Posted by: knightbird | February 1, 2012

Lean in Head Start

Chugachmiut has extended Lean Thinking beyond normal boundaries. Head Start is one of the arenas we analyze with considerable success. The federal Head Start program is one of the most regulated programs in existence. According to the National Head Start Organization, there were over 1,800 program regulations that were extensively monitored by the Head Start Program office. We have experienced this a number of times during my tenure at Chugachmiut. A team of 5 or 6 contractors with Head Start comes to visit with a huge list of questions to be answered. The list takes over a week to complete. Site visits are made. The first visit made during my tenure resulted in a report list of problems. But the biggest problem was that Head Start never bothered to send the report to us before their next visit a couple of years later. All of that federal and Chugachmiut investment negated by an unaddressed defect in the federal process—they didn’t mail the report to us. The government does need Lean.

Today, my Head Start staff is meeting in preparation for the next review. We have very few problems today compared to what we encountered 7 years ago. We have (for the most part) 5S’ed our Head Start (the directors office needs a solid 5S effort). We have mapped various Head Start processes. We have improved our documentation of federal requirements being met. The team is reviewing the defects from prior reports and fixing them.

Lean is wonderful. Instead of a manager telling employees to fix things, our Director is leading a team who are learning how to improve systems and processes. We are documenting standard work, and teaching standard work. Our kids are getting their physical assessments and dental screenings in a remote village setting where there are no doctors or dentists. Our Head Start teachers are earning their degrees from remote Villages that have no educational institutions.

Instead of complaining that we don’t have enough funding (which is true), my staff is doing all they can to effectively serve their customers—the families and their children who attend our program. I believe in Lean. I with the government did. Then maybe they would have more funds available to invest in our children and families.

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