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

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

Posted: December 2016

In Part 1 of this blog in November, Diana and Alberto described their activities in supporting the Lean Six Sigma Program at City of El Paso [click here to read Part 1].

Some of the key points they discussed:

  • City of El Paso started their new LSS Program in the fall of 2014 with a Green Belt class
  • A second wave of LSS Green Belts completed training in January 2015
  • Senior managers completed a 2-day Champion & Sponsor workshop that same month
  • Green Belts began completing project work in multiple departments including Streets & Maintenance, Parks & Recreation, Municipal Courts, and Information Technology

Key factors for success in implementing LSS in government discussed in Part 1 included:

  1. Management support and effective leadership
  2. Employees’ engagement and involvement
  3. Projects aligned with organizational goals
  4. Time dedicated for improvements

Additional factors for success include:

  1. Sustainability – Implementation without a control plan is probably worse than no implementation at all. Every improvement needs a way to measure the progress and sustain the gains. At the City of El Paso, extra effort is made to document and communicate the solution to all affected front-line staff as part of the control phase.
  2. Critical Mass of Supporters – With any new continuous improvement program a major challenge is gaining buy-in from a core group of employees. A standard approach includes educating staff on the reason for change, and on key LSS concepts. The approach used at the City of El Paso to develop this critical mass included training a large portion of city staff through a 2-day LSS Yellow Belt workshop. Participants emerged from the hands-on workshop with a much better understanding of LSS and what it could do for the city. These workshops also helped to identify potential candidates for future training as GBs or BBs.
  3. Coaching Support – The city manager and deployment champion realized the importance of regular coaching sessions for their GBs. They scheduled these sessions on a monthly basis to help the GBs shorten the time required for completion and to eliminate unnecessary rework. Coaching was originally provided by TMAC staff and then passed on to experienced practitioners at the City of El Paso.
  4. Recognition and Exposure – A common challenge with LSS programs is how to adequately recognize those who work to solve organization problems. At the City of El Paso, they ask each GB and their team to present their completed project to the city council. This forum is where the GB and the team members are acknowledged for their hard work and dedication.  One person’s project was even mentioned on the local news. Furthermore, the GBs receive their certificates in a special ceremony led by the city manager or deployment champion once they meet the requirements for certification.
  5. Green Belt Selection – The City of El Paso directors and managers have done a great job identifying and selecting the right city staff members to be trained as GBs. The staff chosen are self-driven individuals who care about their job and the services their department provides to the community.  These GBs are eager to use LSS tools and methods and constantly challenge the status-quo of their organization.

More about Diana Martinez, Ph.D.:

Diana is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with 10+ years of experience working with dozens of companies in a variety of industries, from healthcare to government to aerospace. She has taught more than 15 LSS classes and conducted dozens of coaching sessions for Green Belts and Black Belts. She has also worked closely with many firms in applying lean best practices resulting in reduced costs, higher productivity, and a more skilled workforce. Diana has a PhD in Industrial Engineering.

More about Alberto Yáñez-Moreno, Ph.D.:

Alberto is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 39 years of experience of working in a wide variety of industries from aerospace to healthcare to government, and with small firms up to Fortune 500 companies. Although he has taught dozens of LSS classes he is especially skilled at coaching Green Belts, Black Belts, and managers. Before joining TMAC he worked at George Group, the first firm to integrate Lean and Six Sigma. Alberto has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.


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