How the Lean Process helps reduce waste in local and county government

Counties and local governments are using the Lean process to deliver services to their communities more efficiently and effectively.

Counties and local governments are looking for ways to deliver services to their communities within the parameters of reduced revenues, population loss, and lower property values. Revenue and budget constraints are a challenge for cities like Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, and Pontiac, which have authority to collect city income taxes. Based on these challenges, newly elected and returning local and county officials will be looking for ways to reduce waste in local and county government.

The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) published a series of articles on the Lean process, which is a process government can use to identify and eliminate service delivery waste. The article Lean On Me: Supporting Your Staff Through the Lean Process states:

“Lean, at its core, is a way of thinking. An attitude of relentless pursuit of value, a deep curiosity for solving the real problem, and a culture of deep respect. Lean thinking influences the actions and therefore the results of the team or organization. How do you like the results your organization has now? The results you get are a direct reflection of your organization’s priorities, processes, and habits.”

The article states that some employees will be deeply suspicious of the process. This is usually due to not having enough information from management regarding the purpose of the Lean process, or the rolling out of the Lean process to staff was negative, figure pointing, and not informative. If management or leadership are not transparent regarding the Learn process, rumors will fuel employees’ fears that their past and current performance will be scrutinized for errors, particularly since the Lean process is built on identifying waste, redundancies, and inefficiencies. The biggest fear and suspicious emanates from employees’ concerns that they will lose their job or be replaced with technology.

The most important first step in the Lean process is cultivating a culture of respect. MRSC states this can be accomplished by:

“Paying close attention to people’s own intrinsic motivations for change. You can’t really ‘make’ anyone change because real change starts from within. If you pay close enough attention, you can identify powerful links between your organizational purpose, what your customers need, and what motivates the people who work there. Once you find this natural alignment, then relentlessly coach and support people toward that goal. Then watch the awesome creativity of the people within your organization take hold as they move into problem solving mode.”

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on land use provide various training programs on planning and zoning, which are available to be presented in your county. Contact your local land use educator for more information.

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