Posted by: Knightbird | July 24, 2015

Alaska State Chamber October Forum

When the State of Washington initiated it’s Results Washington Lean Government Program, they had the assistance of local industry with Lean Cultures. They included Boeing, Virginia Mason Medical System, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Premera Blue Cross, Starbucks and many others. Here is a link to the 2nd Annual Results Washington Conference held in 2013 presenter bios. ( It’s an impressive list of helpers.

In August, I will be talking to Governor Walker of Alaska about exploring Lean Government for Alaska. I will be accompanied by an executive with ACS and a former candidate for Mayor of Anchorage. Both are sold on the Lean Management model. Alaska’s Commissioner of Administration is a former ACS executive, and has already initiated a review of the benefits that might be available through Lean Government.

An initial problem we have is that we have only one business I am aware of with meaningful experience in Lean. That business is Alaska Communication Systems. In Government, the military has a Department of Defense wide policy for utilization of Lean. So does the Veterans Administration (VA). However, as a recent audit of the VA Clinic in the MatSu Valley demonstrates, the VA has not implemented Lean Healthcare as a part of its operating culture. We can’t expect much help, but there are military retirees, for example, who have Lean experience that might be trained in Lean and provide a transformation work force for the State.

A secondary problem is the lack of a Lean workforce, and training programs for developing a Lean workforce. The putative appointee to the University of Alaska (UA) president position is an ACS executive responsible for their Lean adoption. His intention is to bring Lean to UA statewide and encourage the development of a Lean curriculum at one of the 3 campuses. The Center for Corporate and Professional Development at the University of Alaska Anchorage has been scheduling training on Lean Management. The efforts are small, but meaningful.

Alaska is very far behind the rest of the world with developing it’s capacity for management innovation. Tentative plans for the Alaska State Chamber Conference in October includes speakers on Lean Business, but but one is from outside the state of Alaska.

Lean has been difficult for me to convince leaders to undertake. I introduced my own Alaska Native Regional Corporation to Lean in 2005. I had it included as a part of the executive incentive compensation plan in 2009. Yet we are not included among the speakers because we have not used Lean management. The few Kaizen events reported to my by employees indicated significant operational improvements and cost savings. That wasn’t enough to convince our executive team about the merits of Lean Management. Since 2005, we have experienced significant losses among our operating companies, losses I believe that could have been avoided had we seriously implemented Lean.

In Alaska, we may have a chance for our state government to lead the business community into the most effective management system the world knows. As I wrote before, the Anchorage candidate for mayor I supported was prepared to implement Lean Government had he been elected. That didn’t happen. My efforts to contact the leadership for the new Mayor have not been successful.

I believe we are at a crossroads in Alaska. Budget pressures, the possibility for troop reductions in the military and federal budget restrictions have make it imperative to rethink our strategies. At this point, Governor Walker can be bold and help move Alaska to a more competitive position within the United States.

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