More than 2,000 people, most of them state employees, gathered in Tacoma this week to learn and share ways to improve government services and achieve better outcomes for Washingtonians.
“We’re using lean problem solving and collaboration to help employees manage the work and to serve people better,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who spoke at the opening of the state conference. “We’re using those same approaches to work on challenges in education, public health, the environment and other areas.”
Lean is a management philosophy, widely used in the private sector, that stresses customer-focused improvements and employee-driven problem solving. Inslee sharply expanded the state’s Lean efforts with an executive order two years ago launching his Results Washington initiative and engaging state workers in making state government more efficient and effective.
“Washington has become a national leader in this work,” said Wendy Korthuis-Smith, director of Results Washington. “I’ve traveled around the country talking to other states about what we’re doing here, and people are paying attention. They see that what we’re doing works.”
Improvements at dozens of state agencies have resulted in faster services, easier-to-use forms, cost avoidance and streamlined processes. The departments of transportation, licensing and financial institutions, for example, have used lean to speed up response times to public disclosure requests. Multiple agencies worked to double the amount of downloadable, searchable state data online in less than a year.
In addition, multi-agency teams are using lean principles to work on nearly 200 Results Washington goals centered around Inslee’s top priorities of world-class education, prosperous economy, sustainable energy and clean environment, healthy and safe communities and efficient, effective and accountable government.
Washington’s annual Lean Transformation Conference, now in its fourth year, attracts lean experts from across the country to share case studies, lessons learned and strategies for solving problems. Speakers this year included representatives from Toyota, the Lean Enterprise Institute, the State Auditor’s Office, the United Kingdom’s National Audit Office, the government of Saskatchewan, King County, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle City Light.
The two-day conference covered everything from using data effectively and developing a lean-oriented culture to designing more productive work spaces and coaching employees.
“Many private-sector partners have volunteered their time and expertise to help us,” said Korthuis-Smith. “They know that lean works and everyone has a stake in improving government.”