Posted by: Knightbird | May 23, 2010

The Municipality of Anchorage and Lean Government

After Chugachmiut acquired it’s new building in the fall of 2005, we wanted to assure that the children who came to our building for tutoring from one of the businesses leasing from us were protected in case of fire. We hired a consultant to evaluate our fire alarm system, and installed state of the art upgrades. When we were finished, we contacted the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) for an inspection and sign off by the Fire Department. Then we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited some more. After about five months, I contacted the Mayor, who I had known for over 20 years, and a week later five inspectors were in our office. This was in 2006. I spoke to the fire inspector about Lean Management and how it might help their inspection process. I also emailed the Mayor and explained how Lean Management was improving government operations in Maine and Iowa (the 2 states that I knew were using Lean at the time). Despite regular follow-up, nothing happened.

Then in 2009, I happened to be sitting on a board with Anchorage Police Chief Rob Heun. Chief Heun described the large budget cuts his department was experiencing, and lamenting the changes that had to be made as a consequence. I immediately realized an opportunity to evangelize for Lean again, and after discussing the benefits of Lean with the Chief, referred him to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s lean blog, and forwarded an article about the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of lean in its booking process. Chief Heun assigned his Deputy, Steve Smith, to investigate Lean. Mr. Smith contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, and was favorably impressed. Part of the story is told by Jacksonville Sergeant Billy Wilkerson at and my comment there.

Mr. Smith was eventually appointed  interim Chief, and spoke with City Manager George Vakalis about Lean. Chief Smith also engaged the Alaska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (AMEP) to assist them with learning about Lean, and AMEP contacted Chugachmiut to help them. We collaborated and presented a four hour class for Mr. Vakalis’ top executives that included a tour of Chugachmiut.

It appeared that the MOA was impressed with the results we had achieved. 2 of my staff discussed the 5S tool, my Finance Division Director talked about the Kaizen Blitz her staff was then involved in, and my Human Resource manager spoke of the many improvements in her department since Chugachmiut started with Lean. With the seeds of Lean firmly planted in the MOA, we are looking forward to the many quality improvements, increased customer service, and cost savings that Lean brings.

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