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Administrator Pruitt Announces New Office of Continuous Improvement

Provides update on EPA Lean Management System

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WASHINGTON  – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt met with more than 75 employees and stakeholders to provide an update on the implementation of the new EPA Lean Management System (ELMS) and announced EPA’s new Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI) and its director, Serena McIlwain.

“Through Lean Management, EPA is tracking, measuring, and improving vital agency processes, such as permitting and meeting legal deadlines on time, for the first time,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Establishing the Office of Continuous Improvement will ensure that these actions are implemented throughout the Agency and produce lasting results for years to come.”

EPA established OCI to coordinate agency-wide implementation of ELMS. ELMS is a system that will enable the Agency to track important Agency actions to ensure we respond and resolve challenges quickly and thoroughly using Lean principles and tools. Prior to this administration, EPA was not systematically or regularly tracking key actions such as permitting, meeting legal deadlines, and correcting environmental violations. With ELMS, all parts of EPA will set ambitious and achievable targets for their work, measure their results, and improve their processes to bridge gaps between targets and results. ELMS uses visual management with regularly updated performance and work flow data to monitor progress toward EPA’s Strategic Plan targets. EPA’s programs and regional offices hold monthly reviews of the performance data and report their progress to the agency’s Chief of Operations. Administrator Pruitt will hold quarterly reviews to monitor overall progress on the Agency’s Strategic Plan and priority areas.

“EPA has a long history of using Lean as a tool for process improvement. The new EPA Lean Management System and the Office of Continuous Improvement will take the Agency’s efforts to the next level by creating the means to efficiently identify and resolve any process challenges and continue achieving our important mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said EPA Chief Operating Officer Henry Darwin.

Through reorganization, EPA is using existing resources to support the Office of Continuous Improvement. The near-term goal of OCI is to deploy ELMS in 80 percent of agency work units by September 30, 2020. The creation of OCI builds on the process improvement work in which EPA has been engaged for a decade. ELMS will improve EPA’s efficiency and effectiveness, increase employee engagement, and promote much greater accountability at the Agency.

“I am very grateful to have been selected as the first director of EPA’s new Office of Continuous Improvement. My team is eager to provide the Agency with the training, tools, and support needed to bring ELMS to life. I look forward to supporting EPA’s transformation to a much more efficient and effective organization,” said EPA Director of the Office of Continuous Improvement Serena McIlwain.

Some ELMS accomplishments to date include:

  • Established over 400 metrics across all EPA program and regional offices that are tracked monthly.
  • Created a standardized method for communicating whether monthly targets are being met using a red/yellow/green system.
  • Implemented measures specifically designed to improve the time EPA takes to complete many of its core functions, including issuing permits, meeting the agency’s legal deadlines, correcting environmental violations, completing reviews of new active ingredients, and others.
  • Integrated monthly business reviews for all EPA program and regional offices at which the agency’s senior leaders review their office’s performance.
  • Hosted 11 multi-day process improvement events to support rapid progress in the following areas: NPDES Section 402 permits, Underground Injection Control permits, TSCA Premanufacture Notice Final Determinations, Acquisition Quality, Simplified Acquisitions, Clean Air Act State Implementation Plans, Freedom of Information Act requests, Brownfields, Superfund, Clean Air Act Title V, and Clean Air Act New Source Review for Preconstruction.
  • Initiated training for EPA staff and first line supervisors on how to use ELMS at the work unit level. This includes developing a small cadre of ELMS.

Background on Serena McIlwain:

Serena McIlwain has served in the federal government for nearly 30 years, working in both the legislative and executive branches of government. Most recently, Serena was selected as EPA’s Performance Improvement Officer (PIO) and Director of the newly created Office of Continuous Improvement.  In this role, Serena will implement the new EPA Lean Management System (ELMS) to drive accountability and performance improvement.  Prior to assuming her new role, Serena was the Assistant Regional Administrator and Director of the Environmental Management Division at EPA Region 9 in San Francisco, CA. Before joining EPA in 2014, she served as the Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy department, providing management and operational support for scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative professionals. 

Video of today's announcement can be viewed here: