Lean Six Sigma in City Government (Part 1 of 2)

Authors: Diana Martinez, Ph.D. and Alberto Yáñez-Moreno, Ph.D.

Posted: November 2016

Although Lean and Six Sigma originated in manufacturing, LSS has proven successful in a variety of service industries including the city government. LSS practitioners who plan to work in government face many challenges, some of which are unique to their environment. What are the keys to a successful implementation of Lean Six Sigma in government? How do they differ from the private sector?

TMAC has worked with a number of government organizations at the city and county level for many years. Beginning in the fall of 2014 TMAC began working with the City of El Paso on their new LSS Program. Their first group of LSS Green Belts completed training in January 2015, and a group of senior managers participated in a 2-day Champion & Sponsor workshop that same month.

This first group of GBs began work on projects in many different departments at the City of El Paso. Here are examples of four projects and the success they achieved:
• The Department of Streets & Maintenance applied LSS methods to increase the rate of pothole repairs from 200 to 280 per week and saved about $560k per year.
• The Parks & Recreation Department reduced time to receive a park usage permit from 16 days to less than 5 minutes. Additionally, costs were cut from $214 per application to only $13.40. The new process will be replicated for reducing the time for other special event permits.
• Municipal Courts increased the collection rate of fees and fines for traffic violations from 27% to 38%, resulting in an increase in revenue of $24k per year. The process is being replicated for other fees and is expected to account for a total annual financial impact of $120k.
• The Department of Information Technology Services improved the process for connecting and disconnecting phone or internet service for staff. The number of steps was reduced from 36 to 11, yielding a savings of $456k per year.

Key factors for success in implementing LSS in government include:
1. Management support and effective leadership – Without commitment and consistent participation from management a LSS program will fail. At the City of El Paso, this support is in the form of the city manager and the chief performance officer who serves as the deployment champion. Both of these individuals are Black Belts, which gives them a deep understanding of the DMAIC process and the potential benefits of LSS. They have promoted the initiative across the organization and established a training program for city staff. Their commitment to LSS is also shown by the participation of one or both of these individuals in every GB gate review.

2. Employees’ engagement and involvement – To build a culture of solidarity and recognition city staff at all levels should feel they have a voice in developing the solution. This is widely evident at the City of El Paso where project teams incorporate front-line staff. A side benefit of LSS is the morale boost achieved when employees realize their concerns are being heard and acted on, and their ideas implemented.

3. Projects aligned with organizational goals – The selection of LSS projects needs to be carefully done to make sure they are aligned with the organization’s strategic plan and goals. At the City of El Paso there are eight major strategic initiatives which address infrastructure, governance, fiscal management, safety, education, culture, and other areas. All LSS projects show a clear linkage to one or more of these strategic areas.

4. Time dedicated for improvements – It is common to see incomplete LSS projects due to issues such as constant changes to project priorities, focus on daily activities, or solving problems that require immediate attention (i.e., “firefighting”). Staff at the City of El Paso face these same challenges. With strong support from the city manager, project teams schedule specific times for meetings and to work on project action items.

Lean Six Sigma in City Government (Part 2 of 2)


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