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Public-Private Partnerships Lead To More Effective Government in WA

by Darrell Damron
August 13, 2013

Public-Private Partnerships Lead To More Effective Government in WA

by Darrell Damron
August 13, 2013 | Comments (11)

Since 2012 in Washington state, we've developed learning partnerships with lean experts and practitioners from outside state government. In this case, a partnership means these experts volunteer their time. No contracts, no money exchanged.

Through our “Lean Expert Partnership Program” in the last 18 months Washington state has received more than 2,000 hours of advice, classroom training, coaching, and/or facility tours from 132 experts representing 51 organizations. These experts have helped hundreds of leaders and employees in nearly 30 state agencies learn about Lean and make improvements to state government processes. This has included eliminating or dramatically reducing backlogs (for example, in water rights permits); reducing lead times and decreasing process complexity (in state patrol pursuit vehicle conversions); and improving the quality of applications and the consistency of reviews or inspections (in certification of minority and women-owned small business).

The purpose of the program is to help state agencies build capacity, deliver more value and better services to citizens, and make public service a more enjoyable experience for employees. It also helps those of us in state government stay connected to what others in the lean community are learning in order to avoid common mistakes and stay informed about innovative approaches.

Why do lean experts volunteer their time? When I've spoken with people, most say they simply value giving back to the community. Volunteering their knowledge and expertise feels no different to them than giving time at a food bank or a throwing a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. Others have said, “Helping the state improve just makes sense for everyone.” It’s good for citizens, sure, but it's also great for business. In post-activity “lessons learned” reflection sessions, our lean coaches have shared how volunteering their time is more than worth it when they think about how they can develop their own skills by applying them in new and different industries. For these reasons, partners have absorbed the cost of the services they provide to state government agencies or employees in the spirit of simply helping Washington state move forward on its lean transformation journey.

Most people are familiar with lean applications and experiments in healthcare and finance, but the 51 organizations Washington has partnered with to date represent a wide range of industries, including everything from the airlines to education, military agencies to nonprofits and communications groups.

When I reflect on the success of the program thus far, the secret to effective lean transformations may just be asking for help. Sure, some of the potential partners we have contacted have not been ready or interested in partnering, and not all offers from lean experts and practitioners have been accepted, but patience and persistence have paid off. The lean community is a vibrant network of passionate and generous professionals. From Washington state government's perspective, we see no end to the partnership program in sight.

For state and local governments that are interested in going lean (or continuing/enhancing their lean learning efforts), a good way to start is to talk with the technical experts in your local National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) chapter. This national organization has members in every state.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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11 Comments | Post a Comment
Jess Reyes August 13, 2013

This is a great subject and one that goes beyond the extra mile for lean folks that take the time to help our government. From what I have seen of the government branches I have been exposed to they have to run at best no higher than  2 to 3 Sigma.

As a related subject, there is even a greater need for lean volunteerism in life saving and health non-profit organizations. Given the number of people that live in poverty in North America and beyond, they live and die based on the effectiveness of these special organizations. I would be interested in helping in this area if any of our readers know of such lean efforts in South Florida.

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John Podlasek August 13, 2013
When taxes start going down, and govt becomes less expensive then we can say that Lean has had a positive affect on govt.  Until then its just more money spent on another wasteful program and lining the pockets of over paid consultants

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Nick Dingman August 13, 2013
I don't think it is a waste. The USA needs to implement this as a culture not just a quick fix for the greedy bankers that caused the issue.

I believe in the very first sentence it says that over 2000 hours of volunteer work was given. This is a great step for the U S and I hope they can make some improvements and get the culture to change to a lean thinking society. Where the government actual listens to the people and uses their feedback to make improvements. 


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John Podlasek August 13, 2013

Not sure how you make the jump to greedy bankers when we are talking about govt spending.  The banking issue has nothing to do with what I said.  

Which people do you want the govt to listen to?  In a lean society the govt gets out of the way and lets people decide for themselves.  Just like in any value stream map.  The less control and signals the better the flow.  The money belongs to the people, let them spend it, not the govt, and lean will start to work.  

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Darrell Damron August 13, 2013
Nick Dingman is right, the partners volunteer their time to help state government employees make improvements - so no consultant pocket lining there. Also less than half of our partners are vendors who make a living as Lean consultants. The majority of our partners are businesses in Washington state who have learned to use Lean thinking and tools to deliver value to their customers. John Podlasek is also right in that the burden of proof is on government to demonstrate the kind of results that matter to Washingtonians. Fortunately, Lean thinking and tools provide a proven route to delivering that value

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Vel Rajagopal August 14, 2013

I have to agree with Darrell and Nick on this. I am a State employee myself and in our organization, we did not hire external "Lean Consultants", instead, some of us Managers got trained on Lean principles and started thinking and working Lean in our areas or operations. For example: In my unit the question I asked myself and my team was: "The tax payers are paying us X$ in salaries and benefits. Are we as a unit doing our bit efficiently to make their every penny worth?" We are inculcating thinking in our culture to help add value from every task we do or contribute to a larger process. I have already seen some positive effects of this thinking in my unit and my partners. So, this is not just "another wasteful program". 


@ John: I do see where you are coming from. I have heard similar from my own friends when I talked to them about Lean. . :) 

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Brett Cooper August 14, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment

The State of Washington is achieving great things, and I have no doubt that the best is yet to come.


Integris Performance Advisors is proud to be a member of the Lean Expert Partnership Program.

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Mark Donovan August 15, 2013
Darrell - I am thrilled to learn about the partnerships that Washington is forging and couldn't agree more with the importance of simply asking for help.  There are so many incredible people that believe lean thinking is the solution to so many of the world's big problems and they are more than willing to help others on their journey.  The sharing and support that I have received from the lean community cannot be measured and I only hope that I can give as much back.   Maybe I can pop if for a "go see" next time I'm in Washington!  Keep up the great work! :)   

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Mark Donovan August 15, 2013
If you ask, maybe John Shook will show up at your door.  See John's Lean Post:  "A Sensei in One's Own Land

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Darrell damron August 15, 2013
I couldn't agree more Mark. It has been such a honor to learn from so any amazing people. Please let me know when you are in the Evergreen State. I would be happy to show/share what we are learning on our journey to deliver better value to more Washingtonians

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Gregory Burnworth August 22, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Having been one of the "experts" on loan to Washington State in a Dept of Agriculture kaizen. I can confidently say this had nothing to do with lining pockets or even reducing govt. spending. This program is about free knowledge sharing to advance lean thinking and point improvement in state govt.

Regarding John's comment, I do not follow your logic. Reducing cost passed on to taxpayers may be one effect of lean process improvement, but that is not it's sole purpose. It focuses on creating more value and less waste in product / service delivery, so the stale argument of smaller govt, minimal taxes, and more money in the public's pockets is a totally different issue or effect, more political than operational. Govt. services (e.g. public health for tens of thousands without healthcare coverage) are required whether we like that fact or not, so let's get on with helping them be more efficient so that more value gets created for the public, the taxpayers, and stakeholders alike.

 

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