Larimer County Workforce Center Begins Lean Cultural Transformation

“Our first project through the Certified Lean Master (CLM) program has helped us make a cultural shift and prepare for greatness.” – Mark Johnston, WIA Center Manager

Organization Profile:

Larimer County Workforce Center (LCWC) provides access to a wide array of employment and training services. Their mission is “to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities through employment and workforce development services.”

Four key features of the LCWC are:

  1. Universality: Everyone shall have access to the Workforce Center.
  2. Customer Choice: You have a choice of service.
  3. Outcomes: The Workforce Center will be held accountable based on your feedback.
  4. Service Integration: The Workforce Center has developed partnerships with various local community organizations in order to provide an array of employment and training services.

To meet the needs of their stakeholders, the LCWC is pursuing five strategic initiatives:

  1. Focus
  2. Marketing
  3. Partnerships
  4. Funding
  5. Advocacy
lean government

One branch of the LCWC is the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Team, which specializes in assisting displaced workers through federally funded educational grants. This team is tasked with following various federal, state, and county guidelines to determine both the eligibility and suitability of various programs. To do so, the WIA team focuses particularly on customer choice and the outcomes of the programs.

The Challenge:

lean project

The number of unemployed people in Larimer county remains high. However, fewer dislocated workers were choosing LCWC WIA programs as a means to upgrade their skills on the path to landing a new high paying job.

The WIA team recognized that there was too much variability and wasted time in the application process. This was most evident in the early steps of determining “eligibility” and “suitability” before assigning a client to work with the Career Counselor Team (CCT).

Two specific issues that needed to be addressed:

  1. The process was unclear and frustrating to many clients
  2. There was information overload that was slowing down the process

“The team was concerned that the process was unclear and inefficient for clients, while also an inefficient use of counselor time and workforce resources.” – Megan Loritz, Career Transitions Counselor at Larimer County Workforce Center

Kris Bozzer, a WIA funding recipient, and Megan Loritz, a Career Transition Counselor, were challenged to lead the team responsible for application process and use the systematic lean approach to find and implement improvements. The goal was to shorten and reduce variability in the application process and increase the number of “eligible” and “suitable” clients working with the Career Counselors.

Project Overview:

Kris enrolled in the Certified Lean Master (CLM) program offered by APICS Northern Colorado in collaboration with Transformance Advisors. Megan was the project manager and pulled together the key employees that could assess and improve the application process.

Leveraging the knowledge from the CLM program, Kris worked with Megan to guide the team through a series of Kaizen Blitz events.

  1. Created a current state value stream map that started with the initial client application and ended with the assignment of the client to a career counselor.
  2. Identified the waste and ranked the top opportunities with each person on the team voting for the waste they wanted to eliminate first.
  3. Discussed best practices both in and out of Larimer County. The team also examined federal, state, county, and in-house regulations and guidelines.
  4. Created a future state value stream map with a client to counselor flow that is significantly more efficient and effective.
  5. Conducted a gap analysis and created an action plan to close the gaps between the current state and future state.
Kaizen Blitz

“Kris used her Certified Lean Master skills to provide the project framework for the team.” – Megan Loritz, Career Transitions Counselor at Larimer County Workforce Center

The Results:

value stream map

The future state value steam map was presented to the executive sponsor and received a resounding vote of confidence. The proposed process and the action plan for implementation where then presented to the entire staff during their annual team retreat.

The action plan is being implemented with a goal to achieve the following benefits:

  • Eliminate over 56% of the wasteful practices such as unnecessary waiting, duplicate steps, and excessive information gathering.
  • Recoup around 35% WIA staff labor hours associated with the application process and reassign this time to supporting a larger number of clients.

“Kris did an excellent job in leveraging the Certified Lean Master program to learn the details on the five principles of lean and the systematic elimination of waste. She then immediately applied this knowledge by working with Megan and the rest of the team. The Larimer County Workforce Center is now in a great position to continue the cultural transformation required for crafting a sustainable lean organization.” – Mike Loughrin, CEO, Transformance Advisors.

Another big benefit is the eagerness and excitement that this first lean project has sparked in the LCWC. For example, Mark Johnston, WIA Center Manager, is committed to leading his team in an ongoing lean process improvement initiative.

The next project could be the process for measuring success with each client. The team is eager to determine best practices in gathering client outcome.

Finally, the WIA team experienced the fruits of the educational grants that they offer and was able to see one of their qualified training vendors in action. They now have a clear reference of what the Certified Lean Master program is about and why lean is the number one improvement methodology in the world.

lean initiatives

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