Lean Innovation in King County: Executive Dow Constantine Talks about King County Lean at Harvard Kennedy School of Government

On Thursday, December 18th, King County Executive Dow Constantine was a featured speaker at Embedding Innovation in County Government, an event co-sponsored by the National Association of Counties and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Executive Constantine’s presentation was featured during a “Leadership-Driven Innovation” session. King County’s innovation? Empowering the people who do the work to change how the work gets done for the better by implementing Lean tools and principles.

Executive Constantine’s remarks focused on how King County has been using Lean to provide the best possible value to the people King County serves.

2014_12_18 NACo panel REVKing County Executive Dow Constantine (right) presents to a panel of 22 county executives

As he explained to a roomful of other county leaders from across the nation, King County’s Lean journey has only just begun, but success thus far owes to a commitment to develop Lean leaders throughout the organization and to engage employees as the source of innovation and build their capacity for continuous improvement.

Lean’s focus on improving work processes—understanding how the work is done, why it is done, and how it can be done better—has helped the county achieve significant results already. Constantine noted just a few during his remarks (download the full handout and visuals that accompanied his remarks).

  • Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention and Jail Health Services’s Lean work has reduced the average daily number of jail inmates classified as suicide risks from 70 to five, improving the quality of care by providing the right treatment based on condition and saving more than $2 million a year.
  • Transit’s Vehicle Maintenance division is reducing inventory by 30%, freeing resources that can be used to provide more bus service to the public.
  • Elections has cut the cost of processing each ballot by 20 percent, saving nearly $2 million while preserving the integrity of the elections process.
  • Public Health has improved scheduling in order to provide more service to patients and has also streamlined Medicaid enrollment, increasing health coverage among the most vulnerable citizens.

As important as those improvements and others have been, Constantine noted that the deeper culture of continuous improvement that the county is developing will be the most important accomplishment.

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