Bringing Lean Management To New York State

In January of 2011 shortly after taking office as Governor, Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order creating the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission. The purpose of SAGE is to modernize and rightsize government to make it more efficient, effective and accountable.

On December 15, 2011, the SAGE Commission met and approved some interesting recommendations. As a supporter of utilizing Lean Management in government, I was pleased to see that the Commission has recommended the following:

Establish an Office of Lean Management for New York State – Hire two Lean Management professionals to develop Lean capabilities across state government by conducting training sessions for agency managers.

First pioneered at Toyota over 50 years ago, Lean is a philosophy and long proven approach for organizations of any size or type to continuously improve. With Lean there is a focus on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and achieving sustained continual improvement in an organization. Lean is built on the philosophy that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements overall.

Lean seeks to foster a culture where employees are empowered to identify and solve problems. Lean organizations empower their members on the front lines by teaching them how to identify ‘waste’, or anything that doesn’t add value to the process.

Eight Common Wastes that are often roadblocks to efficiency:

1. Overproducing: unneeded reports, doing work not requested.

2. Waiting: time for approval cycles, waiting for information or decisions.

3. Transportation: unnecessary movement of reports, storage of documents.

4. Inventory: backlog of work, (permits, plan approvals) excess materials/info, obsolete databases/files.

5. Unnecessary motions: trips to printer and copier, unnecessary movement to find files and supplies, travel to meetings.

6. Processing waste: spending time on unnecessary processes that do not add value to the customer.

7. Defects: data errors, missing info, errors in documents, wasted effort on inspection or re-doing work that was already done.

8. Unused human potential: not fully utilizing employee problem solving skills to add value to the customer or the company.

Every program/department in government can be improved by addressing the eight items above. It is great to see New York under Governor Cuomo’s leadership moving to implement Lean as a way to improve the performance of government. Three New York agencies are already utilizing Lean to improve their operations:

Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services – Reduced the amount of time it takes to complete their Request For Proposal process by 53% (146 days).

New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities – It currently takes the agency 300+ days to do a State Auspice Transfer. By utilizing Lean the agency projects that it can reduce the time to 120 days.

Department of Environmental Conservation – It currently takes the DEC 250+ days to issue a New Air Quality Permit. By utilizing Lean the agency projects that such permits can be issued within 121 days max.

For more information on how Lean is being used in government check out the following links:





What do you think about utilizing Lean as a way to improve government performance?


Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Josh Nankivel

I am completely all for Lean Government! I am doing what I can to encourage it at the USGS where I work. It’s very important that people are educated about what Lean really is though, it has to be implemented well. Particularly in government for example, the 5 whys can get twisted into the 5 blames easily.