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City Manager's Blog

Learn about the City of Roanoke from the City Manager's point of view.

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Mar 11

Leaning Into a Better Organization

Posted on March 11, 2019 at 3:09 PM by Melinda Mayo

Were you aware that there is an ongoing effort focused on continually improving the processes we use and the services we provide here in the City government?  The initiative relies upon the principles of Lean Management pioneered by Toyota more than 70 years ago.  I will use this post to highlight a few of our efforts and why they matter to the citizens of Roanoke.

What is Lean Management?

Lean Management focuses on continuously improving work processes, purposes, and people.  Over the years, it has grown into a global movement that has yielded savings in time, money, and resources, and led to better work environments, empowered employees, and higher quality services and products.  

The Roanoke Experience

Roanoke began its journey of continuous improvement in 2013 through collaboration with Virginia Tech and the Roanoke Center for Higher Education to develop and deliver training for the City’s senior leaders.  The training continues to this day and has equipped dozens of City staff with the tools needed to assess opportunities for improvement and equip them with the means to affect change in the work the City performs.  

Shortly after this initial introduction to Lean, the Star City Innovators, an internal working group comprised of representatives from departments across the City government, was formed.  This group of employees advocates for and fosters the effort by offering ongoing training, support for projects, and leadership in bringing forward proposals for improvements to City administration.  This group also serves as the liaison with Virginia Tech which, in addition to support in training, collaborates with the City by providing students from the Industrial and Systems Engineering  program to engage in the research and development of specific improvement projects.

The Results 

The results of these efforts have been nothing short of spectacular!  Since its inception numerous staff have been trained and certified in the principles of Lean Management, and several dozen projects have been completed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced expenditures and in increased efficiencies.  Virginia Tech students have completed many projects, offering them real world experience and providing vital information and recommendations for the City.  Improvements from these efforts have been made in such areas as client intake with our Social Services Department, an assessment of cell phone stipends for City employees, permitting procedures, the rental inspection program, and many more.

Later this week, the City’s department directors will gather for a day of additional training on these principles in an effort to advance the initiative and to use it as a means of further breaking down silos across the organization, so that we can be a more responsive organization.  More information about the City’s Lean Management initiative is available here.

Efforts like Lean Management are only a part of what City employees do every day to ensure we are delivering services as effectively and efficiently as possible.  I am proud of these efforts and I look forward to even more opportunities for us to do better and be better for you!

-- Bob Cowell

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