Three weeks ago, I attended one of the most impactful training experiences I have ever had being a public employee. It was an opportunity to learn how to make governmental processes more effective and less costly — in other words, better.
The tools that were taught revolved around the concept of “Lean Six Sigma.” These tools were pioneered by Motorola to eliminate defective products and variations in their processes. I will admit, at the beginning of the training I was skeptical. It was hard for me to see how tools developed for the manufacturing sector could really be adapted to the public sector. After the second day, I was impressed by what using these tools could accomplish in the public sector.
It was that second day that was pivotal. Our class, in which there were 12, we were broken into two teams of six. Our team was responsible for processing 16 ficticious applications. Each member of the team had a certain job description and the necessary supplies. We were told by the facilitators we were to process all 16 applications in six minutes. That first day, it took us 15 minutes to process one — yes, one — application. The rest of the week was spent looking at every part of the process to ensure that we could get that process rate down. The next time we ran the simulation on the last day, all 16 applications were processed in four and a half minutes. Extrapolating this simulation out, there are actual real-world examples that show that bringing lean practices to government can have huge results. The Ohio Department of Commerce reworked their unclaimed funds process; through their work, they have reduced the time individuals will receive funds from as much as 162 days to 22. In the process, the department is estimating to save as much as $208,000 in printing and postage. The Development Services Agency reworked a process with their emergency heating program which will save taxpayers as much as $972,000 a year and walk-in clients will spend a projected 808,000 fewer hours waiting in line for service. These two stories outline just two of the multiple projects that have occurred in state government to make government work better.
Our challenge now is to bring these tools and concepts to local government. The best part of this challenge is that the City of Piqua will be at the absolute forefront of bringing these tools to city government. In the small class I was in, there were no small cities that were represented. In fact, if you look at the program on the Lean Ohio Website (lean.ohio.gov), there are very few small cities across the state that have taken advantage of this program.
Thinking about implementing some of the tools, it was drilled into the participants of this training, that sometimes the biggest impacts can be made by doing the smallest things. Well, I took that philosophy to my own little corner of the city building. I have six programs that I run that use an application form. Using the tools I learned, I was able to reduce the length of these forms by 40 percent and took the forms from a 7th grade reading level to a 10th grade reading level. Not only will it take less time to fill out these forms, but the forms have been redesigned with the applicant in mind. They have been made to be less confusing and ask the pertinent questions. It has the ability to be a huge step to make local government really work for our residents and stakeholders.
These new efforts of bringing private sector tools into the public sector are expected to have noticeable impacts. Reduced time, quicker service, less frustration and committment; all of these are the necessary ingredients to make government work better.