Melbourne, Australia – Pushing the Boundaries of Lean Government

The City of Melbourne is leading the way in applying lean to local government in Australia, having embarked on its lean journey in earnest in 2009.

As it often happens in organizations in sectors relatively new to the methodology, City of Melbourne (CoM) staff was skeptical of the method’s application to local government and in the early years.

The sentence It won’t work in my area – we are different was frequently heard. However, we persevered and now all 30 branches (departments) within CoM have applied lean within their service streams to make things better, faster, cheaper and easier for customers, staff, the organization and the community.

We began our lean journey improving high-volume or problematic services and processes. The CEO and executives chose the first projects and then took responsibility for sponsoring these large-scale improvements, known as Director Streams. 

More than 100 of these staff members have gone on to complete a Lean Learner qualification where they apply what they have learned to their work. The Lean Learners program provides support and guidance for individual staff to tackle their first A3 and has helped the organization demystify the art of A3 thinking and filling in those six boxes, a skill previously owned by the internal lean team.   

I was somewhat skeptical about asking staff to work on an A3 after just one day of lean training (it took me years to appreciate A3 thinking). However, my team have proved me wrong. It can be done.

Here’s a few examples of Lean Learner contributions to the CoMLean winlog:

  • Steve from Engineering Services, reduced the time it takes to replace residents existing garbage bins with larger bins by 30% (from 17 days to 12 days);
  • Melbourne visitor shuttle ticket stubs use to take 11 minutes per day to sort and reconcile. Kerry has reduced the time to 3 minutes a day, releasing 53 hours a year for value added work;
  • Emma from Parking and Traffic removed wasteful steps from the process of handbill rejection letters reducing the time taken from nine minutes to two minutes and releasing 140 hours of staff time per year.