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Lean Government

Why Do Lean?

Using Lean, environmental agencies have improved quality, cost effectiveness, service delivery and responsiveness to the public, without compromising environmental protection. Lean process improvement techniques identify and eliminate unnecessary and non-value added process steps and ac¬tivities that have built up over time. Lean efforts are not just about fixing broken processes. State agencies have found that these methods enable them to understand how their processes work on the ground and to build a culture of continuous improvement.

By getting process activities and procedures to function smoothly and consistently, agencies free staff time to focus on higher value activities more directly linked to environmental protection. While successfully imple¬menting Lean requires hard work and commitment, the results can be impressive.

Example Results

  • EPA Region 6 used value stream mapping to improve the speed and effectiveness of its Pesticide Enforcement Case Resolution Process, reducing total processing time by 53 percent.
  • Benefits of Using Lean
    • Achieves environmental results
    • Ensures better customer service
    • Reduces process complexity
    • Enhances process speed
    • Produces quality products and services
    • Improves staff morale
  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control used value stream mapping to improve air permitting, by developing new permit applications, installing visual permit tracking boards, and implementing a "First In, First Out" system. As a result, DNREC has reduced their permitting backlog from 199 to 59 minor permits in three months, and to 25 in one year.
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources has conducted over 45 Lean kaizen rapid improvement events. Results include decreasing lead times on un¬derground storage tank correction action decisions from 38 months to 3 months and reducing the average time to issue standard air construction permits from 62 to 6 days.

What Lean is Not

  • Lean is not about compromising environmental protection, loosening environmental regulations, or foregoing an agency's commitment to environ¬mental protection. Lean seeks to correct ineffi¬ciencies in administrative processes and workflow, enhancing an agency's ability to protect the environment.
  • Lean is not about cutting jobs. Lean retains the current staff, but may rearrange or assign new duties to those staff. It is not a test for job performance; rather it seeks to improve the entire agency's performance. Lean often improves staff morale, as employees have a hand in designing work processes that enable success.
  • Lean is not just another "flavor of the month." Lean methods have been proven effective many times over and in a multitude of settings making it different from past management trends, such as TQM. Unlike past trends that focused on qual¬ity only, Lean addresses quality, cost and delivery. Lean's focus on rapid implementation brings real improvement and compelling results fast, sparking momentum for further improvement.

For more information about getting started with Lean, see the Lean in Government Starter Kit.

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