What is Lean?

Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is improving work processes, creating efficiencies, decreasing costs, and making the most of our employees’ expertise. There are many CPI techniques and we’re currently focusing on Lean.

What is Lean?

Lean /leen/ adj. 1 having no superfluous fat. 2 characterized by economy (as of style, expression, or operation).

Lean isn’t an acronym. It’s the word used to describe a systematic approach to reducing waste in the work environment — or making processes “lean.” It’s a cycle of continuous process improvement that:

  • Relies on front-line workers. The people who do the work actively participate in decisions for improving their processes.
  • Is proven, results driven, and sustainable.
  • Eliminates waste, leaving only efficient processes that bring value to customers.
  • Ensures accountability.
  • Improves customer satisfaction.

For more information about Lean, see Results Washington: About Lean (Office of the Governor).

How Lean works

  1. An employee or supervisor acting as the sponsor or process owner submits a request to our Process Improvement Manager. The request describes a potential opportunity for improvement based on data, surveys, or other information provided by employees or supervisors.
  2. A team is formed to act on the request. The team includes:
    • Employees involved in the process to be improved
    • Customers
    • Individuals or groups who will be affected by the change
  3. A facilitator leads the group through exercises to:
    • Define the problem.
    • Gather data.
    • Analyze information.
    • Map the current process.
    • Find waste.
    • Establish what success would look like.
  4. The team creates recommendations, an action plan, and controls for improving the process.
  5. The team presents all the details to the sponsor or process owner.
  6. The sponsor or process owner decides on each of the team’s suggestions.
  7. Changes approved by the sponsor or process owner are implemented, documented, and tracked to evaluate performance.

What we’re working on

We offer continuous process improvement classes for employees every 3 months.

Training class Participants in 2012 Participants in 2013
CPI 100: 2-hour introduction to continuous process improvement and Lean techniques 28 386
CPI 200: 2-hour interactive class that builds on Lean basics n/a 22

CPI events
Employees participate in a variety of continuous process events throughout the agency.

CPI events and participants 2012 2013
CPI events 10 2
CPI participants 78 14

Success stories
For examples of how we’ve improved service and reduced waste with Lean, see Success stories.

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