Mid-State Tech helps Rapids city government improve processes
July 18, 2014
From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Vruwink: Here’s how we’re improving city gov’t” — By Zach Vruwink, mayor of Wisconsin Rapids – Shortly into my first term as mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, I pledged to pursue streamlining operations and making government more efficient, effective and customer-friendly. With support of that vision from the City Council and a partnership with Mid-State Technical College, our employees began Lean Six Sigma training to equip us with the tools to identify improvement projects, approach problem solving differently and form cross-functional teams across departments to develop new solutions to the way we approach new and everyday tasks.
We live in a world where the expectation to do things “better” is commonplace. An investment in professional development, specifically in process improvement, exposes employees to additional ways to identify and solve problems, resulting in improved service and increased customer satisfaction — in our case, our “customers” are our employees and our residents.
Now, just a year after our formal launch of the initiative, I am happy to report that over 25 percent of our employees have been trained in the fundamentals of process improvement. Even more have been involved with identifying processes for improvement and as “subject matter experts” in their specific areas of process improvement.
On June 25, all city employees were invited to a report-out event to recognize the progress of the initiative and provide an overview of the projects they are working on. The event was a reminder of how far we’ve come, and it was a chance to see what improvements are being made across the organization and encourage interdepartmental collaboration among all employees.
Just as significant, the “Rapid Improvement” process has given us the opportunity for self-reflection from those of us in the organization; that’s something that can often be the difference from an organization being “good enough” and being “great.”
The result, I’m excited to announce, is seven projects near completion. For example, we are examining the city’s special assessments process; its business inspection process; and even the library’s book check-in and shelving process.
Take the business inspection process: City departments such as police, fire and code enforcement have heard from businesses that our compliance inspection process should be improved. Previously, departments conducted individual visits, disrupting businesses as frequently as six times per year. After the project team applied the Lean Six Sigma methodology, business inspections (or disruptions) have been reduced to one or two annually. Businesses now are informed proactively of common violations and also have a voice in further improving the process. This allows departments time to perform other functions and disrupts businesses less, all the while preserving the integrity of inspections.
Since the essence of the Rapid Improvement initiative is “continuous improvement,” projects will continue to be started and completed with varying degrees of impact. An internal steering team has scored and will continue to score employee-submitted projects to be worked on in the future. Residents, too, are invited to submit improvement projects for improvement.
If you have an improvement idea, please communicate to me, another city staff member or submit your idea online by visiting http://tinyurl.com/RapidImprovementProject.
Each day we show up for work with the opportunity to not only do our jobs, but also to make a significant impact on how we improve processes within our organization and within our city. I’m proud of the progress our city employees have made so far in the initiative and I look forward to continuing our journey of process improvement, identifying project opportunities, measuring our efficiency and ultimately improving the delivery of city services.