Research Request: Lean Government and Innovation

We are creating a training that incorporates our creativity efforts that focus on Toyota Kata (lean) and design thinking. We would like to add some case studies or success stories that highlight what other governments have done at the local level. We are looking for both process improvement work and also design thinking that is human centered/ user focused/ citizen centric. What other cities and members are embracing these efforts and what results have they had?


Request Prompt:

We are creating a training that incorporates our creativity efforts that focus on Toyota Kata (lean) and design thinking. We would like to add some case studies or success stories that highlight what other governments have done at the local level. We are looking for both process improvement work and also design thinking that is human centered/ user focused/ citizen centric. What other cities and members are embracing these efforts and what results have they had?

Summary of Findings: 

Some cities that have implemented a Lean Six Sigma program that include trainings for their workforce to improve return on investment for citizens and equip staff to identify opportunities for, and implement, process improvements include: Dallas County, TX, Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Gilbert, AZ; Mesa, AZ; Scottsdale, AZ; Detroit, MI; ; Chatanooga, TN; Roanoke, VA; Denver, CO; LA County, CA; and King County, WA. A more comprehensive list can be found at this site and further include Ventura County, CA; Brevard County, FL; Jacksonville, FL; Louisville, KY; Baltimore, MD; Denton, TX; Fort Worth, TX; Irving, TX; Tyler, TX; Brown County, WI. The Town of Gilbert, Arizona who launched their own program based on “lean six sigma” was able to provide some of their successes and personalized tips based on your request for information. In addition  success stories for different municipalities are available on Lean Six Sigma’s website.

Case Studies:

Dallas County, TX

The City of Dallas (Dallas) launched its Lean Six Sigma (LSS) program in 2015 by hiring a Master Black Belt and two Black Belts. The LSS program has demonstrated how instrumental it is in the disciplined application of proven management systems and providing services to citizens more efficiently and effectively.

The City of Dallas’ Lean Six Sigma focuses on four key objectives:

1. Achieving cultural excellence in public service

2. Providing superior service

3. Developing employee-leaders, and4. Delivering tangible and intangible results through project management

Dallas’ deployment strategy relies upon Identifying opportunities for improvement, motivating government employees, and Building knowledge and empowering employees to make change in work processes.

Currently, Dallas has two LSS Master Black Belts, who have produced hundreds of belts: 362 Blue, 223 Yellow, 130 Green, and three Black. The Black Belts are embedded in key departments. To date, 55 projects have identified potential savings of $4.09 million of which $2.05 million (hard and soft savings) realized.

Some project examples include 911 Call Center Hiring lead time reduction, Reducing Equipment & Building Services repair downtime, Reduce Fire & Rescue overtime, and the Dallas Animal Services intake process.

City Manager T.C Broadnax introduced six strategic priority areas in which the LSS Program serves as an integral component. Under the visionary leadership of Chief of Staff Kimberly Tolbert, LSS will be key to sustainability and innovation for new city leadership as vested employees work toward “Service First” excellence.


City of Dallas, TX

Dallas, Texas has implemented a Center for Performance Excellence which includes trainings for their employees for Lean Six Sigma, IS0 9001 Program, and Baldridge Business Planning Framework

Center for Performance Excellence (CPE) serves as the City’s internal consultants for City employees enabling them to provide more efficient and effective services to citizens through the disciplined application of proven management systems

Why was the CPE created?

• To examine how we can provide services to citizens more efficiently and effectively through the disciplined application of proven management systems Goals

• Reduce Costs (Current and Future)

• Enhance Responsiveness for citizens/customers

• Increase Capacity of existing workforce (saving time)

• Motivate Workforce: Employee Empowerment + Job Enrichment = Productive Team Members

• Improve Organizational Communications leading to “Cross Pollination” of ideas for improvement

 • Leverage Partnerships by applying best practices


Houston, TX

Certified as an an Accredited Training Organization with the International Association of Six Sigma Certification (IASSC)

"The IASSC Accredited Training Organization (ATO) designation validates Six Sigma Development Solutions, Inc. has demonstrated adequate management systems, courseware with a high degree of correlation to the subject matter contained in the IASSC Bodies of Knowledge, delivery schema consistent with such content and highly qualified instructors."


Chatanooga, TN

The Chattanooga Peak Academy is modeled off the highly successful Denver Peak Academy program. Peak is designed to give the very best tools from the private sector (lean manufacturing & six sigma for example) to the true experts in the city, those doing the day to day work of providing city services.

With these tools in hand city employees will be able to fix those problems that not only cause them the most headaches but also provide a fair share of headaches for citizens as well. Check out the video below to see how the Denver Department of Human Services were able to use what they learned in Peak to dramatically improve their own work processes and more importantly make improvements in the lives of their citizens.


Detroit, MI

The City of Detroit is one of the first municipalities in the United States to implement focused Lean initiatives, practices and development.

At the most basic level, Lean is a set of process management practices and decision-making tools.  The goals of Lean are consistent across all industries and departments: reduce waste and improve Quality, Speed, Cost, Safety, and Morale.  Improving all five areas will support long-term success for the organization and everyone involved—including customers, employees, owners, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Lean has already been applied in manufacturing (factories, product design, and administrative functions) and service industries (including healthcare, banking, and government). The City of Detroit is one of the first municipalities in the United States to implement focused Lean initiatives, practices and development.


City of Baltimore, MD

Governments everywhere are struggling with deficits and rising costs.  All over the country, jurisdictions find themselves needing to do more with less.  In order to confront this dilemma, many public officials have started looking at the government processes to evaluate wasteful, inefficient, and unnecessary steps. 

Lean Government emphasizes making government more efficient, responsive, and satisfying to citizens and employees alike while simultaneously respecting individuals and changing the way people think about government. 

In Fiscal 2013, the City launched its Lean Government Initiative with the purpose of evaluating City processes and making tangible improvements that result in greater efficiency and better customer service.

Through the Lean Government initiative, the City initiated a culture shift that empowered employees to think dynamically, work toward continuous improvement, and ensure Baltimore’s municipal processes are adding value for residents.


Mayor's Office of Employment Development: NW One-Stop Career Center

Finance Department: Retail Business District License Process (RBDL)

Liquor Board: Inspections Process

Health Department: Year-End Accounting

Health Department: Grant Routing

Fire Department: Operational Tracking & Fiscal Accountability

Fire Department: Inspection Permitting

Department of Human Resources: Civil Service Hiring Process

Health Department: Community Asthma Program Referral Process

Finance Department: Bankruptcy Filing Process

Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice: CitiWatch Camera Request Process

Police Department: Internal Purchasing Process

Department of General Services: Urgent Vendor Invoice Payment

Health Department: Baltimore Infants & Toddlers Intake


Roanoke, VA

The City of Roanoke, Virginia recognizes the importance of change and how embracing change improves business processes. Citizens expectations are rising and municipalities are being forced to do more with less. The City of Roanoke has forward thinking leaders that have aspired to make the organization more efficient using Lean methodology.

Lean training has helped city employees improve processes using technology and other improvements to achieve a more efficient work environment benefiting it's customers.

Harvard Ash Bright Idea Program Recognition

Bright Ideas is an initiative that recognizes creative and promising government programs and partnerships. The initiative is offered through the Innovations in Government Program, a program of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit Bright Ideas online.

Lean is an overall business methodology that strives to deliver the most value to the customer in the most effective way.

LEAN Project Goals

  • Eliminate waste
  • Improve quality
  • Improve services
  • Minimize cost
  • Reduce time
  • Remove activities that don't add value and continual improvement

Six Sigma
Six Sigma is the logical framework for problem-solving, process improvement, and variation and defect reduction.

The 5 Six Sigma steps link to each other and provide a logical sequence creating an infinite loop of process improvement. The 5 steps are
Define - Measure - Analyze - Improve - Control

Partnership with Virginia Tech
During the summer of 2012, the City of Roanoke entered into a 2 pronged partnership with Virginia Tech involving the school’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) in Blacksburg, Virginia and its Center for Higher Learning in Roanoke, Virginia.

VT I.S.E. Student Projects

Lean Management

Lean Six Sigma

Annually, the ISE (Industrial and Systems Engineering) Department solicits Lean capstone projects for its students to complete as a graduation requirement. In September 2012, city projects were submitted, and ISE selected 4 projects in the following areas: Police Department, Social Services, Building Inspections, and Planning. In August 2013, two additional projects from the City’s Transportation Division and the Greater Roanoke Transit Company were chosen and evaluated by a new class of students.  And in August 2014, four additional projects were selected – three from the Police Department and one from the Facilities group at our City Schools.

These ten projects provided the students an opportunity to apply classroom training to real world situations while providing a significant benefit to the city departments and ultimately, to citizens and businesses. At the end of each school year, city staff met with the Virginia Tech faculty coordinator to critique the process and make tweaks for the upcoming year.  We anticipate continuing this partnership in 2015 and subsequent years.


Denver, CO


Gilbert, Arizona

EDGE (Employees Driving Gilbert’s Excellence) conducts three-day classes once a month and teaches employees tools and methods they can use in their areas to improve their processes


Success Stories:

Lean Six Sigma Success Stories in the Government Industry

Lean and Beyond: Taking Local Government from Good to Great- Consortium Forum presentations

Success Stories from Implementing Lean Six Sigma’s Trainings:

·King County - Success Story: How King County Treasury Reduced Taxpayer Late Fees by 62%, Featuring Ana Schoenecker & Laura Wilson

·King County - Success Story: Reducing Procurement Process Lead Time by 20 Days, Featuring Kara Cuzzetto

·LA County -  Success Story: Reducing Lead Time for Completing Technical Service Requests by 98%, Featuring Abigail Calderon and Jennifer Storm

·LA County - Success Story: Decreasing Payroll Processing Time by 80%, Featuring Meghan Taylor

  • City of San Antonio - Case Study: The City of San Antonio Improves Pothole Repair Problem by 480%


Gilbert, Arizona

From Nina DeCastro, Town of Gilbert

Here is more context of how we’re using LSS in our municipality. We use a lot of the concepts and tools not only for formal process improvement initiatives, but for other things as well. See below for some examples that were not specifically mentioned in our EDGE blog posts.

Design For Six Sigma: HB 2672

Problem statement: Arizona has passed legislation (HB 2672) requiring vacation rental owners to register their properties within their municipalities. Renters and owners may be cited for code violations. The AZ Department of Revenue requires municipalities to track number of owner violations so that DOR can issue their own fines which are escalated based on the number of violations in a rolling 12 month period. Town of Gilbert (or any other municipality in AZ) has no current process for this new legislation.

Approach: Use DCCDI (Define project goals, Customer analysis, Concept, Design, Implementation) to ensure new process meets all customer and organizational specs. This new process spans multiple departments – all of which are on different software platforms.

The Customer analysis phase included:

  • Working closely with front line personnel (Police, Code Enforcement, Courts and Tax) to assess their needs as a user within their systems;
  • Working with  Digital Government team to understand most effective channel to educate resident/owners on this new process (NextDoor, HOA outreach, social media sites);
  • Understanding gaps owner/residents may have when it comes to DOR registration requirements and how we can best address those gaps for an optimal experience.

We are currently in Concept phase as we are looking at integration between ArcGIS and the various platforms as well as selection of a database and front end to house the owner registrations and tracking mechanisms for the required reporting.

Support for our Internal Customers

  • Used a variety of LSS tools (SIPOC, Ishikawa diagram, process mapping) to ensure lean workflows are created in a new software platform for the Capital Improvement Project team; gathered metrics and developed business case for larger scale implementation and increased user licenses by calculating soft cost savings.
  • Documented formalized processes using process mapping and value stream mapping. Many departments now use these artifacts as a visual training aid to onboard new personnel as well as including this in their policies and procedures.
  • Used Gemba, Agile burndown charts, customer focus groups and CTQ (Critical To Quality) to develop business cases for additional FTEs for departments.
  • Currently implementing Agile user stories to determine if mobile hardware was appropriate for certain workgroups and if not, explore alternatives (example: an app developed for the iPad may be user friendly, but the iPad interface is not conducive in some shop environments due to the use of gloves and therefore data input is difficult and/or may not be accurate).
  • Gathered internal customer requirements and established standard work to create a template for Long Range Infrastructure Planning; departments were inconsistent in use of data and many end users did no understand what should/should not be included. Template can be used for presentation purposes, eliminating the need  to put data into another format.

External Customers

  • Phone tree re-programming (in process): discovered two “main” phone lines for Town of Gilbert, each with its own (incomplete) phone tree. Phone tree did not provide any context as to the department and its purpose. Used Pareto chart to understand most likely reasons for calling, adjusted verbiage so customer could immediately choose their issue and adjusted the order of the phone tree (most called departments were in the top 3 or 4 choices).
  • Conducted a recent survey to understand resident needs regarding bulk trash pick up, recycling and price sensitivities. Survey had the largest respondent rate to date. Used data to present recommendations to Town Council.

Overall, there are a variety of municipalities that have seen success and improved processes after implementing "lean" trainings for staff. It is highly recommended to reach out to other municipalities to obtain more information about success in cities which the Town of Gilbert, Arizona generously provided. 





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