Key Aspects for a Successful LSS Deployment at the City of El Paso

Diana Luisa Martinez, Business Consultant, TMAC, Arlington, TX, USA

Co-Speaker: Nancy Bartlett

Keywords: Sustainability, Critical Mass of Supporters, Overcoming Bureaucracy

Industry: Government

Level: Advanced


Although Lean and Six Sigma originated in manufacturing, LSS has proven successful in a variety of service industries including, but not limited to, 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? And how do they differ from the private sector?

TMAC has worked with a variety 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 Lean Six Sigma 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. In addition, several Kaizen events have take place.

This first group of GBs began work on projects in many different departments within the city. These Green Belts began using the DMAIC process in tackling problems, both large and small, for the City of El Paso. Here are examples of two projects, and the success they achieved:

• Parks & Recreation Department reduced time to receive a park usage permit from 16 days to less than 5 minutes, and costs were cut from $214 per application to only $13.40. The before process was an in person paper application and now it is a web based permit application. The process used 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 which will result in a total annual financial impact of $120k.

In the first wave of GB training, 7 candidates completed their projects. The financial impact of these projects accounted to $855,198 of cost avoidance savings that freed up about 28,000 man-hours.

For the second wave of GB, 5 candidates completed their projects. The financial impact of these projects accounted to $933,168 in cost avoidance savings and $570,000 in hard dollars savings.

A total of 30 GB have been trained and there are multiple projects that are in process, many of which are longer term projects. Wave 3 of GB just started and the city is looking forward to additional benefits from the LSS progam.

Some of the identified 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.

2.                Employees’ engagement & involvement in improvement. This involves a culture of solidarity and recognition. 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. All LSS projects show clear linkages to these strategic goals.

4.                Time dedicated for improvements – Without that, 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”).

5.                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.

6.                Develop a Critical Mass of Supporters - With any new continuous improvement program, a major challenge is educating and gaining buy-in from a core group of employees.

7.                Some of the challenges which are common in government include:

8.                Overcoming Bureaucracy - Having many filters and levels in an organization tends to complicate or slow down any proposed changes.

9.                Support for ‘Soft’ Benefits - For many government processes, the impact of a LSS project is linked to increasing customer satisfaction. Such benefits might be hard to quantify monetarily. Therefore, non-tangible benefits associated with quality of life should be deemed acceptable.

10.           Overcoming Departmental Focus – A best practice with LSS programs is to operate across the enterprise rather than focusing only in limited areas. A common challenge for municipalities is that they tend to have many different departments, each of which may be operated with very different management styles and methods.

At the end of the presentation, participants will learn additional key aspects and proven strategies for a successful LSS program implementation and how the City of El Paso approached each of them. Additionally, it will cover strategies to overcome the possible common challenges in a governmental organization.