Creating Innovation Excellence Programs

Henderson, Nevada shares their journey in creating innovation and performance excellence programs in their organization and offers best practices.

ARTICLE | Dec 2, 2019
by Lori Grossman & Polly Walker, City of Henderson, NV

Encouraged by City Manager, Richard Derrick, to think outside the box and look for new ways to be more efficient, Henderson, NV started their innovation/performance excellence programs in 2012, after experiencing difficult revenue losses and budget cuts during the Great Recession. Using the Baldrige framework, the City began outlining their innovation programs with their overall goals being to:

  • Be more efficient and innovative
  • Decrease cost through improvement
  • Empower and engage team members to come up with new ways of doing things

To help achieve these goals, Henderson created two key programs

  • Henderson Innovation Program (Employee Suggestion Program)
    • Employees were eligible for up to $2,500 in awards (recently raised to $5,000) based on the project’s level of innovation and savings/benefit to the City
  • Continuous Improvement Program
    • Allows departments to work on and track innovations and improvements using standardized tools and a centralized project tracking list

Creating these programs first began with one staff member who would receive the requests, then create work groups to implement the process improvement. Between 2012 and 2016, the City implemented the rest of the framework, which continues to be refined even today:

  • Performance management program, employee engagement, and customer comment cards
  • Management of the program under the Office of Business Management (now the Officer of Performance and Innovation), which includes:
    • Six staff members: manager, four business process consultants, and a data scientist
    • Each staff member facilitates a component of the Baldrige framework, which includes Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement & Analysis, Workforce, and Operations (including continuous improvement)

With a framework and staff in place, performance excellence programs could be fully executed. In implementing the Henderson Innovation Program (HIP), it was important that there was ownership across the organization, and the expectation that everyone can have positive impact. With executive-level support, employees realized the program was not going away. By starting with clear communication and then offering training to team members, Henderson found that HIP also helped to improve overall employee engagement by:

  • Seeing other coworkers recognized for their participation in the program
  • Making the Henderson Innovation Program submittal available electronically or on paper, increasing accessibility
  • Keeping the form simple but including the essentials like submitting the idea, the benefit to the City and legwork on how to implement
  • Reaching out to supervisors in departments like public works and utility services, where employees may be less engaged, to submit on staff’s behalf

The Continuous Improvement Program (CIP) was created to define, analyze, measure, and control larger, more formal innovation and improvement projects. It has become a way to track projects throughout the City. Henderson has engaged employees through:

  • Employee training programs including:
    • Continuous Improvement Endorsement program (6 courses)
    • Training one primary analyst in every department on process improvement
    • Support for related off-site and third-party training opportunities

Training city-wide staff was essential to implementing the Continuous Improvement Program. Henderson sought to train employees who demonstrated an innovation mindset, as well as those who fostered relationships and trust within the organization. To do this, Continuous Improvement Program staff gauged who had interest, and went to directors to confirm appointment. So far:

  • 80 employees have been trained in continuous improvement
  • Staff have also earned Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belt certifications

These training efforts ultimately increase capacity in the organization for innovation and improvement.

Through the Continuous Improvement Program, trained staff use a central data management system where they upload data on projects from their departments. The city also encourages benchmarking and looking to see what other organizations are doing, then bringing it back and improving Henderson’s processes. Another aspect of the improvement program is called the “hot wash,” where after a process improvement has been implemented, staff will pull metrics and see if the desired outcomes have been achieved. This ensures they are looking at the right data and reaching their innovation and efficiency goals.

The Henderson Innovation and Continuous Improvement Programs continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of the organization and are an important part of the city’s performance excellence program, driving high-level performance on the way to realizing the city’s vision “To Be America’s Premier Community.”


For more information contact:

Polly Walker, LSSBB/CQIA

Business Process Consultant

City Manager’s Office

City of Henderson


Lori Grossman

Sr. Administrative Analyst

Office of Performance & Innovation

City Manager’s Office

(702) 267-2066

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