“An exciting opportunity to help launch a new, multi-agency New York State efficiency effort”

M Lachapelle
Mike LaChapelle, Access GE Team Leader, GE Capital

Delays for customer service requests dropped 80% following a two-day Kaizen event I facilitated with a major state agency.  I was impressed by the support and involvement from very senior leaders in the administration who personally offered their time and commitment to make the project happen, right down to the front-line staff who exhibited a real can-do attitude.

For me, it was an exciting opportunity to help launch a new, multi-agency New York State efficiency effort.  In part, helping out this way is what GE employees do:  each year we volunteer 1.3 million hours in our communities.  Moreover, this type of service has been central to my career.  In my 28 years with GE, I’ve helped local school systems, chambers of commerce, community colleges, and other non-profit organizations to improve their operations.

When you provide pro bono services, you want the team you’re working with to be as committed as you are. The New York State team leaders made my job easy by gathering all the data needed in advance and completing process maps of the key functions.  During the Kaizen event, the participants were open to new ideas and quickly implemented the changes required to reduce customer lead times.  The support provided by the IT team was invaluable in quickly implementing systems changes, as well as moving and installing computer hardware.

After the Kaizen event, I shared the great experience that I had with some of the GE Lean Leaders in the Capital District.  I have enlisted the help of three of my GE colleagues, Michael Noble-Jack and Jeff Skinkle of GE Power & Water, and Steve Kearney of GE Healthcare, to help facilitate future Kaizen events and support the expansion of the effort in 2014.  They are all as excited as I am to share our expertise to help New York State and our local communities.

Imagine no more waiting in line

Imagine government without waiting lines.  Government where you were never put on hold when you called.  Government where you got a permit or license in a few days instead of a few months.   Well, it’s beginning to happen – and one of the tools governments increasingly use is a process called “Lean.“

Michael HickeyLean was developed on automotive assembly lines as a strategy for building cars faster with fewer defects, but Lean has applications for any process.  Going step-by-step through systems, programs and regulations, Lean seeks to improve or eliminate parts that are prone to waits, rejections and resubmissions, bottlenecks, or doing more than what the customer really wants.

Here’s an example from the private sector, where Lean grew up:

Western Union had a problem.  In order to add a new sales agent to their network, applications went through a labyrinthine 19-day process.  Applications passed through the hands of dozen staff who sorted, recorded, reviewed and batched the paperwork before sending it to the next person.  Surely it could be sped up a bit?

So Western Union decided to bring the team together – everyone from bosses to the sorting clerk – and take a hard look at all the steps.  Was there a better way to conduct the handful of required background checks and schedule training with the new sales agent?

Using Lean, the team spent two days reviewing the entire process, asking, “Does every step help us deliver exactly what our new sales agents need, while complying with federal agencies and our own business requirements?”  If not, they took that step out.

They found that by calling the new sales agent first (instead of at the end of the process), they could verify most of the information over the phone.  Better still, one person could do the entire process, eliminating all that waiting as the application passed from hand to hand.  In the end, the new process went from 19 days to… 22 minutes

As you can imagine, Lean is common in a variety of industries including manufacturing, finance, and health care.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could use Lean to help government do its job more effectively as well?

It turns out that a number of cities and states are doing just this:

These may seem like small wins, but the effects are cumulative.  For instance, Fort Wayne has been rigorous in implementing Lean, applying it to over 100 projects and saving they city some $30 million, or nearly 16% of their total expense budget!

What’s incredible about many of these public sector efforts is that private corporations in manufacturing, finance and health care are donating the expertise to teach Lean to state workers, coaching them to use the same process the private sector folks use routinely.

If you’re reading this and you have expertise that you’d like to offer, then contact us and we’ll work with your firm to make a difference right in your home town.