Building a High Performance City through Lean Six Sigma

My first of two half day courses today dealt with quality and process improvement in governments. I feel that this is one of the things that we do not do well in Rochester. Sandra Means has been trying for years to get the city focused on quality, but unfortunately for all of us she has met resistance from city administration and the council. It is my hope that in 2011 we can follow her lead and really move towards a lean – six sigma organization.

I am not going to bore you with too many details, but this was a rather intense course that looked at two strategies; six sigma and lean. Six Sigma is a measure of error rates and for a city that might include an incorrect decision on permit request or missing a problem on a building inspection. Lean involves making a process more efficient. For example if it takes 72 hours to fix a pothole, but only 1 hour of work, we don’t have an efficient process. Much of the class was devoted to a case study of a process improvement that took place in Roswell, GA surrounding commercial land development permits. The results were substantial.

In my previous life as an engineer and also now as a financial analyst / entrepreneur, I have had experience and education with quality programs. The first think to know is that they really don’t cost money, which is good because we don’t have it. Second is that it takes leadership. If we are going to address this it will need to come from the council. I believe with Myself, Sandra, Mark, a couple of other possibilities, we now have the ability to force some action on this. For as long as I have been on the council neither the council president not city administration has even had a council meeting to discuss quality.

Roswell, GA was able to significantly decrease permit approval times by more than a month, resulting in huge savings for developers and tax payers. Fort Wayne, IN and Coral Gables, FL also have had similar successes. Much of the topic focused on the land development example, but this could be applied to every function we do. I agree that we have permitting issues in Rochester, but I that as something that is a completely separate issue from the actual low standards that we have in place.

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