Lean on Government

The City of Cape Coral, Florida

The City has initiated a “Lean Government” program for simplifying and streamlining various business processes. The goal is to reduce overall process times, increasing quality and lowering cost.
The method establishes cross-functional “kaizen” teams of City employees who map and dissect the existing processes. They then eliminate non-value-added steps or waste.
The lean approach had its origins in manufacturing but has been used successfully in government and service industries. Lee Memorial Hospital has an internal Lean improvement team, and nationally, the City of Fort Wayne, IN has the leading municipal program, which has delivered well-publicized results.

The City is working to train teams of employees to analyze specific processes and obtain improvements. As efficiencies are realized and improvements made to satisfy our customers’ service demands, there be a reservoir of talent developed who can work throughout City government for continuous improvement. These efforts will meet the needs of a growing city and allow employees to “work smarter” for the public good.
The City of Cape Coral was awarded the Strategic Leadership Award by the International City/County Management Association for the Lean Government System.



1. What is Lean Government?
Lean Government started in the private sector. It is an effort to closely examine, in a very critical and methodical manner, the processes in the City and determine where waste or non-value steps occur and then eliminate the waste. This results in reduced delays and stops, creates more efficiency and saves money while not reducing quality.

2. What has been done thus far?
Since August 2007, the City has conducted 16 Kaizen events. Each has produced dramatic results in how we operate and resulted in savings. To date, the return on the invested consulting dollars was 14 times – counting only hard dollar savings. The savings is much greater considering time saved and efficiencies obtained in each process.

3. What is the process?
A cross-functional team of City employees is established to map and dissect the existing process. The teams eliminate the unnecessary steps (waste) and redesign the process to allow service or information to flow more efficiently. After the new process is in place, it is monitored to ensure that the goals and objectives are met.

3. What other governmental entities are doing "Lean"?

In Florida, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Department uses Lean. Nationwide, the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana and the State of Iowa have been leaders in this effort.

4. Why do we need a consultant's assistance?
The consultant's training in Lean and experiences in the private sector are invaluable in teaching the participants to critically examine what they do and why they do it. This review is done in an environment that encourages critical thinking by the Kaizen group members and provides insight into opportunities to eliminate waste.
This training, along with the Kaizen experience that the participants receive, serve to assist in beginning a transformation of thinking — from accepting waste to becoming intolerant to waste. The training also provides daily opportunities to more critically review other processes as well. This is most important in these difficult economic times.

5. Have employees actually taken some of what they have learned and used it outside the formal Kaizen process?
Yes. Some department employees, after experiencing a Kaizen event, have gone back to their departments and identified and eliminated waste in other processes. Both have resulted in savings of time by maintaining just the value-added steps in the process.

7. Will we need a consultant for years to come?
No. Staff’s goal is to take this effort completely in-house within just a few years. Specifically, it is hoped that with an additional full year of experience with the consultant, that a reduced presence by the consultant could be possible in the third year (2010), with the program being completely assumed by in-house staff thereafter.

8. What are future expectations?
Our goal is to sustain existing Kaizen event results, and reduce the number of delays, stops and cycle times in all processes. This will apply to all departments and divisions. We continually will try to identify cost savings/avoidances in all areas.

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July 2, 2009

Cape Coral’s “Lean Government System” Program Receives International Recognition

The City of Cape Coral’s “Lean Government System” has received the Strategic Leadership and Governance Award from the International City/County Management Association. Cape Coral was one of 10 local governments receiving recognition for outstanding programs.

“Being a recipient of the ICMA award for strategic leadership is one of the highest honours a local government can receive,” said City Manager Terry Stewart. “This award recognizes that Cape Coral is leading the way in reforming how government operates, and is focused on finding efficiencies and improvements in all of our operations.”

In August 2007, the City of Cape Coral implemented the Lean Government System. A cross-functional team of City employees is established to map and dissect existing processes, eliminate the unnecessary steps and redesign the process to allow service or information to flow more efficiently. All employees (front line, managerial and executive) are included in the evaluation, planning and implementation of the Lean processes, which ensures that all employees have a voice in the changes.

“We have conducted 18 events in seven City departments resulting in about $2 million in cost savings and/or cost avoidance,” said Stewart. “The goal in every event is to increase productivity and reduce cost without sacrificing quality and the service to our citizens.” Lean Government Coordinator for the City of Cape Coral: Ms. Roop.

Some of the many successes include:

• Team reduced the time to obtain a permit for construction from 21 days to 8 days.
• Time required to hire a firefighter went from 66 days to 30 days.
• Lot mowing time was reduced from 52 days to 19 days to mow the grass once and send a notice of violation to the property owner.
• The cycle time for first reviews in Site Plan Development initially decreased to five days from 28 days. The time currently is eight days.

The City of Cape Coral is working with other local communities to share and assist in implementing a Lean initiative in their areas. In October 2008, the City partnered with the Florida City/County Management Association, the Center for Florida Local Government Excellence and the John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government to offer a Lean Government workshop to surrounding municipalities. Participants included Marco Island, Collier County, Punta Gorda and Palm Beach County.

The ICMA advances professional local government worldwide. Its mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and advancing professional management of local government. ICMA provides member support to more than 9,000 city, town, and county experts and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA's members affect 185 million individuals living in thousands of communities, from small villages and towns to large metropolitan areas.

more examples here