Streamlining the US Army Corps of Engineers permitting process

In 2014 WTD launched an effort to reduce the time it takes to put a capital project in the ground. Here’s one story of our progress. – By Rachael Dillman


Getting permits for a project from other agencies (permit acquisition) was an obvious place to look at streamlining our capital project processes because the acquisition of some permits can take a significant amount of time.

The type of permit that stood out as a good place to start was the US Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) permitting process. It was complex, lengthy and often a critical path item in project schedules, taking anywhere between 12 and 21 months to complete.

A two day Lean workshop was held in April where a team looked for ways  to streamline getting a Corps permit. They developed standards for the process (and sub-processes), as well as 14 follow-up action items to support those new standards.

“It’s probably one of the more complex issues we’ve applied Lean to,” said Michael Popiwny, capital project manager IV and workshop participant. “The process is not entirely controlled by us.”

Katherine Fischer, environmental programs managing supervisor, explained that the long permit process had no pre-existing standard work or procedures. “Everyone was doing it differently. There was nothing to guide people, so this workshop came along at a good time,” she said. “At some point during the workshop we divided the discussion up into what steps happen prior to submittal, and post-submittal. Once we did that, we made quick progress.”

Next step and new tools

The next step is to select pilot projects to apply the new standards to. The group has identified meaningful tools (templates and checklists) that they can create to do permit applications in the future.

While the focus of this Lean event was on the Corps permitting process, many of the standards and tools developed will be useful in future efforts to streamline processes related to the acquisition of other types of permits.

Lean Love

“I think these Lean workshops help us understand the real requirements of an action or a process – not just what we THINK they are,” noted Michael. “I recently used the new procurement consultant evaluation process we developed – and it is WAY better. It made me a ‘Lean-believer’.”

“I’m always amazed at the creativity and work that is accomplished in a day” – Kathy Loland, PPD Section Manager

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