonstrate a return on your investment. When we started our program in the City and County of Denver, we created a two-year timeline to demonstrate impact.

In the first year, we saw a 3:1 return on our investment and the second year hit 4:1.

Don’t be bashful about putting the resources into the program even if it is just to get it into a startup mode. There are dozens of organizations around the country that have amazing programs demonstrating massive impacts. Connect to them. Ask them questions. Steal their ideas. Jump in…the water is fine!”


Brian Elms
Innovation Practice Lead and Urban Leadership Fellow at UNLV

Change and Innovation Agency

Change Behaviors & Celebrate Success

“When implementing Lean cultural change efforts, it is all about focusing on change in behaviors so that leaders become coaches and employees become problem solvers. Changing behaviors takes a lot of discipline as anyone who has attempted to start a new exercise program can attest to.

First, create a vision around what “good” looks like and communicate that vision as often as you can.

Secondly, celebrate success often and make it visible so you can further motivate the change. Celebrating success communicates what “good” looks like and what behaviors the new culture is promoting.

Lastly, be patient. This is a marathon not a sprint. You will get there if you are disciplined about consistently promoting good behaviors.”


Eunjoo Greenhouse
Deputy Director of Financial Business Operations Division
King County

Make Lean Six Sigma Part of Your Culture

“When any organization looks to implement Lean Six Sigma, they need to understand that the culture will change. If Continuous Improvement is looked at as a separate program, we will have trouble realizing the promise of the methodology. To gain the full benefits of Continuous Improvement, we need to examine and address aspects of our culture that will limit our success.

How do people communicate? What is shared and discussed? How do people work in teams? How are decisions made in the organization? How do leaders interact with each other and staff? Lean Six Sigma will require changes to how these things may have happened in the past. Building the soft skills allows Lean Six Sigma to deliver on its promise.”

Share Lean Six Sigma Success Stories in Government

“When government organizations are at the start of their Continuous Improvement journey, everyone wants proof that Lean Six Sigma works in their industry or environment. They need examples of how Continuous Improvement methods were applied in the public sector along with the results. Government is different from the private sector and giving private sector examples isn’t as helpful as examples of successful application in government.

Change is hard in government especially with so many stakeholders overseeing processes. Sharing success stories helps people see that results are achievable, and it can energize people doing this work, encouraging them to continue along the journey. Don’t underestimate the power of the process improvement tribe!

The good news is that many processes are similar across state, county and city governments. Making them shareable and then sharing them broadly can have a huge impact.”


Tracy O’Rourke
Chief Innovation Officer

Ready to trailblaze your own path?

Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to dust off your old Lean Six Sigma boots, your journey starts with a small step in the right direction. Here are some quick ways to get going:

Karlo Tanjuakio is the CEO & Founder of GLSS ( Our goal is to empower everyone's efficiency. By integrating the most practical Lean Six Sigma Training & Certification with Project-Based Learning, GLSS helps teams create a measurable impact on their companies and communities worldwide.

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