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Typically, government leaders achieve success and longevity with a methodical and cautious philosophy. Historically, the success equation amounted to: Play it safe, follow the rules, deliver what’s promised and stay out of trouble. Solid principles for a government leader who wants to avoid bad press and risky propositions.

This approach has worked for a long time, and there are lots of agency leaders who intend to apply this “safe” philosophy for years to come.

But not in King County.

Changing the Game

Under the leadership of Executive Dow Constantine, King County put forth the vision that all King County Leaders would strive to be a part of the “Best Run Government.” Leadership communicated the vision to agency leaders as a call to action. The message was that instead of accepting the status quo, leaders should be bold, challenge the process and work to make processes, products and services as good as they could be.

Leaders should be bold, challenge the process and work to make processes, products and services as good as they could be.

If the status quo was no longer acceptable then agency leaders had to adopt new philosophies to lead their organization. Ken Guy, Director of Financial Business Operations Division (FBOD), was up for the challenge.

Diving Into Lean Six Sigma

First, “Best Run Government” sounds visionary, but what does that mean? How does an agency leader make that actionable? There was room for interpretation. Leaders reflected on how to manifest the vision within their agencies. Agency leaders started collaborating on ideas and approaches and how to align those approaches with the strategic goals and ultimately the King County vision.

To provide support for the vision, the County also provided resources for Lean and process improvement. This new “Best Run Government” vision meant integrating Lean and process improvement concepts was a necessity. Leaders at FBOD, including Ken Guy, decided to make a strong commitment to implementing Lean within their agencies. This started the Lean journey for Ken, for FBOD and many other King County agencies.

Can Lean Six Sigma Work in Government?

Historically, examples of government success are far and few between. The private sector has loads of examples but the path for a government agency has not been as clear.

Ken and a few of his peers decided to certify a select group of employees as Lean Six Sigma Green Belts and give them the mandate to apply process improvement techniques within the county. They selected a Lean Six Sigma training provider and Green Belt candidates attended a 5-Day Green Belt Class.

Those Green Belts left the workshop with the green light to conduct process improvements within their organizations. The idea was that they would plant the seeds of process improvement across the organization but, unfortunately, post-training application failed to materialize. There wasn’t much tool use, not many project launches and very little improvement success.

The newly trained Green Belts struggled and became frustrated when trying to apply improvement concepts to their work areas. They found themselves unable to translate the what they learned in class into more efficient and effective work processes. Without successful application, over time the Green Belt knowledge was lost. The initial Lean journey wasn’t as fruitful as originally hoped.

They found themselves unable to translate the what they learned in class into more efficient and effective work processes.

The Roles of Lean Six Sigma - GoLeanSixSigma.com

The Successful Approach

Ken, the FBOD Director, and the Deputy Director paused and re-thought their strategy for implementing process improvement. First, they decided to work on cultural components. This created more of a blame-free environment and improved employee engagement. Once the leadership team could see positive cultural changes they kick-started the process improvement training again.<

This time they chose GoLeanSixSigma.com’s online Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training because of their practical, application focused approach. GoLeanSixSigma.com’s Green Belt course provided their teams with relatable, foundational process improvement knowledge and a full suite of resources to make learning and applying Lean Six Sigma easier. The supporting materials included templates, tools, guides, webinars and more. The leadership team also required a project as part of the Green Belt certification.

This time they chose GoLeanSixSigma.com’s online Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training because of their practical, application focused approach.

In order to simplify project selection, they asked each Green Belt candidate to pick a process they were a part of and to reduce the lead time in that process. Reducing lead time for a specific process is a good candidate for a viable Green Belt project. Reducing lead time also aligned to the organization’s strategic goal of improving customer service.

Each Green Belt candidate selected a project, took the online training and received coaching and support from Master Black Belt, Tracy O’Rourke.

Eunjoo Greenhouse went through both Green Belt trainings, and here’s what she had to say:

King County FBOD 1

The web-based training from GoLeanSixSigma.com gives a lot of flexibility in terms of when you can take the courses and exams.

The previous training we went through was a week-long boot camp and there was no commitment to do any project afterwards. A week-long spent in class was too much class time and exhausting. Hence, we walked away with some knowledge but that knowledge didn’t quite stick since we didn’t apply the learning anywhere.

The second approach (with GoLeanSixSigma.com) was a training where we were applying the tools to a real project which solidified learning much better.

Eunjoo Greenhouse
King County Director of Financial Business Operations Division

Results

Lean Six Sigma Project Results at King County (FBOD) - GoLeanSixSigma.com

To date, here are some of FBOD’s Green Belt project successes:

Chris Franco – Reduced Special District Funding Lead Time from 35 days to 2 days. See Chris Franco’s success story presentation here.

Gina Keolker & Marina Giloi – Reduced Bid Solicitation Lead Time from 29 days to 13 days. See Gina Keolker’s & Marina Giloi’s Process Walk video here.

Kimberly Fleming – Reduced Retirement Eligibility Process Lead Time from 3 days to same day and reduced the amount of paperwork by 50% on a 60 year retention cycle. This means about half the paper is filed for 60 years! See Kimberly Fleming’s success story presentation here.

Jim Shoemaker – Reduced the Supplier Record Setup Time by 1.5 hours with a $16k savings in productivity. Jim’s presentation will be recorded and available to view soon!

Jill Smith – Reduced Title Company Invoice Payment Processing from 3+ weeks to 1 day.

Chris Franco - FBOD - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Chris Franco at the Green Belt Certificate Award Ceremony with his Project Storyboard and Green Belt Certificate.

Jim Shoemaker & Rena Jackson - FBOD - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Jim Shoemaker and his Supervisor Rena Jackson at the Green Belt Certificate Award Ceremony with his Project Storyboard and Green Belt Certificate.

FBOD is gaining traction with their Lean journey and learning lessons everyday. This is a great example of process improvement being alive and well in government.

Partnering with GoLeanSixSigma.com worked for FBOD, and if your government agency would benefit from a practical, engaging approach to learning and applying Lean Six Sigma, please contact us to learn more.

Congratulations Financial Business Operations Division and best wishes for continued success in achieving King County’s vision of “Best Run Government.”

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at University of California San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.