Hennepin County, Research, Planning & Development Department (now Center of Innovation and Excellence)
Launching a successful countywide business process improvement initiative to streamline workflow and reduce costs.
In 2013, the Hennepin County Board committed to reducing costs by improving the efficiency of the county's business processes and directed the Research, Planning & Development Department to lead a countywide process improvement initiative. The county selected kaizen, a continuous improvement approach developed in Japan, as their chosen method for the initiative.
They decided to begin with their biggest challenge, contracting. Over time, each county department had developed its own contracting processes, resulting in fourteen different processes for personal and professional services and cooperative agreements. Having so many different approaches led to confusion and frustration for county staff and vendors alike. Three Research Planning & Development employees had been trained on kaizen techniques and had facilitated one kaizen event in preparation for the contracting kaizen, but they knew they needed additional support and coaching to ensure a successful outcome on their most challenging assignment.
Research, Planning & Development staff led multiple departments through three contracting kaizen sessions over a period of seven months. Each kaizen focused on a different part of the contracting process with the goal of creating one unified approach. MAD provided coaching and technical assistance to the facilitators on the kaizen processes in general and helped them plan, prepare for and facilitate the sessions.
The series of kaizens resulted in a single, accepted process for contracting at Hennepin County. The coaching and technical assistance provided to staff built their capacity to implement a successful large scale continuous improvement program that will help the entire county operate more efficiently.
Kris Van Amber