Getting Started with Lean Projects and Lean Measures

Saving in a piggy bank

What do you think of when you hear the word “lean government”? Painful? Financial hardship? More work?

What you rarely hear in conjunction with the word “lean” is the benefits of lean operation. When properly executed, effective lean management can lead to sustainable, efficient, and effective government offices – offices that deliver more value with less waste. The key is finding and establishing the appropriate lean procedures and executing them correctly.


Keys to Successful Lean Measures



In order for “lean” to work, it must be executed by leaders who introduce the lean concepts in a manner that is: respectful, positive, opportunistic to the office as a whole, open-minded, adoptive, and by a person who is personally committed to the process. A willingness by the leader or manager to participate as a partner in the lean procedures is critical. Not everyone is cut out to manage this type of undertaking. A lean leader not only participates and “thinks lean”, but they are committed to influencing others to participate. In order to do this, lean leaders stay positive by focusing on opportunities, not problems, and processes, not people.



Properly identifying the right areas and projects of focus as part of overall lean management is key to successful implementation of lean measures. The best projects for lean undertaking are those that will create the most opportunity—they have the highest impact on customers and finances, while having the least impact on employees and the public. When determining which projects to “trim the fat” on, consider the following:

  • Which projects make the greatest positive impact on the customer experience, with the least pain felt by the customer?
  • Which projects have the most financial return on investment? Which are the most costly, and which require the least investment?
  • Which projects will have the least impact on employee morale?
  • Which projects are of the greatest concern to the public and to employees?
  • Which projects will have an effect immediately, and which projects will not have an impact for a long time?
  • Which projects can be executed best with the knowledge at hand?
  • What is the employee impact of each project (time, money, morale, fairness)?


Selection and Evaluation.

Once you have a list of potential lean projects, you can begin the decision-making process. A recommended method to project selection is a Selection Grid. To do this, start with a blank page and make a list of potential lean projects on the left hand column. At the top, list factors for consideration based on the assessment questions above: Importance, Impact on Department’s Objectives, Customer Impact, Visibility of Results, Time Required to Implement, Employee Impact/Resources Needed, Probability of Solution, etc. Evaluate each project against these factors using a scale of 0 to 5 (0 = Very Little/None, 1 = Low, 2 = Moderate, 3 = High, 4 = Significant, 5 = Major).


With the right leadership, projects, and selection, a lean process no longer needs to be a scary word. It can actually lead to long-term problem solving, elevated efficiency, and higher customer satisfaction.



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