In 2007, the state of Iowa in the USA hired Mike Rohlf, a black belt in Six Sigma, to apply ‘Lean’ to the various processes and procedures of state government.

Mike is still there … appropriately as a ‘one man band’ (very lean). For each project, Mike works with volunteers from different areas within the agency in question, as well as ‘correctives’ – non-biased independents from an unrelated department.

They map what goes on … and set about trying to improve on it. The state has carried out 180 such projects and is convinced of its success … though this is difficult to measure because of the ‘softer’, qualitative improvements (like better service) that come alongside any cost savings.

One example – last year’s overhaul of the vocational rehabilitation office that assists with Social Security reimbursements is on pace to net about 20 percent more federal reimbursement money, or roughly $100,000 annually.

As ever, changes are often very simple … in this case, moving from a paper to an electronic claims process.

Productivity improvement can be both ‘big’ and small’ … and ,as we all know, small is often beautiful.