Posted by: Knightbird | January 14, 2016

Lean Government Social Services

Lean Management Principles can be effective implemented in a social service organization, and there are many examples finding their way into stories on the Internet. Data driven improvements using Lean can have a huge impact on the health and welfare of our client base in Alaska. The principles are the same as the principles applied in business: let customers pull the service, understand your Takt Time, Cycle time and created flow through the elimination of waste, and develop standard work in support of your professional employees application of their knowledge and skills. Isn’t that a mouthful? Well, nobody said it was easy. That’s why we no longer have a successful Lean Management organization in Alaska. We have some that are struggling to find the path, but I am still waiting to see the right kind of results.

Let’s look at some examples of successful stories. The Wisconsin Bureau of Childhood Support has improved its intergovernmental case processing, working with other states to collect child support, by 60% according to an article in an ACF newsletter [LINK HERE]. By mapping the existing value stream, considering the complexity added by governmental regulations and extra jurisdictional laws and procedures, they established a plan to achieve the 60% improvement. So for the same cost as before, they can achieve much more with the elimination of waste. Success story and they want to do more, like tackle the instate child support process.

Ventura County, CA [LINK HERE] has been improving social services for over 5 years and accumulated reported savings annually of more than $535,000. For the past 5 years they have not spent over $2.5 million on the services they provided and suffered no reduction in the quality of those services. Sometimes we fail to understand that once the savings are achieved with Lean, they are recurring and the new base isn’t used to recognize how much additional benefit accrues to the residents in the Local Government Service Area. Registration for benefits, appeals process and health/dental exams for foster children benefitted from the application of Lean Management principles. Remember, this improves Value for customers, but saves costs as well.

Here is an interesting one from Results Washington. [LINK HERE] We have to remember that employees are also customers for Lean purposes. The Department of Health and Social Services improved processes for employee related processes and freed up 25,200 hours of employee time annually. That equates to 12 FTE’s and although the department only calculated $10,000 in savings, the number is actually equivalent to the salary and benefits of 12 employees. The savings are more in the range of $750,000 if each employee considered has a base salary of $50,000 and benefits of 30%. Think of it this way: you can either free up 12 employees to perform other necessary work, or if there is no other necessary work to do, you can move 12 employees to an area where there is work to do, without adding more funding.

Solihull is a local government in the UK. One of its projects involved patient discharge delays caused by a local government. Through the application of Lean, they achieved a quicker discharge of patients and avoided the penalty imposed by the British Government. Avoiding penalties is another benefit that Lean can give to a Local Government.

Now a final example for now. The state of Maine targeted a number of Long Term Home and Community Benefits for elders. [LINK HERE] While the summary of benefits is not at this Link, there are substantial benefits accruing. That’s what Lean does. Process are improved, quality is increased, services are delivered more quickly at a lower cost and customers needs are met more efficiently.

So lets encourage our social service providers to learn about how Lean can benefit their organization. We all benefit as a result because of the societal impacts being reduced, along with the cost.

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