You Don’t Have to Travel Far to Find Innovation in Idaho

Most U.S. citizens would probably not consider a government agency with an annual budget of around $700 million and some 1,700 employees to be a hotbed of efficiency and innovation. They don’t know the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). Amazingly, this government agency was chosen by the Idaho Technology Council as a finalist for its 2016 “Innovative Company of the Year” Award.

A recent ITD video identified over 400 employee-generated innovations put in place since the agency implemented its “Innovate ITD!” strategy in 2014. Those innovations generated an estimated $2 million in savings/efficiency improvements and saved 66,000 labor hours. Innovate ITD! was part of an effort by ITD Director, Brian Ness, to transition the department to operating as a business. (Though many businesses would love to run like ITD!) It was intended to engage employees in finding solutions to “everyday problems.” 

On October 27 of 2016, TechHelp’s Operational Excellence (OE) Team joined a packed room of ITD employees at Boise State University for the organization’s first “Rapid Innovation Event” (RI). The Event focused on employee-driven solutions to ITD improvement and showcased a commitment to the continuing cultural shift within ITD. Ten ITD Teams showed the crowd how they had elevated their innovation and problem-solving skills to the next level using scientific processes introduced, in part, by TechHelp. Char McArthur, the Chief Administrative Officer at ITD, captured the spirit of the event when she said, “This Summit is ITD’s first stab at teaching staff how to scientifically challenge the old way of thinking when conducting business or solving problems.”   

TechHelp’s OE  Team was honored to take part in the RI Event and to have played a role in providing training, skills, and coaching to the RI teams.  Char McArthur contacted TechHelp in early 2016 looking for OE professionals who could help deliver Lean and Continuous Improvement tools to ITD.  Though Lean is commonly known as a methodology for eliminating waste in the manufacturing sector, its principles and tools can be used to create a culture of continuous improvement in nearly any organization. Dave O’Connell, Gene Hamacher and Gregg Lynde of TechHelp’s OE team have years of front-line experience applying and teaching others to apply Lean Principles.  With her solid background in Lean, Char quickly determined that the TechHelp OE Team would be a great extension of ITD resources. 

In working with ITD, TechHelp first defined a training roadmap for different leadership levels within the agency. The OE Team then trained senior ITD leaders in how to utilize Lean methodologies to accurately identify problems & opportunities that could be addressed by the Rapid Innovation Teams.

TechHelp OE Specialists lead ITD Teams in some Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing!

TechHelp OE Specialists lead ITD Teams in some Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing!

TechHelp provided Lean training and facilitation tools to ten internally selected facilitators and trained all RI team members in process improvement tools.  The ten teams were each comprised of 15 or so employees from various levels, business units, and regions. Each team was given a significant organizational problem or opportunity and was asked to implement as much of a solution as

OE Team Member, Gene Hamacher, of TechHelp and the University of Idaho keeps track of operational improvements during a lean simulation activity.

OE Team Member, Gene Hamacher, of TechHelp and the University of Idaho keeps track of operational improvements during a lean simulation activity.

possible within the given time and resources.  Each team’s roster included a facilitator,  two champions (designated senior leadership team members) and a TechHelp coach. The facilitator and champions helped teams move toward decisions by providing tools and introducing discussions or suggestions. They were asked not to take control but to allow team members to utilize effective team collaboration to arrive at a consensus and take appropriate “next steps.” In their role as coaches,  TechHelp OE specialists guided team members in how to apply Lean tools and processes and in how to facilitate teamwork.

TechHelp’s OE Team Leader, Dave O’Connell, provided specialized training in Lean Leadership to ITD’s  senior leadership team including ITD Director, Brian Ness.  Creating genuine commitment, understanding, and support from senior leadership is a key success factor in any continuous improvement initiative. TechHelp spent an entire day working with the leadership team

ITD Director, Brian Ness, is a blur of activity during a Lean simulation activity. Leadership commitment is a key component to the success of any operational improvement initiative.

ITD Director, Brian Ness, is a blur of activity during a Lean simulation activity. Leadership commitment is a fundamental component to the success of cultural change and operational improvement.

to identify ways they could cascade the Principles of Lean out to the entire ITD organization.

The Rapid Innovation Summit experience gave ITD team members the perfect opportunity to practice effective leadership and team skills. After spending several months discovering innovative solutions to their challenges, teams unveiled their findings at the Summit. ITD presented awards in the following three areas:

Problem Solving

1st Place – PC Surplus Team

2nd Place – 5S Workplace Organization for Sheds and Shops

3rd Place – Purchasing Auto Parts

Culture

1st Place – ITD Website: From Good To Great (check out the new website…. It is easy to use! http://itd.idaho.gov/ )

2nd Place – DMV Cash Receipts

3rd Place – Next Steps in ITD Culture

Coaching

1st Place – Ed Bala, D5 District Engineer

2nd Place – Vince Trimboli, Communications Manager

3rd Place – Dave Tolman, Controller

ITD’s efforts aren’t just about learning and applying continuous improvement principles. The bigger picture includes a change in culture that empowers ITD employees at every level to identify and put forward innovative improvement opportunities.  The word “Culture” was used by owners, managers, coaches, and players in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse just moments after the club broke their 108 year World Series drought in 2016. It was evident that the entire team had bought into the prospect of creating a culture of winning by doing the right things in the right ways in support of the organization and each other. TechHelp was honored to help fuel a cultural transformation that is turning ITD into a consistent winner and of Idaho’s most “Innovative Companies.”

Rapid Innovation Summit Videos

Jim Everett Keynote at ITD Summit

Best of the Best Innovations Video

2016 Leadership Summit Highlights Video

Dr. Robert Kustra, President of Boise State at ITD Summit