Voinovich School hosts LeanOhio Program

Gretchen Gregory
August 28, 2014

This story originally appeared in Compass.

Local officials throughout Southern Ohio recently finished up a workshop series designed to help local governments become more efficient by eliminating redundancies and repetition in the workplace, and ultimately save taxpayer dollars.

Hosted by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center in Zanesville, two instructors led public officials through the Lean Ohio Six Sigma curriculum, a five-day training series. The curriculum was designed to give government officials access to the same tools and resources that state agencies have used throughout the past three years to reduce costs and wait times.

“Lean Ohio is a state agency that works with other state agencies to help improve efficiency,” said Brad Hollingsworth, workshop co-instructor and assistant director for Muskingum Valley ESC’s Center for Innovation and Data Services. “We focus on the processes and we teach them tools to document and analyze processes to reduce redundant steps, unnecessary handoffs, delays, and really drive waste out of the system. One of the things you’ll hear Lean Ohio say is to focus on eliminating the waste from the process, but not the people.”

The curriculum involved teaching how to identify waste in the system that slow down processes, and then redesign them to be more efficient, said Michael Fuller, workshop co-instructor and director of Muskingum Valley ESC’s Data Services. “Primarily what we’re looking for are the back office processes and all the behind-the-scenes paperwork and forms, and we help create a way for people to better work together,” he said.

During the training, Hollingsworth and Fuller helped participants process a hypothetical paper application as a way to identify the steps local government would normally take. What started out as processing a paper application in 36 steps was reduced to 7 steps after applying the Lean Ohio Sig Sigma curriculum. The time to process an application was reduced from an estimated 25 to 35 minutes to 1 to 2 minutes.

“The things we’ve learned here we can use to make things leaner at work,” said Heather Rockwell, finance director of the Village of New Lexington. “Instead of looking at it as this huge big scary thing, now there’s a rhyme and reason and a process to follow and steps to take so everyone stays on task and is on the same page.”

“A lot of times what people do on a daily basis are automatic for them because they’ve done it for so long,” added Hillsboro City Auditor Gary Lewis. “Other people don’t necessarily understand what their co-workers are doing though. In doing this process, you take what’s called the invisible and make it visible. Others can then suggest changing steps that might make things more efficient.”

“I think a lot of times we duplicate things, and this shows where we have duplication that we can take out of the process,” said Karen Ballengee, treasurer of the Manchester Local School District.

Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Founding Dean Mark Weinberg.said he is excited the college is part of the partnership. "It's enabling processes that are simpler, faster, better and less costly in our local governments," he said. "Innovation in the public sector is critical as we move the state and region forward."