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Section 4: Successful Lean Implementation and Follow-up
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While significant progress is typically made in designing and implementing air permitting process improvements during a Lean event, successful implementation hinges on effective follow-up. Agencies have found that several key actions can ensure that improvements and results are sustained into the future:
- Documentation and training on the new process: People need to know what the new air permitting process is. Agencies have posted the new value stream map or process map so that all can see it; some agencies make a fresh, clean version using a process mapping software program so it can be easily posted and distributed. Staff must be trained on the new process, particularly those who did not participate in the Lean event. There may also be a need to update or write new office procedures.
- Follow-up meetings: Since it is often not feasible to fully implement the new process during the Lean event, there is typically a list of follow-up actions. Agencies usually conduct 30, 60, and 90-day follow up meetings to review the status of action items, to hold team members accountable for completing them, and to review how the new process is doing and make adjustments as appropriate. Some agencies also find it useful to conduct 6-month and 1-year follow-up meetings to ensure that the new air permitting process is performing well and to identify steps to prevent “backsliding”.
- Management support: It is very important for air permitting program managers, and their superiors, to clearly communicate their support for the new air permitting process. All employees must understand that management is fully behind the new process and that “doing things the old way” will not be tolerated. At the same time, management can let staff know that communication is encouraged—if things are not working well in some aspects of the new process, the team can discuss adjustments and improvements.
Keeping with the spirit and philosophy of Lean, some agencies view their initial Lean air permitting events as the starting point for fostering a broader continuous improvement culture. For many processes, organizations will conduct a kaizen improvement event on the same process every few years, with mini-events and follow-up meetings held in between to assess performance and to identify and make incremental improvements. Holding a kaizen event is not just a one-shot improvement effort. Instead, it is the beginning of a process to engage employees in continuous process improvement, where the team continues to adjust the air permitting process to get better results—“to make it good for all.”
As you can see Lean events have been successful in quickly identifying and implementing a broad range of solutions to improve air permitting processes. While the Lean journey takes hard work and perseverance, the power of harnessing the hearts and minds of employees for achieving excellence can be transformative, leading to satisfied constituents, empowered and engaged employees, passionate leaders, and improved air permitting processes. We encourage you to take time to learn more about opportunities to apply Lean to air permitting and share your own experiences.