striving to improve

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Striving to Improve

Striving to Improve

A continuous improvement project brought to you by Mike Harvey on behalf of the citizens and employees of St. Louis County.

What is Continuous Improvement(CI)?

Continuous Improvement in government is; process improvement that improves our lives, and the quality of service for the citizens we serve.

Why Continuous Improvement?

Proven methods that work based on lean principles

Needs, wants & desires of all stakeholders

Goals are measured (SMART goals) Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Reasonable, Timely

Follow up is scheduled at fixed intervals. 30-60-90 days

CI Tool box many more as wellLean toolsIdentifying wastes (TIMWOODS)Problem solving sessions (many types)5 Whys (root cause)A-3 Project Charter (for guidance)Kaizen Event (The meeting room)

This is how we handled our issue after a simple A-3 project charter was drafted. Our process was complex enough to require an event with all stakeholders.


Our Continuous Improvement Project:Abatements help correct objective errors in the assessment. Some refer to them as tax refunds. Specifically we deal with classification & Valuation errors.Auditors refund or adjust the tax burden.

Streamlining the abatement process!

Heres the skinny

Geographic issues skinny contd.Our processes werent streamlined or transparent.

We had 4 offices separated by distance & technology.

With 7,000 square miles of Northern Real estate to efficiently assess, this was a big problem. We are close to Canada. JK Love you Travis ;)


Develop transparent procedures for the new abatement policy that have fewer steps and are simpler to follow; achieve greater understanding of the policy / procedures and how to consistently apply them in our multiple offices.

Main Goals of CI in government workGet rid of processes that dont add value! While continuing to perform our legal obligations.

Remove waste:TIMWOODSTransport Moving people, paper & informationInventory Storing paper & documents (physical vs. digital)Motion Extra bending, turning, walking, reaching & liftingWaiting for paper, instructions or other people to sign somethingOverproduction -- Making more than is immediately required. Over-Processing -- (extra sign offs) Defects -- Reworking the process or having incorrect documentationSkills- Not utilizing staff creativity or delegating tasks without correct training first.

A-3 Project Charter


Getting Quick Wins


Some of our successes

The cycle starts over

After 90-120 days of implementation, we ask if there are changes that can make our processes even better.

Benefits of CI!We need to rid government of bureaucracy at the service level.There is always a way to make things more efficient for your customers, while empowering your employees to be proficient. Meaningful work respects everyones time with autonomy to complete processes in an efficient way.

Benefits! Contd.This provides value to everybody involved in the process because employees are empowered to provide value rather than worry about meaningless tasks. Your customers will take notice through the improved attitudes all around. They will understand the timeline and thank you for your responsiveness.

Additional TidbitsProcess improvements & paper solutions should always be looked at first before a large technology overhaul. Sometimes the large investment in technology doesnt pay off for the scope of the project. Dont put the cart before the horse!

Another great tidbit- ok I will quit talkingIts better to approach CI from an incremental people centric perspective. This is especially true in government where the process gets engrained into a persons identity. Sensitivity about these considerations is important. People shouldnt feel intimidated or replaceable.

Special Thanks!Linnea Mirsch Deputy Administrator, Budget & Operations, St. Louis County, MN

Dave Sipila County Assessor, St. Louis County, MN

Michael Stalberger Taxpayer Services Director, Blue Earth County, MN

Teresa Mitchell & Scott Lyons- Dakota County Assessing Services team, Hastings, MN

What CI is not about.

Continuous Improvement is not a one man show. Alpha Attitudes & titles should be left at the door. Continuous Improvement is not about getting rid of or replacing employees. Continuous Improvement is not about the people that do the work but rather the process.



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