4th Annual Lean Government Exchange Goes Virtual in 2020

by Brion Hurley

The Lean Government Exchange is an annual one day event of government officials, stakeholders and advocates implementing lean principles (primarily members of the Iowa Lean Consortium, but open to all). I last attended the inaugural Exchange in June 2017 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Due to the pandemic, I was actually able to attend this year’s event virtually on June 2, 2020, since I live in Portland (OR), and have a hard time getting back for just a single day event.

The conference kicked off with a keynote presentation by Larisa Benson. After working at Google, she took her compassionate leadership program to the State of Washington, where she applied Lean and Six Sigma to improve child welfare at the State of Washington, which led to the Government Joy Network. She walked the group through an exercise to help de-stress, and emphasized the importance of a new way of leading organizations.

After the keynote, there were two breakout sessions:

Getting Restarted…a small problem with impact – Muscatine Power and Water

They have had ebbs and flows of continuous improvement activity over the last 10+ years (and are a frequent attendees at the exchange), so they shared how they helped restart their efforts with small projects to start building momentum again. Included in the presentation were tips for restarting an initiative (even with limited staff), along with struggles they went through. They also talked about how they reduced the amount of time documents were out for review, and how it helped engage employees in the work.

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan – Iowa Department of Public Health

As government agencies look to adopt continuous improvement practices, the leaders within them continue to struggle with implementing systems that are visible, actionable, and applicable to the work within each lane of their organizations. When our most well intentioned efforts are executed without a plan to sustain improvement, celebrate gains, and strategize with a quality lens- culture suffers.

Early this year the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Executive Team reviewed and adopted a Performance Improvement Plan, which defines the resources dedicated to quality improvement at the department.

Key components included:

  • Performance improvement in strategic planning.
  • Integrating performance improvement within individual performance plans.
  • Establishing a quality improvement council.
  • Defining the role of the council in identifying opportunities, driving culture, and sustaining change.
  • Outlining training on a wide variety of improvement tools and techniques.
  • Utilizing results oriented data to inform continuous improvement.

The presentation also provided strategies for making process improvement more visible, celebrating the gains of individuals and teams, and making their efforts measurable and sustained.

Click to learn more about the Lean Government Exchange and future events from the Iowa Lean Consortium. Recording might also be available for purchase after the event if you missed it.