Leading Process  Excellence
A Leader's Role in Process Improvement Initiatives
"Leadership commitment and support" is critical for successful process improvement initiatives.  But what
does this mean? Here are eight steps that leaders can take to support Lean process improvement efforts.
                              Eight Critical Steps for Lean Leaders
1.  Choose where to focus your improvement efforts    5. Provide visible support for process improvement efforts
2.  Define process excellence and set clear goals      6. Monitor progress and hold people accountable
3.  Actively participate in process improvement events  7. Clear obstacles to successful implementation
4.  Assign staff and resources                      8. Recognize and celebrate accomplishments
1.  Choose where to focus your improvement efforts. Leaders are critical in setting an agenda for
   change. Identify the processes you believe are high priority for improvement.  Solicit input from
   staff and customers to identify processes that are in need of attention and to assess where there is the
   greatest potential for improvements. The processes selected as targets for improvement efforts
   should be strategic priorities and/or those for which you feel a "sense of urgency" for improving.
2.  Define process excellence and set clear goals. Articulate a vision and goals describing what you
   believe an excellent process should accomplish.  Provide a clear charge to all layers of management
   and process improvement team members to work towards this vision, making sure that your direct
   reports understand the vision  and deliver consistent messages to staff. Work with Lean teams to set
   specific goals and a manageable scope for each Lean event. Focus on defining the attributes needed
   for success and empower the team to develop efficient and effective approaches to accomplish them.
3.  Actively participate in process improvement events. The involvement and passionate commitment of
   leaders and senior managers is the most important factor in the long-term success of process
   improvement efforts.  Attend process improvement events in their entirety, and invite additional
   senior leaders to the report-out presentations. Encourage staff to elevate issues that need resolution,
   and address those  issues promptly.  Ensure that all participants in Lean events, including delegates of
   senior managers, are empowered to make decisions and commitments during the events.
4.  Assign staff and resources. Process improvement takes work, but the results can be transformative.
   Dedicate staff time and money to support improvement events and, in particular, the implementation
   activities that continue after Lean events to ensure that the new process is implemented as planned
   and the process improvement gains are realized.  Work with managers to ensure that the allocation
   of staff time and funds is appropriate given the scale of the need.

5.  Provide visible support for process improvement efforts. Make it clear to people in your organization
   that you strongly support process improvement efforts, both verbally and through your actions.
   Write a memo to staff articulating your vision and expressing your passionate commitment to these
   efforts. Be specific about your vision, your priorities for process improvement, and what you are
   doing to support Lean improvements.  Following an improvement event, lead by example and
   implement the new process yourself.  Actively participate in follow-up meetings after the event, such
   as 30-, 60-, and 90-day follow-up meetings, recognizing the team's progress and reinforcing the
   importance of continued implementation.  Communicate in writing and in meetings why it is
   important that everyone in the organization commits to supporting and using the new process.
6.  Monitor progress and hold people accountable.  Identify the metrics and information that you need to
   understand how the process is performing. Request that managers and teams concisely report
   metrics and information on key aspects of the process.  Use a  bulletin board to visibly track process
   performance and implementation progress. Review metrics and process performance at least
   monthly or quarterly. Request status reports from managers.  Discuss managers' performance in
   supporting specific process improvement efforts during their performance reviews and as part of
   criteria used for compensation and promotion decisions, where appropriate.
7.  Clear obstacles to successful implementation. As new issues and challenges emerge, it is easy to lose
   focus on the performance and improvement of existing processes. Create time during meetings with
   managers and staff to discuss performance of work processes  targeted by improvement efforts (and
   not just the issue or crisis of the day). Routinely walk around the office to check in with employees
   at their work stations and ask specific questions about how the process is working, what support is
   needed, and what challenges are being experienced. Work to  remove barriers. Where barriers
   cannot be removed, work with managers to calibrate goals and strategies to optimize results.
8.  Recognize and celebrate accomplishments. The more a leader acknowledges process improvements,
   the more people will want to deliver them. Recognize accomplishments at staff meetings, in
   newsletters, and/or on internal or external  agency websites. Give certificates and awards to
   acknowledge individual and team achievements.  Support events, such as parties or lunches, to
   celebrate reaching goals or  milestones. Be generous with praise when it is deserved.

                            EPA Lean Government Contacts

 To learn more  or to share your ideas and experiences, visit the EPA's Lean Government
 Initiative website (www.epa.gov/lean/leangovernment) or contact:

        Jamie Burnett                         Kim Green-Goldsborough
        U.S. EPA, Office of  Policy               U.S.  EPA,  Office of Policy
        (202) 566-2205                         (202) 566-2355
        burnett.jamie@epa.gov                  green-goldsborough.kimberly@epa.gov
  United States                            Office of Policy,                              September 2010
  Environmental Protection Agency               Economics and Innovation                       EPA-100-F-10-026