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Process improvement tools necessary for today’s municipalities

Kawartha Lakes CAO Mark Fisher has experienced in other jurisdictions  the overwhelming benefits of process management and Lean Six Sigma. Recognizing the ongoing downloading of provincial responsibilities onto municipalities further cemented his belief that a similar approach to initiatives management was needed locally.

“The world as we know it has changed dramatically since the financial collapse in 2008,” Fisher explained. “In Ontario there is a rich history of municipalities and CAO’s going to the Province hat in hand and asking for money. All municipalities would do it,” he continued. “They would have a need, go to the Province and ask for the money, and everything would be fine.”

The problem, Fisher pointed out, is that the money tree the Province would use to fund municipal projects has wilted and died.

“There is no more money,” Fisher explained. “The Province still downloads costs for which municipalities have no control, but there is no more provincial money to help offset those costs.”

During his last two years in New Brunswick Fisher witnessed what he calls a severe economic pull-back and the efforts there to deal with the problem.

“There just wasn’t any money,” Fisher said. “So what the government started to do was to implement Lean Six Sigma and Balanced Scorecard.”

The results, he said, were enough to convince him that the tools used in Lean Six Sigma were necessary for municipal organizations to move forward proactively.

“Persistent fiscal scarcity is a driving factor for implementing initiatives management,” he said. “The entire reasoning around Lean Six Sigma and Balanced Scorecard is to create capacity within our organization, create tools to measure our processes and performance, and create justification for how and why we do things. This is about trying to find better ways of doing things.

“Lean Six Sigma is not driven by trying to find a certain amount of dollars,” he continued. “Lean Six Sigma is driven by improving processes and as a result of those improvements, dollar savings will result.”

With almost a year gone by since the CAO presented his original report to council on initiatives management, Fisher said he is extremely taken with the depth of talent and skill among the City’s workforce.

“One of the real advantages of this program is that it has uncovered the wealth of talent and skill that we have here,” he said. “If you go out and talk to staff in different departments they have great ideas, and tremendous knowledge on things we can do better. We just need to take the time to talk with our staff and through these projects we are able to utilize their knowledge and expertise on teams examining processes they are intimately involved with.”

Fisher acknowledges that as process improvement continues there will be changes to the way some staff do their jobs, but ultimately he believes that is a benefit to all staff.

“One of the things this program has shown us is that it is incumbent on us to continue to invest in the training and development of our staff,” he explained. “As a responsible employer, and an employer focused on being proactive we want to invest in, train and retain our staff.”

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