Lean Management initiative is making state government more efficient

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Gov. Jay Inslee’s initiative to improve state government services is showing results.

The latest data shows state agencies are using lean management principles and tools, pioneered by the private sector, to improve customer service, save time, avoid costs and cut through backlogs.

“I’ve seen firsthand how well lean management works at places like Boeing and Virginia Mason Hospital, and now we’re seeing it work in state government too,” said Inslee. “We’re putting those same principles and techniques to work and seeing wait times go down, red tape being reduced, and money being saved.”

Inslee highlighted some of those results Tuesday at a 2,700-person lean conference in Tacoma. Among them:

  • Faster turnaround times for public records
  • A much-simpler tax form for small businesses
  • Cutting the time it takes to issue transportation permits
  • Increasing the number of WorkFirst clients actively looking for work
  • Overhauling the state’s long-distance network, saving $2 million
  • Saving employers $1.7 million in interest
  • Eliminating a large backlog in collision reports

Pioneered by Toyota, lean focuses on customer service, solving problems at their root cause, measuring results and building a culture of employee-led continual improvement.

“The people closest to the work often have the best ideas about how to improve it,” said Inslee. “They hear directly from our customers. By harnessing their ideas and expertise, we can improve services and deliver more value to Washingtonians.”

Inslee launched his lean initiative, Results Washington, last year. It’s focused not just on government efficiency, but also on improvements in education, the economy, environment, energy, health and safety.

“We’re building a healthier, more prosperous, better educated Washington,” said Inslee. “That won’t happen overnight. We’re trying to maintain aging infrastructure. We’re coming out of the worst recession most of us have ever known. But I believe in the power of high expectations. And we’re building a culture of continual improvement that will help us get there.”

Examples of specific improvements at agencies are detailed below.

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Faster turnaround times for public records

The Liquor Control Board, which received a flurry of public disclosure requests related to marijuana legalization, has nearly cut in half the time it takes to respond. The average time to complete a request has dropped from nearly 14 days to less than 8. In many cases, requestors can now immediately download the information they're seeking.

Making small business tax forms much easier

The Department of Revenue's Taxpayer Services division, which faces a flood of calls from tax filers every January, made a number of employee-suggested improvements to make the process easier for filers. The agency created a much-simpler form for businesses that owe little in taxes, paring a four-page document down to a single page with just three lines to fill out. The agency also launched an online chat service so that filers could get their questions answered quickly without waiting in a phone queue.

Cutting the cost of x-rays

The Department of Social and Health Services has reduced the number and cost of x-rays needed to make disability determinations, saving time and effort for clients and cutting costs by 52 percent over three months, for a projected annual savings of $265,452.

Saving taxpayers $2 million a year

A team of employees at Consolidated Technology Services worked to convert the state's 30-year-old long-distance network to a new, more economical service. The improvement, which involved 350 sites and more than 75,000 users, has saved state agencies $2 million a year in long distance charges so far.

Helping taxpayers avoid $1.1 million in lease costs

The Department of Enterprise Services cleared a backlog and revamped its approach for negotiating property leases, helping taxpayers avoid $1.1 million in annual leasing costs.

Outfitting patrol cars faster

The Washington State Patrol has dramatically cut -- and continues to improve -- the time it takes to outfit a new patrol car. In 2011, the Patrol outfitted 154 cars, adding light bars, consoles, partitions, radio trays, wiring, antennas and other equipment. By making process changes, such as developing carts of parts and staging cars in the order they are to be built, employees increased the number of vehicles issued to 171 in 2012 and 276 in 2013.

Easing students’ arrival at college

The Community Colleges of Spokane have reduced by two-thirds the number of steps a student takes from admission to sitting in class.

Saving employers $1.7 million

At the Department of Labor and Industries, it used to take an average of 441 days to process an employer's request to reconsider audit findings. By streamlining the process, the agency staff cut that time by 85 percent, from 441 days to 67. This saved employers an estimated $1,743,555 in interest costs.

Helping WorkFirst clients find jobs

Improvements to the job search process by the Department of Social and Health Services and the Employment Security Department increased by 17 percent the number of WorkFirst clients in an active job search, improving client satisfaction and outcomes. This kind of process improvement will allow Washington to meet its federal participation targets and avoid federal penalties - as well as allow for forgiveness of a $20.8 million federal penalty.

Faster transportation permits

The Utilities and Transportation Commission has cut transportation permit processing time from 15 days to 9.

Much faster collision reports

The Department of Transportation processes more than 100,000 collision reports each year. The data is used by traffic engineers, insurers, police and others. Over time, the backlog of collision data reports had grown to 8.5 months. By streamlining the process, DOT eliminated that backlog. By June 2014, fully analyzed collision reports were being processed within 5 days.

Freeing up staff through efficiencies

The Department of Social and Health Services simplified paperwork and processes regarding employee-related actions, eliminating thousands of database entries, allowing 2,100 staff hours to be repurposed each month and saving more than $10,000 a year.

Quicker responses to public records requests

The Department of Transportation cut by 58 percent the amount of time it takes to fulfill public disclosure requests, from an average of 24 days to 10.

Streamlined purchasing

The Department of Transportation’s Ferries Division used to require 6 to 7 signatures for most contracts and purchase orders. That’s been reduced to three.

Avoiding $1.6 million a year in costs

The Office of the Chief Information Officer and Department of Enterprise Services are leading an effort to build a single mailing address database for use by 11 agencies that were each using their own database.. The cost avoidance from saved staff time and reduced mailing errors is estimated to be at least $1.6 million a year.

Quicker handling of complaints

The Department of Health has cut the time for handling a complaint about the Women, Infants and Children program from an average of four weeks to one.

Helping keep kids safe

The Department of Social and Health Services identified ways to streamline paperwork and other administrative processes, freeing up more time for caseworkers to be in the field to better address child safety.

Faster customer service

In the past, people trying to reinstate a driver's license after previously paying with a dishonored check typically had to wait 24 hours. The Department of Licensing has cut that wait time to 15 minutes.

Media Contacts

Office of the Governor
Jaime Smith